Hillary Clinton on Saturday laid out a broad vision of economic and social inclusion in the U.S., calling for middle-class economic policies that help restore income equality and telling a crowd, “it’s your time.”
“Prosperity can’t just be for CEOs and hedge fund managers. Democracy can’t just be for billionaires and corporations,” Clinton told a packed group of more than 5,000 people on an island in the East River of New York City, in her first major campaign rally. “Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain. You brought this country back and now it’s time—your time to secure the gains and move ahead.”
“That is why I am running for president of the United States,” the former secretary of state said to a crowd that chanted her name.
In her remarks, Clinton ticked off a wish list of Democratic reforms, including rewriting the tax code and eliminating loopholes for large corporations, expanding clean energy, establishing universal pre-kindergarten, mandating paid family leave, passing a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United, and providing relief for indebted college students.
Clinton placed herself in a long line of staunch Democrats, establishing herself as the inheritor of a leftist legacy. She paid homage to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for whom the island where she gave her remarks is named, and she noted her husband’s presidency, saying he presided over the longest peacetime economic expansion in history. She also tipped her hat to President Obama, who she said brought the country back from the brink of a depression.
Building on themes she’s developed working with voters in the early states for the last nine weeks, Clinton spoke directly to the “everyday Americans” who she has been courting on the trail.
“I’m running to make our economy work for you,” Clinton said. “For factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day. For the nurses who work the night shift, for the truckers who drive for hours and the farmers who feed us, for the veterans that serve our country.”
Clinton has adopted a tone of economic populism during her campaign, endorsing the fight to raise the minimum wage and regulate Wall Street banks, and criticizing the tax code for favoring the ultra-rich. But on most economic issues, she has yet to lay out specific policy plans beyond broad strokes. She has not, for example, said whether she supports a $15 minimum wage, as do the other Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Her aides say that Clinton plans on releasing policy proposals on a rolling basis throughout the summer.
Clinton delivered her speech in personal terms, speaking of her mother’s abandonment by her parents and subsequent adoption by her cold, unloving grandparents. Dorothy Rodham left to find work at the age of 14 but was helped along the way by caring neighbors and friends.
“I wish my mother could have been with us longer,” Clinton said. “I wish she could have seen the America we’re going to build together.”
Her campaign has said that her mother’s emergence from a deprived childhood and the kindness she experienced from neighbors are key to understanding Clinton’s bid for president.
She delivered her remarks before a crowd of 5,500 on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, a 2-mile-long island in New York City’s East River.
Clinton’s campaign has been reaching out to immigrants by endorsing a full path to citizenship for those who are undocumented and coming out in broad support of deportation relief, a topic she spoke about on Saturday. Support among Hispanics will be crucial for any Democrat in a general election. Gov. O’Malley, one of Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination, has heavily courted Hispanic voters.
Many of New York’s notable politicians, including Rep. Caroline Maloney and Rep. Charles Rangel, appeared to cheer on Clinton. “I’m here because I want to be on the right side of history and I’m a big proponent of girl power,” said New York City public advocate Letitia James.
Notably missing, however, was the progressive New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who worked on Clinton’s 2000 senatorial campaign but has so far declined to endorse her.
Whether those on the Democratic left, like de Blasio, wholeheartedly embrace Clinton could be a determining factor of her success in a general election. While many progressives have begun to warm up to her, she’ll have to work to dispel reservations on the left.
“This was a typical Democratic speech,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who said he supported Clinton’s call for paid leave and universal pre-kindergarten. “It’s much better than what the Republicans offer Americans, but it’s not the bold economic populist vision most Americans want and need.”