The New York Times weighs in this morning with a big piece reporting that Wall Street, which is wringing its hands about the Democratic Party’s supposed sharp turn to the left, “sees a solution on the horizon: Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
The piece runs through the ways Clinton is said to be more friendly to Wall Street than populists like Elizabeth Warren, and raises the question of whether rising populism is a threat to a potential presidential bid. It contains the de rigeur quote from the centrist group Third Way, warning that Warren-style populism would be “disastrous” for Dems in 2016.
But perhaps the most telling thing in the piece is that Clinton allies and spokespeople appear to be trying to burnish her anti-inequality, anti-Wall Street cred:
The last time Mrs. Clinton waded deeply into these issues, she was locked in a heated primary and the country was on the verge of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. She was early to call for tougher regulation of financial derivatives and private-equity markets, and in a 2007 speech called for major federal intervention in the market for subprime loans, arguing that “we need to acknowledge that Wall Street has played a significant role in our current problems, and in particular the housing crisis.”
Several people who advised Mrs. Clinton on her 2008 presidential campaign said the speech angered some of her Wall Street donors, who complained about what they viewed as her increasing antagonism to the industry. Mrs. Clinton has also called for eliminating the carried interest tax loophole.
“If you look at her positions, in my view, she was very aggressive on ensuring that Wall Street was better regulated and her argument about all these proposals is that this is going to be better for all of us,” said Neera Tanden, who was Mrs. Clinton’s policy director during the 2008 campaign.
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, declined to describe her positions on a variety of current regulatory and Wall Street issues but said in an email: “Reducing inequality and increasing upward mobility has been an uninterrupted pursuit of hers through every job she’s held, and it continues to this day in her work at the Clinton Foundation.”
The explicit singling out of “reducing inequality and increasing upward mobility” is interesting, because it goes to a broader debate that has consumed Beltway elites: Are Dems placing too much emphasis on inequality, when they should be focused more on mobility? Centrist Democrats often make this claim, but it’s mostly a false choice.
Like Matthew Yglesias, I believe this supposed division among Dems is mostly trumped up. After all, they broadly agree on the menu of policy responses to the economic problems faced by poor, working and middle class Americans — a higher minimum wage; universal pre-K; higher taxes on the wealthy to fund a stronger safety net, job creation and job training — whatever broader rhetorical umbrella is being used here. Sure, there may be some differences over how aggressively to go after the big banks or over whether to expand Social Security. There is unquestionably a debate underway over whether to push the Democratic Party in a more populist direction in certain areas. But the larger story is one of agreement, not division.
Clinton will run on most of the policies that unite Dems — whether you call them policies to reduce inequality or policies to improve mobility — and it remains to be seen whether a credible challenger will emerge to criticize her on areas of potential disagreement. Still, it may be telling that Clinton’s allies are trying to emphasize agreement with progressives over the centrality of inequality and Wall Street oversight. After all, polls have shown that inequality is already a disproportionately huge issue among Democratic voters, so Clinton may well have no choice but to speak to this reality.
* WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY: The Center for American Progress is holding an event today on the future of Social Security Disability Insurance, where it will release a report designed to rebut conservative arguments against the program. Some Senate Democrats are expecting Republicans to use an upcoming hearing into SSDI’s future to call for cuts to the program, and they are urging Dems to adopt an aggressive response that includes a call for an expansion of benefits.
* DEMS PLAN MAJOR OFFENSIVE ON CONTRACEPTION: The Hill reports that Democrats are set to introduce measures designed to offset the Supreme Court’s recent rulings that certain businesses are not required to provide contraception coverage as part of Obamacare, with an eye toward the midterm elections:
Democrats are expected to introduce the measures prior to Congress’s August recess as part of an effort to recalibrate the party’s election-year messaging. Their hope is to turn out female voters by casting the court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby as a strike against reproductive rights.
It’s another sign of just how much Dem hopes to stave off major losses are riding on getting out the female vote, a goal that is central to Dem attacks on GOP candidates over everything from Personhood to pay equity and the minimum wage.
* DEMS FACE TOUGH ENVIRONMENT IN 2014: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Dems hold only a slight lead in the generic ballot matchup, 41-39, which is far short of what Dems need to offset their midterm dropoff problem. Americans say by 46-44 that they want a GOP-controlled Senate. Both are within the margin of error. One bright spot for Dems: The Congressional GOP has a dismal 18 percent approval rating.
As always, the key context here is that Democrats don’t need to win this fall. They need to not lose by too much, which is to say, they need to limit their losses to five Senate seats.
* GRIMES HITS McCONNELL OVER MEDICARE: Alison Lundergan Grimes is up with a new statewide ad hitting Mitch McConnell over his vote for the Ryan budget to overhaul Medicare: It quotes a retired coal miner asking McConnell why he voted to raise his Medicare costs by $6,000. The source for the claim is this Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the Ryan budget.
The new ad is a reminder that Grimes will be going after McConnell on multiple fronts — the minimum wage, Kentucky jobs, GOP designs on the safety net — to portray him as having failed Kentuckians economically.
* PRYOR HITS COTTON OVER FAITH: Meanwhile, Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor is up with a new spot hitting GOP challenger Tom Cotton for questioning his faith. In case you missed it, Cotton said that Pryor believes “faith is something that only happens at 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings.”
Dems believe that Pryor’s bond with evangelicals is a key to his ability to hang on to a slim lead, despite predictions of his political death. In that context, note the shot of Pryor with a Bible on his knee, and the key quote: “This is who I am, and what I believe.”
* CAMPAIGN FINANCE AS 2014 ISSUE? The Progressive Change Campaign Committee announces that over 5,000 of its members have donated nearly $200,000 to Laurence Lessig’s “Super PAC to end all Super PACs,” whose goal is to end the influence of big money over politics.
Dem base voters perhaps want Dem candidates to emphasize campaign finance as an issue in 2014 (which Harry Reid has done by attacking the Koch brothers and pushing a Constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United).
* AND TED CRUZ KEEPS UP ASSAULT ON GOP “ESTABLISHMENT': This will get interesting:
Sen. Ted Cruz is calling for an official investigation into the Republican Senate primary runoff in Mississippi between Sen. Thad Cochran and the challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. The Texas Republican on Monday evening called the runoff contest “appalling” and said that allegations of voter fraud need to be investigated.
Wherever the right is enraged at the GOP “establishment,” Ted Cruz isn’t far behind…