Hillary Clinton, a proud wonk, rolled out a lengthy list of policy goals in the first big speech of her second presidential campaign Saturday. One after another in rapid succession, she ticked off an expansive Democratic wish list, on everything from transgender rights to clean energy to criminal justice reform to paid family leave.
But the breadth of her remarks made the absence of some key issues that excite progressive activists all the more notable. On some battles that divide Democrats from their liberal base, Clinton did not choose a side – at least today.
Her campaign promises to roll out a new policy idea every week this summer, so it’s likely we’ll see many of these addressed soon, and potentially very soon, as she tours early primary states in the coming week.
But the lack of specifics on issues at the front lines of Democratic ideological fights means progressives will be looking for her to offer more clarity on a plethora of key topics.
1) Trade – In the midst of a bitter Democratic civil war over free trade policy, which has pitted President Obama against House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and much of the Democratic base, liberals want the potential future leader of the party to take a stand.
Clinton has so far adopted a strategic silence on the issue. She says she’ll wait to see the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty when it’s finished before making up her mind. But she has also not weighed in on Trade Promotion Authority, which is being voted on right now.
Obama has made Trade Promotion Authority a top-priority, but House Democrats rejected it the day before Clinton’s rally, and will vote again on the matter in the middle of her post-kick off tour of early states next week.
A campaign official told msnbc that Clinton has no plans to take a clearer position on TPA during the tour.
2) Wall Street – Clinton took on hedge fund managers and corporate CEOs, and slammed Republicans for wanting to roll back Wall Street regulations, but didn’t give many details on how she would crack down on financial institutions.
At a time when Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other politicians have excited liberals by promising it to soak the banks, some will want more.
3) Minimum wage – In her speech, Clinton reiterated her call for raising the minimum wage, but she didn’t say by how much. The former secretary of state telephoned in to a Las Vegas labor-backed meeting of workers fighting for a national $15 an hour minimum wage to say she supports their fight in general, but did not endorse the specific goal of raising the wage to $15 an hour.
Virtually every Democrat supports raising the minimum wage, but there’s a wide range of opinions about how much. President Obama signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, but has not endorsed a $15 wage. Clinton’s declared 2016 Democratic rivals, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, both support the $15 level.
4) Social Security – Clinton chose as her announcement venue a park named after Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed the Social Security system into law as president. The federal retirement program has become a dynamic issue on the left in recent years and another flash point between the White House and liberals.
While the White House proposed limiting the rise in benefits through a new inflation-adjustment formula (a proposal it has since abandoned), many Democratic lawmakers joined an effort to expand benefits to seniors. Which side is Clinton on? We’ll have to wait to find out.
5) Debt-free college – The idea that young people should be able to go to college without accruing massive debt is another idea that has recently gained traction among progressive Democrats. Clinton aides have telegraphed that she may come out with a debt-free college plan this summer, and her campaign manager said in a recent CNBC interview that it was an idea that excites young people.
But we didn’t get a peek at what that idea was on Saturday. She mentioned “crushing” student loan debt, but didn’t get into how she would solve the issue.