On Clinton’s economic speech

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The Nation’s Michelle Goldberg on Hillary Clinton’s economic plans:

The obvious progressive rejoinder to this is that Hillary—negotiator of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, onetime member of Walmart’s board—is simply saying what she feels she needs to in order to get elected. To which I’d say: exactly! Clinton is a politician who believes in expediency and pragmatism, and she has come to believe that it is expedient and pragmatic to run an explicitly liberal campaign. This is a powerful statement about the evolution of American politics. It’s long been a truism that Republicans fear their base, while Democrats hate theirs. That is no longer true; this is a speech meant to appeal to Elizabeth Warren’s supporters, not Clinton’s Wall Street friends.

>But won’t Clinton simply do those friends’ bidding once in office? Perhaps, but the political-science literature suggests that, contrary to conventional wisdom, politicians actually try to fulfill their campaign pledges. Jonathan Bernstein looked at the scholarship surrounding the issue in a 2012 Washington Monthly piece, discussing a book by Jeff Fishel that analyzed campaigns from John F. Kennedy through Ronald Reagan. “What he found was that presidents invariably attempt to carry out their promises; the main reason some pledges are not redeemed is congressional opposition, not presidential flip-flopping,” wrote Bernstein. “Similarly, Gerald Pomper studied party platforms, and discovered that the promises parties made were consistent with their postelection agendas. More recent and smaller-scale papers have confirmed the main point: presidents’ agendas are clearly telegraphed in their campaigns.”

George H.W.’s Bush’s reversal on his “no new taxes” pledge is considered the exception to the rule. More typical is the way he chiseled away at government support for family planning. It almost certainly contradicted his personal beliefs; as a congressman, Bush was so passionate about birth control that he was nicknamed “rubbers,” and as US representative to the United Nations, he championed global action on overpopulation. As Reagan’s vice president, however, he recognized that fealty to the anti-abortion movement was non-negotiable, and after promising to serve it faithfully in office, he never dared defy it. Politicians have very strong incentives to do what they say they’re going to do, whatever their actual ideas.

So pundits may spend a lot of time wondering about Hillary Clinton’s authenticity, but if you want to know what her administration would actually attempt, what’s in her speeches probably matters more than what’s in her secret heart. And so far in this campaign, what’s in her speeches sounds pretty good.

Lots of economic policy aimed at women. Go read.

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