Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future
Hillary Clinton gave a speech on the economy in Toledo, Ohio on Monday. Her primary topics, corporate predation and a broken economy, leaned left. Some of the speech's most important ideas were hidden in plain sight but could have long-lasting significance.
The speech wasn't perfect, and some will undoubtedly question her sincerity. But it showed just how far the candidate, and her party's leadership, have come in a very short time.
Characteristically, Clinton's speech blunted its message with hedging phrases like, "There are lots of principled law-abiding business leaders out there who are horrified by all this."
And Clinton couldn't resist boasting that "I've been endorsed by very successful people," while "not a single CEO of a Fortune 100 company supports the Trump campaign."
To millions of American voters, that will look less like validation and more like guilt by association. Those CEOs aren't avoiding Trump because they're patriots. They're probably more concerned that his unpredictability would be bad for business. And many would lose out if Trump ever followed through on his anti-trade-deal rhetoric.
Still, the speech showed that Clinton is grappling with this populist moment, and is accommodating herself to it.
Donald-Baiting Put To Good Use
She spent a good portion of the speech attacking Donald Trump, of course. It would be political malpractice for a candidate in her position not to dwell on her opponent's venality, vulgarity and greed.
But the outsized and cartoonish nature of Trump's villainy can also be an impediment, a distraction from the deeper debate that we need. Every moment spent discussing Trump's personal failings is a moment spent not addressing the fundamental injustices built into our economy.
At least Clinton put her Donald-baiting to good use, by linking his faults to broader concerns. "Trump represents the same rigged system that he claims he's going to change," she said. "He's taken corporate excess and makes a business model out of it."
Trade is the one subject where Trump has a populist edge. While Clinton could not bring herself to condemn past trade deals, she said that she would "ramp up enforcement of trade rules by appointing a new chief trade prosecutor and tripling the number of enforcement officers." And she repeated her recent, more forceful language on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying "I oppose TPP now, I will oppose it after the election, I will oppose it as president -- because it is one-sided and unfair to American workers."
That language would be more convincing if Clinton were to personally lobby Democrats in Congress, asking them to vote against TPP in the lame-duck session. And if Clinton opposes the TPP because "it sets up a dispute resolution system that favors large corporations over everyone else," she should fight to renegotiate or remove the same provision from NAFTA. A recent study confirmed that it has benefited extremely wealthy individuals and very large corporations.
Still, her words of opposition are a step in the right direction, reflecting the deep unpopularity and poor outcomes of past trade deals.
Wall Street "Bully"