On Thursday night at Women in the World conference, Hillary Clinton hinted to the campaign themes that she might invoke in a potential 2016 run for the presidency.
In a discussion with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and International Monetary Fund chair Christine Lagarde, the former First Lady described her vision for America, including the necessity of what she described as “evidence-based decision making” and her belief that “compromise is an essential part of running a great democracy.”
Friedman asked the former Secretary of State about her priorities for the future of the U.S. after failing to get her to say if she would run for president.
The result was an extended glimpse into the themes that seem to be developing in the book she is writing about her time in the State Department as well as a look at the themes of a potential presidential campaign.
“I spent four years traveling the world on behalf of the United States—went to 112 countries, nearly a million miles, all the statistics—and I came away from that experience even more confident and positive about our model,” Clinton said. “Having said that, leadership is not a birthright that you inherit and it just keeps going…you have to work hard, you have to be prepared. Well, so do nations. And we’ve got some work ahead of us and it will require us reaching something of a consensus.”
Speaking a day after the Supreme Court issued a decision rolling back campaign finance reform in McCutcheon v. FEC, Clinton said “There’s too much that has gone on in our politics recently that is just pure ideology, pure partisanship, the disguise of commercial interest behind a political façade and the result is that we’re kind of marching backwards instead of forward.”
“Compromise is an essential part of running a great democracy. We cannot afford to have people who deny the rights and the needs of compromise,” she continued.
Clinton urged Americans to have conversations in kitchens, offices and “on the field watching your kids play soccer” that would help promote the cause of compromise in a democracy. “We just need people to start talking and to not be afraid to talk to somebody who disagrees with you. This is one of my biggest problems that I see. Because if we don’t begin to talk across all the lines that divide us, we will get further and further separate, and we can’t afford to do that.”
Harkening back to her Midwest roots and her husband’s relentless focus on appeals to the middle class, Clinton said, “I’m a product of the American middle class. I am grateful for everything that I was given as a child to prepare me to have a fascinating life, obviously. But I don’t want to see other children denied that opportunity. And it is an economic issue, it’s a moral issue, it’s a political issue…. There will always be disagreements about the particulars but we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to make our economy produce enough jobs so that particularly young people, the 6 million 18-to 24-year-old Americans who are neither in school nor in work have a ladder of opportunity that they are able to start climbing, that we produce inclusive prosperity.”
Clinton then went on to describe her view of foreign policy, which relied on the same “evidence-based decision making” that Clinton touted domestically. She cited Max Weber’s dictum that politics is “the slow boring of hard boards” also applied to diplomacy and described the work needed to build the international coalition against Iran as one of “painstaking, microscopic advantages.”
In the current climate, with the former Secretary of State already having a clear path to the Democratic nomination, a clarion call of hope and change may not be needed in 2016. Instead, a message based on managerial competence, consolidating the progressive advances of the Obama administration, and fixing a Washington plagued by partisan gridlock might what voters are looking for right now. This isn’t a message geared to Iowa caucus-goers but to Ohio swing voters who are the types that finally decide presidential races.