In our last post, we criticized Hillary Clinton’s stump speech as a deadly dull exercise in policy wonkishness that ignores crucial lessons from this election season and from her own Democratic convention. Which undoubtedly will raise the question: “OK, smartass, then what should she be saying?”
Glad you asked. Every Clinton speech (and every speech from Democratic candidates around the country) should be conveying four things:
- The values she and the Democratic Party believe in, and how they relate to traditional American and religious/humanitarian values.
- Democrats are the party of working people and the poor.
- Democrats are the true party of reform.
- Conservatism is broken.
So, in the spirit of putting up or shutting up, here’s an unpolished example of a Clinton stump speech that illustrates what we mean:
“We have 80 days till the election, and no matter what your political views, I think we can all agree on one thing: Americans have a pretty interesting choice to make this year.
“You saw your choices laid out pretty dramatically at the two parties’ conventions a few weeks ago, and in our campaigns since then. Republicans are trying to win votes by playing on people’s fears and resentments. My message, and the Democratic Party’s, is based on the true spirit of America—hopefulness and optimism. Americans never have to live in fear of the present or the future. Our history has shown that we can overcome whatever obstacles are in our path, and that America is stronger when we work together.
“Don’t let anyone tell you America is falling apart. We are the greatest, richest, most powerful nation on earth—the world’s only remaining superpower. Our economy and our entrepreneurial spirit remain the envy of the world. Unemployment is at 4.9%; during Ronald Reagan’s last year in office it was 5.5%, and Republicans said it was morning again in America. The stock market is near record highs. Corporate profits are near record highs. Our military is the strongest fighting force in the history of the world. ISIS is suffering a major defeat or setback almost every week—without putting thousands of American soldiers in harm’s way. And here at home America is freer and fairer for more people than at any time in our history.
“Does that sound like a country in decline? And yet Donald Trump is running around like Chicken Little, telling us the sky is falling. Don’t believe him, America. It isn’t.
“Of course that doesn’t mean everything is rosy in America. We have many serious issues that need to be addressed, and I’m going to talk about some of them. But America has always had serious issues to deal with, every decade of our existence. Our problems today are no worse—and in many cases are much less worse—than those we have faced and conquered in our nation’s history. We don’t need a president who thinks every problem is a crisis. We don’t need a president whose default mode is hysteria. We need a steady leader with the experience and presence of mind to judge the true nature of a problem and take reasonable steps to solve it.
“Nevertheless, I’ve learned some things this campaign season. We all have. I’ve learned them from Bernie Sanders. And believe it or not, I’ve even learned something from Donald Trump.
“I know that many people in American are angry and frustrated. They feel financially stressed. Some haven’t gotten a significant raise in years. Some are underemployed and can’t find a better job. Here in the heartland, a lot of well-paying jobs have disappeared. And Americans feel like politicians are out of touch. They live in their own little world in Washington. They listen only to money and special interests, not to everyday people.
“Well, I’m listening. And I’ve heard you.
“I understand that people are hungry for change. Which means the question is: Which candidate, which political party, is best able to create that change?
“And keep in mind, I said create change—not chaos. Chaos is not the same as change. Jeb Bush had it right in the primaries, when he said Donald Trump is a chaos candidate who would be a chaos president. That’s the last thing our nation needs right now. Americans need to ask themselves: If Donald Trump is having a hard time running his own campaign, how is he going to run America?
“We don’t need a loose cannon in the White House—we need a captain of the ship. If you really want change, you need someone who knows how to get things done. And that doesn’t mean how to build golf courses or casinos. It means how to run a government, how to conduct foreign policy, how to work with a legislature, how to create a federal budget. And how to not just talk but listen: to synthesize competing points of view and then act decisively.
“Here are two things I want Americans to think about when you’re getting ready to vote in November.
The first thing is: Which candidate, and which political party, is really on the side of the American worker and the poor?
“And the second question is: Which candidate, and which political party, is most likely to create real, genuine reform in Washington?
“Let’s talk about the first one. Democrats have been fighting for the American worker for a hundred years. It’s Democrats that first gave Americans:
- The 40-hour workweek
- Social Security
- The first minimum wage laws
- The first overtime laws
- Unemployment insurance in case you lose your job
- The idea of paid vacations
- Social safety net programs for people in poverty
- Equal opportunities for women and minorities
- And much more
“And we’re still fighting for workers and people in poverty today. Let’s just look at the record of the two parties:
- Democrats want to raise the minimum wage. Republicans oppose it.
- Democrats support unions, so workers have a voice in the workplace. Conservatives are trying to destroy unions.
- Democrats gave health insurance to millions of people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Republicans want to take it all away. They even shut down the government to try to stop people from getting it.
