By Lanny Davis - 07/30/14 07:11 PM EDT
When it comes to judging someone’s political ideology, many people and pundits end up arguing about labels and characterizations rather than the facts and the objective record. For example, I recall recently reading about someone who attended a Ready for Hillary meeting in Iowa who declared his concern about Hillary Clinton being a “corporatist.” A few recent articles refer to Clinton as a “centrist” or not a genuine “populist,” words meaning different things to different people.
Fortunately, polling data show that most people make their judgments based on facts, not labels.
On economic issues during her eight years in the Senate and to the present, Clinton consistently supported increasing the minimum wage (and still does). She opposed former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, favored tax cuts for the middle class and tax credits for student loans. She consistently voted against repealing the estate tax on millionaires. She supported the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, praising Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to this day for her leadership on this issue.
On social issues, as everyone knows, Clinton led the fight as first lady for the passage of a national health insurance system and was — and is — a steadfast supporter of President Obama’s most important achievement as president: the Affordable Care Act.
She consistently supported programs helping the middle class, regulating and preserving the environment, and creating opportunities for the poor and minorities. She has been in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, including the Dream Act.
She has always supported affirmative action, privacy rights, human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.
One of the great causes of her life is concern about children and education. Like Warren and many other Democrats, she is committed to substantial assistance to public schools and relief to students on their student loans.
In short, she believes in an active federal government regulating excesses of the private market for the public interest and public good — the classic definition of Democratic Party liberalism, from Andrew Jackson to Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. She also believes that the country needs a healthy and vibrant private sector that is the engine of job creation and lifting the poor and the middle class.
On cultural issues, the former secretary of State supports choice, gay rights, gay marriage, gun control and strict safeguards to protect the separation of church and state.
On income inequality, Clinton has expressed great concern. “This is not an issue that’s going to go away. In fact, it will only get worse unless we address it now,” she said recently.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting our economy growing and producing results and renewing the American Dream so Americans feel ... that the economy and the political system is not stacked against them, because that will erode the trust that is at the basis of our democracy.”
Polls prove that most self-described liberal Democrats judge Clinton on the actual facts of her record, not on someone’s labels. In the most recent national polls, 72 percent of liberal Democrats say they would support Clinton for president in 2016 if she were to run. Only 5 percent of Democrats and 6 percent of liberals think she is “too conservative.”
It is true that Clinton, despite her liberal voting record in the Senate, was perceived by many Republicans as someone you could work with to get things done — exactly as the liberal icon, former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), was seen. That may bother the furthest wing of the Democratic base, who prefer confrontation and ideological wars to compromise and real solutions to help people most in need. These are likely the 6 percent of liberals who think Clinton is “too conservative.”
But fortunately, most Democrats and most Americans prefer fact-driven, bipartisan solutions rather than confrontation and ideological wars. I believe that is why Clinton currently shows such strong support as a future president not only among Democrats but among all Americans.
But there is plenty of time to go. If Hillary Clinton runs for president — and she has said she has not made that decision yet — she will run hard and work hard to earn the support of the all voters: red, blue and purple.
Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton and is principal in the Washington D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, and is executive vice president of the strategic communications firm, Levick. He is the author of a recently published book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life.