Finally, thanks to Hillary Clinton, we “average” and “ordinary” Americans are getting our day in the sun.
Folks, this is a big responsibility. The only viable Democrat so far in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes is depending on our telling her what it is we really, really want. We have to get this right.
The first thing she did after issuing her “I am running” video, which did not exactly give us any reason to vote for her but made her look pleasant, was to head in a van dubbed Scooby to Iowa, via Chipotle, to talk to “ordinary” Americans. (Notice she did not go to Garrison Keillor’s hometown where all the men are good looking, the women are strong and the children are above-average.)
She said she wants to begin a conversation with us. OK. (The conversation she had with us in 2008 is so yesterday.) As Howard Fineman of The Huffington Post said, her Iowa trip was a little like the Advanced Placement girl going down to the high school basement to visit the shop class.
But she actually made news right at the beginning of her campaign, suggesting it’s time to get unaccountable money out of politics even if it takes a constitutional amendment (which could not possibly pass in the toxic political climate we live in). Never mind that she would like to raise $2.5 billion to get elected.
The woman who has been front and center in our polarized politics for decades is hoping to reinvent herself as just one of us. Never mind that Wall Street loves her and she is worth millions of dollars. Let’s just say that everything has been said about Hillary but not everyone has said it. Her aides say she wants us “average” and “ordinary” Americans to really get to know her as a warm and caring person, which is true. She is also political, ambitious and calculating, none of which is bad but which she is less eager to demonstrate for us.
On the other hand, she has had a different hairstyle every day of her life and many, many pantsuits, necklaces and earrings. Reinvention is she.
Hillary says she has four main goals: Building the economy of tomorrow, strengthening families and communities, fixing the political system, and getting unaccountable money out of politics.
So far she has polished her cliches to perfection. “We have to figure out in this country how to get back on track.” “I’ve been fighting for children and families my entire life.” “I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans.” “The deck is stacked in favor of the rich.” She needs some new cliches.
We don’t want to be churlish about the first woman with a real chance to be president. But New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio is right: No endorsement until we see what she actually proposes to help struggling Americans. How would she solve the problem of CEOs making 300 times the rest of us and hedge fund managers paying less tax than nurses and truck drivers?
At the least, will she endorse a $15-an-hour wage for fast food workers? Empower unions? Sign new trade deals? Close loopholes in the tax laws? Back universal child care? And how would she get past Republican opposition in Congress?
Hillary’s real political challenge will not be today, tomorrow or even this year. It will come in the general election in the autumn of 2016, when the mammoth GOP field has been weeded out and one Republican emerges. He (there is no she) will be well-financed and will position himself as a change agent. Hillary is essentially running for a third Democratic term in the White House and may be somewhat shopworn by then.
Republicans will chant, as Marco Rubio rather rudely pointed out in announcing his campaign in a slap at both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, “Yesterday is over.”
The November 2016 election is likely to be hard-fought and close. There is no inevitable conclusion. We hope it will be fought over vital national issues, not personal mud.
In the meantime, we of the average and ordinary persuasion must do our best to keep the focus on our needs, shouting to make ourselves heard above the cacophony of cliches.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.