If self-satisfaction were a perfume it was the scent-du-jour Tuesday at Hillary Clinton’s campaign stop at River Valley Community College in Claremont, New Hampshire.
During remarks the former Secretary of State outlined more of her “College Compact” plan that’s full of faults and presented herself as a champion of hardworking middle class Americans intent on standing up to the “right wing Republican talk machine.”
Mocking last Thursday’s GOP debate in Cleveland partly for the size of its 17-candidate field, Clinton said there was “not one word from one of those candidates about making college affordable or dealing with debt” and went on to cast Republicans as opponents of working Americans intent on ending social security, serving the Koch brothers and oil companies and generally just being nasty, women-hating people and internet trolls (although Clinton added she’s more than willing to work together with the reasonable Republicans).
“I don’t know who they’re talking to out on the campaign trail, well I have an idea, but I’ll tell you who I’m talking to and listening to. I’m talking to a lot of young people and their families who raise their hand at events like this or come over and talk to me after it’s over and say ‘I’ve got this horrible debt’ or ‘I had to drop out of college, my mom got sick or I couldn’t continue what am I to do?’ I think this is a major challenge and I want us to address it, and not one word from the other side,” Clinton said.
Wherefore The Populism, O Clinton?
Clinton’s central message Tuesday was college and education and standing up to “systemic” injustices, likely geared to try to get out the large numbers of young Democrats who helped propel Obama to victory in the past.
“Tuition between 2004 and 2014 went up 42 percent. In the midst of the great recession, higher than anything else was rising,” Clinton told the crowd of around 150, with 150 more in an overflow room. “This just doesn’t add up.”
Talking about the enormous amount of student debt being held by Americans, Clinton nodded in empathetic fashion at the show of hands of those in the crowd holding student debt.
“Yes I see —everywhere I go I see hands. It’s all in the back there,” she said with a laugh, adding that she will “crack down on for-profit colleges that are engaging in fraud” in their taking of GI funds from veterans.
Speaking out against the very wealthy and student debt, Clinton said students under her plan would be allowed to refinance student debt, expand a tax credit for families paying for college and provide college free to those who complete a national service program such as AmeriCorps. Primarily the pitch would also provide $175 billion in grants paid out to states so that students won’t have to take out loans to pay tuition at public colleges and universities.
Clinton said her plan “will not punish” students in states that say “no we don’t want your help” and “will look for ways to bypass resistance and go right to the universities and colleges.” More central planning and government involvement has certainly (not) worked well for education before, so why not try more of it?
“I support President Obama’s plan for free community college,” Clinton said, adding “debt should not hold you back.”
Those Pesky Rich People
The problem, not just in terms of educational opportunities but also in terms of the country as a whole? You guessed it: those pesky rich people, whoever they might be.
“We know who gets rewarded, the people at the top get rewarded. The deck is really stacked in their favor,” Clinton told the crowd. “If you’re a CEO you’re likely to make 300-350 times more than the typical worker. So we’ve got to reshuffle that deck.”
It is interesting that Clinton used the analogy of a card game to speak about the burdens of working Americans. How many chips does she have in the “game” that’s being played with real people’s incomes and livelihoods? Saying she wants to “raise incomes” and referencing a local grocery store and “profit-sharing,” Clinton drew appreciative applause from the crowd who probably would have clapped had she said up is down.
But what ideas is she actually proposing? Simple: more big government and more of the same as Obama.
It is certainly hard for Clinton to claim she herself is in touch with working people, as well, when past comments about being “dead broke” after leaving the White House and her outlook as a whole show this up to be little more than populist pandering.
At least Bernie Sanders walks the talk in terms of his socialism. He just directly says he will socialize higher education, rather than Clinton’s odd patchwork system for purportedly making learning more affordable. Sanders’ ideas won’t work because of mathematics and logic, but at least he doesn’t waffle between the world of the high-rollers and the world of “everyday Americans.”
Clinton Is Bad At Pretending To Be A Populist
The reason is simple and obvious: Clinton is not a populist, she’s an elitist. No matter how much she may or may not care about students seeking an education, the advancement of women in sciences and the economy it is not her coterie. Her ideas for having a positive impact on that world are flawed. They have been tried in various sectors before and failed.
But to those who already support her it doesn’t matter: she has experience, she’s tough, she cares about stuff they care about.
Indeed the crowd of supporters lapped it up and then some, with several breathless questioners following Clinton’s remarks addressing her as “Madam Secretary” and lavishing praise on her efforts as well as their belief that she certainly will be elected the next president.”When we elect you president, and we will …” one questioner, a professor of Humanities at River Valley, began as adoring fans watched him pay homage to their queen.
Walking to the rally across the college grounds supporter Jane Gilson of Charlestown, New Hampshire said Clinton has everything right.
