As I watched Hillary Clinton’s speech Thursday night, one question wormed its way through her still-awkward-after-all-these-years delivery: She is obviously trying to appeal to both the #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary camps at the same time, but will many people in either group find her credible?
I can’t speak for the liberal wing of the #NeverHillary side, but my reaction was best summarized by someone else:
Democrats’ stylistic appeals to the center, and even conservatives, were a little too obvious Thursday night. The entire night — particularly the patriotic rebukes of Donald Trump by Pakistani-American man whose son, a U.S. Army captain, was killed in Iraq in 2004, and by retired Marine Gen. John Allen — seemed designed to claim territory the Republican Party has abandoned by falling in line behind Trump’s cult of personality. And it might have worked, if the Democrats’ candidate hadn’t spent decades working for an increasingly left-wing agenda.
You can’t tell Bernie Sanders’ supporters “your cause is our cause,” as Hillary did Thursday, and then turn around and expect folks on the center-right to feel comfortable siding with you. Even her most explicit pitch to non-Democrats was laced with progressivist phrasing:
“Whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign.
“If you believe that companies should share profits with their workers, not pad executive bonuses, join us.
“If you believe the minimum wage should be a living wage, and no one working full time should have to raise their children in poverty, join us.
“If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care, join us.
“If you believe that we should say ‘no’ to unfair trade deals, that we should stand up to China, that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers, join us.
“If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, join us.
“And yes, if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay, join us.”
It’s not that conservatives believe health care should be unaffordable, that women deserve to be paid less, and so on. It’s that we know what kinds of policies she means when she says these things, and they’re not the policies we believe will solve the problem(s). While Hillary attacked Trump for saying (at one point in his speech last week) that he alone can fix our problems, her lifelong counter-argument that only the federal government can fix them isn’t any more appealing.
One of her key lines about her GOP opponent (“Here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump; this is it”) applies equally to her.
Perhaps, if need be, she would be more inclined to compromise with a Republican-controlled Congress a la her husband than her predecessor has been. Or maybe not, given that one big thing that has changed since Bill Clinton’s presidency is the pressure on elected Democrats from the left wing of their base.
But one thing is clear: She isn’t going to govern from the center, or even slightly left of center, on her own. That’s not her and, despite a lot of myth-making about her moderation, it never has been.