Before Hillary Clinton’s speech on voting rights yesterday, the political world already had some sense that she intended to endorse a pretty progressive vision. The Democratic campaign told reporters in advance, for example, that Clinton would back a 20-day early-voting window for every state in the nation.
But as Rachel noted on the show last night, the Democratic frontrunner ended up going much further than expected. That’s true on policy grounds, where Clinton endorsed a plan for universal registration …
“So today I am calling for universal, automatic voter registration. Everyone, every young man or young woman, in every state in the union should be automatically registered to vote when they turn eighteen – unless they actively choose to opt-out.”
… and it’s true on political grounds, where Clinton blasted Republicans, by name, for their ugly national voter-suppression campaign.
“Here in Texas, former Governor Rick Perry signed a law that a federal court said was actually written with the purpose of discriminating against minority voters. He applauded when the Voting Rights Act was gutted, and said the lost protections were ‘outdated and unnecessary.’“But Governor Perry is hardly alone in his crusade against voting rights. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker cut back early voting and signed legislation that would make it harder for college students to vote. In New Jersey, Governor Christie vetoed legislation to extend early voting. And in Florida, when Jeb Bush was governor, state authorities conducted a deeply flawed purge of voters before the presidential election in 2000. […]“What part of democracy are they afraid of?”
You could almost hear voting-rights advocates nationwide applauding in unison. Automatic, universal registration, for example, is seen as one of the most consequential of all possible reforms – and voting-rights opponents on the right have yet to come up with an argument against it.
But stepping back and looking at this in the broader context, it’s worth appreciating just how often Clinton has exceeded expectations lately.
In Houston yesterday, voting supporters expected Clinton to deliver encouraging remarks, but she went much further, throwing her support behind a bold national agenda.
In Las Vegas last month, immigration-reform proponents expected Clinton to express support for reform, but she went beyond their expectations and endorsed a far more ambitious approach.
As we talked about at the time, the fear among many on the left was that Clinton, without any real pressure from a primary challenger, would aim for the center and effectively run a general-election campaign for a year and a half. No one would pull the former Secretary of State to the left, so she simply wouldn’t bother.
But as her candidacy takes shape, note how consistently she’s positioned herself as a progressive champion of late. Clinton delighted much of the left, for example, with her remarks on criminal-justice reform in April The Democratic base was equally pleased to hear about Clinton’s 50-state strategy, her willingness to buck Wall Street, and her consideration of a constitutional amendment on campaign financing.
And now Clinton has done it again on voting rights.
Some critics on the left will likely note, with cause, that she’s adopted a far more progressive vision than the one she used to espouse. There’s some truth to that, though where she is arguably matters more than where she was. President Obama has helped shift the national debate to the left a bit on many of these key issues; the Democratic coalition has become more unified around a progressive agenda; much of the American mainstream is far more likely to embrace the left’s proposals than it was eight years ago; and Clinton has clearly evolved on these issues, ending up right where most of her party – and much of her country – want her to be.