It’s certainly possible that Hillary Clinton can coast to victory in November simply by not being Donald Trump. But at this point that’s not a sure thing. Voters are clearly in a feisty, contrarian, reformist mood, and running as a status quo candidate may or may not be enough to carry the day.
Even if it works, it’s a short-sighted strategy, and it may not be that helpful for down-ballot candidates, especially those in moderate states and districts. It’s not just Trumpsters and Sandernistas who are longing for reforms—most voters are fed up with the corrupting influence of money in politics and feeling that their voices are being drowned out by the rich and well-connected. Plus, reform has been the strength of the Democratic Party for a hundred years. Why sit on our heels now, when millions of Americans are crying out for change?
Donald Trump or not, Democrats need to show some fire, and we must prove to voters that we are the true party of reform. If Hillary Clinton and Democrats really want to win the minds and hearts of Americans, we must put forward an ambitious agenda that will show voters we are serious about changing the way Washington does business. We must also contrast that agenda with conservatism—an ideology whose very premise is maintaining the status quo or going back to the way things used to be (see the essay “The Case Against Conservatism”).
We’ll leave it to Clinton and her strategists to decide what specific proposals they want to lay out, but here are a few ideas:
- A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen’s United
- Aggressive enforcement of Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms
- Real-time disclosure of political contributions and expenditures
- Overhauling the Federal Election Commission and stringently enforcing existing campaign finance laws
- Shortening the primary season by starting it in April or May, to lessen the influence of money
- Comprehensive immigration reform that includes tougher border enforcement plus a path to citizenship
- Fixing the filibuster so senators have to actually filibuster to stop votes on legislation
- Closing, or at least slowing, the revolving door of politicians who become lobbyists
- Small-donor public financing of candidates as advocated by Common Cause and others
- Workplace and family reforms such as:
- Raising the minimum wage
- Guaranteed sick pay for all workers
- Affordable child care
- Reduced college tuition
Candidates nationwide must stress that these reforms will only happen by electing Democrats. We are the true party of the people—the only party with a long history of fighting for underdogs.