At the first Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential election, five candidates opened their prime-time appearances by facing down moderator Anderson Cooper’s trenchant line of questioning. Mr. Cooper first turned to front-runner Hillary Clinton and inquired about her political ideology:
“Just for the record,” he began, “are you a progressive or a moderate?”
Mrs. Clinton’s eyes steeled in preparation for a line that she had undoubtedly practiced before.
“I’m a progressive,” she said. “But a progressive who likes to get things done.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, is the Democratic Party’s best candidate to “get things done”—both against the GOP and in the White House. As a political pragmatist and the field’s most results-oriented politician, Hillary Clinton has the greatest ability to win the general election and lead the country in a progressive direction.
Mrs. Clinton, traditionally labeled as a center-left candidate, has adopted several serious stances. Her distinctive penchant for detailed, goal-oriented policy is seen in her enthusiastic support for a series of domestic items, including workplace policy reform, a comprehensive college affordability “compact”, immigration reform, and most recently, a practical economic reform plan that has been widely acclaimed by policy experts.
However, Mrs. Clinton faces a credible threat from her closest primary challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, whom she leads in national polls by double-digits. Since entering the race in May, 2015, Mr. Sanders has caused Mrs. Clinton to shift further left on the political spectrum, as evidenced by her recent stance against the Keystone XL pipeline. Meanwhile, former Governor Martin O’Malley is struggling to make a splash in the primary race.
Mrs. Clinton is the superior Democratic candidate for president because she embraces the practical progressive centrism that most of her challengers eschew. This ideological balance will prove especially effective in securing the legislative approval of Democratic policies. At a time when state-level redistricting has shifted congressional power to the GOP for the next several election cycles, candidates such as Mr. Sanders primarily endorse policies that—while enticingly liberal—are more likely to alienate the establishment in both parties. As the overlords of the federal government’s purse strings, austerity-minded congressional Republicans are especially likely to react violently to a slate of “socialist” policy proposals that cost over 18 trillion dollars. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, has the endorsement of nearly 160 sitting Senators, Representatives, and Governors—a formidable base of support for her pragmatic policies.
Moreover, Mrs. Clinton champions the same progressive causes—a stronger social safety net, expansive parental leave, etc.—but through more affordable and realistic means. This is because she identifies with her husband Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and other post-Reagan Democrats who emphasize the efficiency of public-private sector partnerships in large governmental endeavors (Obamacare, government-based pharmaceutical incentives, etc.). Although she sees “big business” as a helpful partner at the table, her financial reform plan and stump speeches clearly indicate that she intends to curtail the “evils” of income inequality and financial deregulation.
Admittedly, Mrs. Clinton’s public favorability has suffered as a result of her constantly arising email controversy. Yet, instead of seeing this as a political liability, voters should recognize that this reveals a selling point for her formidability as the Democratic presidential nominee. Mrs. Clinton is a politician who is more concerned about the results than the process; she is comfortable playing hard and fast with the rules in order to progress her goals. Thus, in an era where Democratic policies are increasingly enacted through executive action, Mrs. Clinton possesses the personality to deliver on Democratic ideals in ways unlike others’.
It is important to recognize that Mrs. Clinton is far from the perfect Democratic candidate. Her hawkish views on foreign policy are largely out of step with the progressive electorate and her wavering stance on trade policy leaves much to be desired.
Nevertheless, not only does she endorse a vision that garners the highest favorability ratings among minority groups, but Mrs. Clinton has also shown that she is more than willing to fight for a range of issues, from paid family leave to gun control. We need a Democratic leader who is unafraid to challenge existing norms and promote liberal values. We need Hillary Rodham Clinton as our next President of the United States.