Hillary’s re-launch speech: It’s here. (I didn’t see it, I read it later.)
1) It’s a pretty good speech if you ignore the middle 40%, which is the Power Point of a SOTU address she may never get to give. That was sort of like the drum solo in the middle of an Iron Butterfly concert. At least the typical SOTU address has an impressively pointillist level of detail (“We will negotiate the third round of the Law of the Sea…”). This didn’t even have that.
2) The opening passages, about how Hillary is going to “make our economy work for you and for every American,” hit the key point. But a) didn’t her husband promise that if we re-elected Obama, we would “feel it” — it being the recovery? I think he did! Guess that didn’t happen. Why? b) Hillary offers astonishingly little in the way of policies that might reverse the “powerful currents” moving in the direction of greater money inequality. At least Obama had a concrete vision — labor unions, empowered by “card check” legislation, were going to win for workers a greater share of productivity gains. That was deeply misguided, but it was something to latch onto. Hillary has nothing similar. She’s going to fight so you can “receive your work schedule with enough notice to arrange child care.” That’s not reversing the inequality tide! That’s trying to help a few people stay afloat in the inequality tide. Maybe its enough.
3) Come to think of it, there was zero mention of the role unionism would play in Hillary’s economic plan. Maybe that is because they have no role? The word “union” only gets mentioned twice, in boilerplate lists of American institutions (“in our families, in our businesses, unions, houses of worship, schools”). The omission’s especially striking in a speech that’s supposed to fire up the Democratic base — rivalling Hillary’s failure to mention Social Security and Medicare.
4) David Frum offers a provocative interpretation of the speech as a rejection of Obama’s lofty 2008 pitch for unity and leadership — in favor of a non-naive, fight-back vision of Dem groups taking from GOP groups:
Hillary Clinton’s speech had to be long because the coalition she seeks to assemble is made up of so many different sub-units, each of which needed to be assured that its claim would be included in the total: unauthorized immigrants, indebted college students, working mothers … schoolteachers …Obamacare enrollees …: a coalition of interest groups who may not always recognize each other as allies and who cannot automatically be relied upon to show up on voting day.
The Coalition of the Dependent! That’s a slightly nightmarish, if not inaccurate, vision of politics of a modern campaign. But it’s not the speech that I’m reading here on the Web. Hillary’s actual text has plenty of appeals to “unity” and descriptions of how her leadership will bring both sides of the class divide together. She trumpets hidden “allies for change” in business and finance. She denounces “extreme partisanship,” while posing as the problem-solving middlewoman. (A few hours after the speech she triangulated on trade.) She’ll fight back — not against rich, white married GOPs, but “against those who would drive us apart.” Hard to believe youthful Daily Kossacks will be satisfied with this version of 2004’s Fight Club progressivism. But then they are older now.
5) Nor did I see much of Brian Beutler’s anti-triangluation — the taking of aggressive “progressive issue positions” that expose half-hearted Republican moves to the center. Hillary hardly mentions the biggest of those aggressive positions (on immigration) and certainly doesn’t announce any new ones, whether on social insurance or general income redistribution. Not even an attack on the carried interest loophole. As predicted, Beutler’s lucky he wrote his piece before Hillary proved him wrong.
6) Worst sign of speeches to come: “Using additional fees and royalties from fossil fuel extraction to … ease the transition for distressed communities to a more diverse and sustainable economic future …” That was during the drum solo.