“I like her pro-choice, I like her foreign policy, I like her plan to reduce the cost of education,” Gilson said gushing, as she expressed joy that she would meet Clinton following the rally.
Clinton’s Cracks Are Showing
Despite her solid polling lead over Sanders, Clinton’s campaign cracks are showing early on, with the media often more interested in her opinion on Donald Trump than her campaign itself.
Registered Indepdendent Jack Mastrianni, whose father served in the New Hampshire legislature and was active in the Democratic Party came to watch, saying he believes Clinton would be strong on foreign policy and the economy. Though in many ways differing from Clinton’s views and acknowledging he has “some issues” with her record as Secretary of State, Mastrianni expressed deep respect for Clinton’s “experience” and know-how. Mastrianni, who is not a supporter of President Obama and is also a skeptic about the size of the role played by greenhouse gases in climate change, said he believes Clinton, by contrast would pursue a foreign policy more to his liking.
“Hillary has more of a tough streak,” he said. “She wouldn’t be nearly as concessionary.”
He did say though that policies based around the threat of climate change concern him greatly and acknowledged that if Clinton were to go in lockstep with Obama’s focus on the issue that would not appeal to him.
“I would hate to have our economy set back 20 years. We’re not frying. I would rather take a measured approach,” Mastrianni said.
I couldn’t help but get the feeling, however, that Mastrianni, who was at the speech with his wife and kid, mainly felt Clinton was the only serious candidate because he came from a background in a Democratic family and had seen her presented in a positive light.
“I don’t feel as though she’s that far left of center,” he said, adding that he is very concerned with the territorial ambitions and actions of Russia and wants a leader who will stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mastrianni said his father Silvio was a dedicated “labor Democrat” although he does wonder if his dad would have voted Reagan were he alive during Reagan’s election. Mastrianni left the Claremont rally saying he was “impressed” with Hillary’s remarks but still undecided as a voter. He said populist ideas appeal to him including some of those of Trump, but that the billionaire real estate magnate’s personality is “so bizarre” that it makes him unable to consider going over to that side. As for the Republicans as a whole?
“I’d have to listen more to what the Republican stance is on Putin,” he said.
She Just Wants Everyone To Be Nice
Clinton also spoke passionately in Claremont about what she sees as the key to educational excellence later in life: early childhood education.
“I believe every child is born with his or her God-given potential,” Clinton said, going on to talk about how much she loves her new granddaughter Charlotte and making no mention of unborn children or the recent undercover videos of Planned Parenthood selling baby parts which have disgusted and shocked millions of people around the world.
Clinton also said many “African-Americans, Hispanics and poor whites” have their economic progress systemically undermined and responded sympathetically to a questioner’s intense concerns over “homophobia, transphobia, class-phobia.” Apparently, from her answer, “poor whites” may be differentiated by class, but African-Americans and Hispanics have a sufficient descriptor of their economic station in their ethnic identity alone. So at least it was clear these aforementioned issues are high on Clinton’s list, as are people who engage in “negative speech” on the internet, which is of great concern to her.
“I am asking people to be kinder,” Clinton said, adding that she herself is “occasionally” the subject of negative speech and that although free speech is protected by the Constitution “as it should be” she would like to see negative speech become “completely unacceptable” on a cultural level in society.
For example, on Monday, Clinton criticized Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio for what she called “offensive and troubling” views on abortion. In other words, who does Rubio think he is standing up for the unborn?
The Right Needs To Get It Together If They Hope To Beat Clinton
Republicans were the plentiful bogeymen of the hour overall, of course, with Clinton calling out presidential candidate Scott Walker in particular for higher education cuts, saying he is “ending scholarships for poor kids” and adding that Walker “seems to be delighted in slashing higher education in his state.”
According to Clinton, Republicans are also marginalizing half their own voters and “endangering the lives of future generations” with their skepticism about man made climate change. Instead by positing to turn America into a “clean energy superpower” Clinton claimed she would create “millions of jobs” and put the US at the forefront of global energy. Indeed, Clinton said that by the end of her “second term” she hopes to have enough clean energy to power every home in the United States.
“I like to think big,” Clinton added with a laugh after referring to her “second term.”
To those who would doubt her dreams Clinton referred to exactly what one would expect: JFK and the moon landing.
Any who doubt her plan must also question if the moon landing ever happened, because if it did she certainly has a chance. Right? There’s that Wellesley College-educated logic speaking. Does Hillary Clinton care about “ordinary Americans” as her presidential campaign announcement termed it? More importantly, will her ideas actually help “ordinary Americans”?
One thing is certain: Hillary hopes these postures will help *her* get *votes,* and with a divided Republican field and Trump’s rhetoric still booming across the bow, it appears she has a good chance at having those votes help usher her into the Oval Office. The right needs to stop, think things over, and come together behind a candidate and a vision before the herd of independent minds puts Hillary up on the inaugural platform in January, 2017.