As Hillary Clinton takes her victory lap on Thursday as the first woman to lead a major party’s national ticket, she should use her address as a chance to talk not just to the Democratic faithful, but to the nation about how she would change the status quo and not, as her Republican rival has proposed, just blow it up.
With ties in Washington that go back decades, Clinton should make clear that while she holds Democratic Party values dear, she intends to craft positions that can get buy-in from both sides. This nation desperately needs a president who will forge compromise and not just plant an ideological flag in the ground.
In her pitched fight for the nomination, Clinton has made some costly promises, including free college, help with student loans, and expansions to Social Security and Medicare. To remain credible, she must be straight with voters about whether and how that would be possible without growing an already crushing national debt.
She should draw a sharp contrast with the isolationist rhetoric of her rival, emphasizing the importance of international alliances and the U.S. role as a world superpower. Given Donald Trump’s latest reckless proposal to look at lifting the sanctions imposed against Russia for its forced annexation of Crimea, Clinton should offer a strong response that makes clear U.S. responsibilities to its allies and strategic partners.
For the first half of the Democratic convention, voters have heard hardly a word about national security, even as a French priest had his throat cut in an attack ISIL claimed as its own. The former secretary of state should outline her plan for dealing with terrorist groups, whether that could involve further troop deployments and where she differs with President Obama.
As cities across the nation — including the Twin Cities — struggle to rebuild police-community relations, Clinton has an opportunity to rally support for the reforms proposed by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (tinyurl.com/policing-report).
Clinton has a long history on health care, dating to the early ’90s, when her husband put her in charge of the first attempt at national health reform. She should commit to improving the Affordable Care Act, which must include strategies to rein in costs and increase competition.
Given the likelihood that the next president may reshape the U.S. Supreme Court, Clinton should reassure voters that she will nominate judges based on qualifications and devotion to the rule of law and that she will disavow demands for “litmus test” pledges of specific rulings that undermine confidence in the integrity of the courts.
Faced with an opponent who offers policy in tweet-sized bites, after Thursday’s speech Clinton may be tempted to continue walling herself off from opportunities to discuss details that her enemies would only pick apart. That would be a mistake. Trump has earned points mainly for his willingness to submit to questions and offer blunt, unrehearsed answers. Clinton would do well to show that she can do the same.