Clinton patches relations with liberals

2015-04-19 20:10
Hillary Clinton (AP)

Hillary Clinton (AP)

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Washington - ASHINGTON (AP) — This time, Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to be on the good side of Democratic Party liberals.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, she opposed gay marriage, equivocated on granting driver's licenses to people who were living in the US illegally and endured heavy criticism from rival Barack Obama over her stance on campaign finance.

During the opening week of her second presidential campaign, Clinton showed she had retooled her positions to line up with the views of progressive Democrats.

On Monday, she called for a constitutional amendment that would limit "unaccountable money" in politics. Days later, she said through her campaign that she supports same-sex marriage being recognised as a constitutional right in a pending Supreme Court case.

After that, her campaign said she now supports state policies awarding licenses to people in the country illegally.

Such do-overs are part of an effort by Clinton to rectify past missteps and assure the liberal wing of her party that in 2016, she will be the change they've been waiting for.

While the Republican presidential field remains crowded with no clear favourite, Clinton enters the race for the Democratic nomination in a dominant position. But she still faces scepticism from some Democrats who question her commitment to tackling income inequality.

"Equal opportunity and upward mobility have been very central to her political ideals from the start," said Robert Reich, who was President Bill Clinton's labour secretary and has known Hillary Clinton since college. "I just don't know how courageous she will be in fighting for them."

Clinton devoted the first week of her campaign to trying to put such concerns to rest. She visits New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday, returning to the state that handed her a 2008 primary victory early in the bruising nomination struggle won by Obama.

Aides spent much of the first 72 hours reaching out to union leaders, party officials and other interest groups. But for some who have met with her campaign staff, they wonder not about whether Clinton will tack to the left, but how far her proposals will go.

"There's a big difference between a $9 or $10 minimum wage versus a $15 wage," said Adam Green, a liberal activist who has talked with the campaign over the past months. "The big question we anticipate is, will they go big or will they go small?"

So far, at least a few are encouraged. At her opening event in Iowa, Clinton took on CEOs and hedge fund managers, saying the "deck is still stacked in favour of those already at the top."

When she returned to New York, Clinton had words of praise in Time magazine for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a liberal stalwart some have hoped would challenge the former secretary of state and first lady.

"She never hesitates to hold powerful people's feet to the fire: bankers, lobbyists, senior government officials and, yes, even presidential aspirants," Clinton wrote.

News also leaked that Clinton had recruited former federal regulator Gary Gensler as her campaign's chief financial officer, a sign that she may be preparing to take a tougher position toward regulating financial firms.

Potential rivals have jumped at the chance to question Clinton's record and say she has shifted her positions on matters important to liberal voters.

"I'm glad Secretary Clinton's come around to the right positions on these issues," said former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who is considering running for the Democratic nomination. "Leadership is about making the right decision — and the best decision before sometimes it becomes entirely popular. "

She's faced this before. In 2008, Clinton's hold on the nomination looked unshakeable. Then Obama captured Democrats' imagination and proved a far more durable candidate than expected.

Clinton's supporters say her recent comments, particularly on inequality, do not reflect a shift in position. In her 2008 primary campaign, Clinton stressed the need to help families struggling economically and she criticised hedge fund investors, oil company profits, drug company subsidies and trade agreements.

"She's been an advocate for these issues of economic equality, fairness and playing by the rules for her whole career," said Tom Nides, a Clinton confidant and Morgan Stanley vice chair.

Clinton is not in the clear with liberal Democrats yet.

Her decision to accept political donations from lobbyists may undercut her efforts to change the campaign finance system.

Obama's push for a trade pact with 11 Pacific nations will put Clinton between the centrist wing of her party and union leaders who oppose the deal. On Friday, her campaign said she would be "watching closely" efforts to negotiate a final agreement.

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  us  |  us elections 2016

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