- Democrats passed the Credit Card Act and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect you from the worst abuses of the credit and financial industries. Republicans sided with the credit card industry and Wall Street.
- Republicans tried to repeal the inheritance tax for people who inherit $5.4 million or more. Democrats oppose more tax cuts for the wealthy.
- Republicans tried to cut food stamps for the poorest people in America. Democrats stopped them.
- Democrats kept the internet fair and equal for everyone. Republicans wanted one internet for the wealthy and a slower one for everyone else.
“If I’m elected president, we’re going to continue the fight, with progressive ideas like:
- Affordable college tuition
- Affordable child care
- Guaranteed sick pay
- And paid family leave
“We are going to make the biggest investment in new jobs since World War II and put millions of Americans to work rebuilding our infrastructure: our bridges, roads, airports, and water systems.
“Think about it: All those things I just mentioned. Virtually every major improvement in the lives of workers in the last century has come from Democrats. But what have conservatives ever done for you? How have they improved your lives? Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute. … It’s not easy, is it?
“How on earth do Republicans like Trump try to pass themselves off as the party of working people? If you really want someone who will fight for American workers, why would you ever elect a conservative?
“And have you heard what Trump has done to workers and contractors in his business? Hundreds of small businesses have complained that he stiffed them—just refused to pay them after they did the work they were contracted to do.
“My dad was a small businessman. He ran a small print plant—a silkscreening business. I just can’t imagine what would have happened if he had delivered the finished goods to a big hotel or casino, after working for weeks on a big job, and they said, ‘We’re not going to pay you.’ Or maybe they’d say, ‘We’re only going to pay you 50 cents or 30 cents on the dollar, and if you don’t like it, sue me.’ And that’s what Trump has done time and time again.
“What kind of person would do that to small business owners and their workers? And this is the man you think is on the side of hard-working Americans?
“I mentioned there were two things I’d like voters to think about when they go to the polls. Let’s talk about the second one: Which candidate, and which party, is more likely to support serious reforms in Washington? Let’s again look at the record of the two parties.
- I and my party are calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, which has allowed obscene amounts of money into politics. It was Republican justices who gave us Citizens United, one of the worst decisions in the history of the Court.
- A few years ago, in 2002, Congress had a chance to vote on serious campaign finance reform—the McCain-Feingold bill that Citizens United partially overturned. Democrats in both houses of Congress voted in favor of finance reform 246-14. Republicans voted against it 214-52! Which party do you think is more committed to changing business as usual in Washington?
- The Democrat Party and I are calling for serious Wall Street reforms, including a tax on high-risk speculative trading and closing loopholes for hedge fund billionaires. Republicans oppose those reforms.
- The Democratic Party and I are demanding stricter enforcement of Dodd-Frank banking reforms for too-big-to-fail financial institutions. Republicans want to weaken the law.
- The Democratic Party and I want to put more of the tax burden on the wealthiest 1%, who have seen windfall tax breaks under Republicans. Donald Trump and the Republicans want to give more tax breaks to people who are already rich.
- The Democratic Party and I are trying to stop needless restrictions on voters, so that everyone has a right to have their voices heard. Republicans are trying to make it harder for people to exercise their right to vote.
“Given that record, how can anyone seriously think that Republicans are the party of reform?
“And Democrats have championed not just political reforms but social reforms: civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights. Only Democrats have the vision to imagine a better world and the courage to make it happen.
“You’ve seen over the last few months that conservatism is broken. And it was broken long before Donald Trump. He’s only the logical extreme of Republicanism. Sadly, conservatism today has devolved into an anger, a meanness of spirit, a fearfulness, and a lack of generosity toward others that I don’t think represents the best of America.
“The values of Democrats are based on the finest of American traditions, our religious heritage, and humanitarian ideals: love and kindness, equality, fairness, freedom of conscience, acceptance of differences, concern for others, especially the less fortunate. These are the values that have driven me since my earliest days in politics. It is based on a belief that we can and should try to make the world a better place—and that can only happen when we are willing to change, and to try new ideas.
“Nothing changes in America without Democrats thinking of it first. Without progressive, forward-thinkers imagining a better life, and then working for it—even, sometimes, at great political cost. That’s the kind of president I will be.
“And right now, if you will text JOIN, J-O-I-N, at 47246 or go to hillaryclinton.com, you can find out how to get involved.
“I want us always to stand for freedom and equality and justice and opportunity, now and forever. Help us go out and win an election that will keep our democracy strong, our economy growing, and give every American a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential.
“Stronger than ever. Stronger together.
“Thank you, and God bless you.”