Liberals hold noses as Clinton seeks to win over GOP

Getty Images

Liberals are holding their noses as Hillary Clinton seeks to win over Republican voters.

The Democrat is less than two weeks removed from accepting the party’s presidential nomination after a bitterly fought primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose surprising run exposed a deep rift between Clinton and the liberal base.

{mosads}Clinton has worked hard to mend that rift, moving politically leftward toward Sanders during the primaries and offering him concessions in the Democratic platform.

Polls suggest this is paying off, with Sanders supporters rallying behind her. Clinton enjoys a lead over Republican Donald Trump nationally and in battleground states, according to polls.

In the last two weeks, however, Clinton has shifted her strategy to focus more on winning over Republican voters unnerved by the controversial GOP nominee.

Clinton has been working furiously behind the scenes to draw influential Republicans into her camp.

The outreach has extended to the Republican donor class, with Clinton landing support from billionaire conservative activists like former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and former MGM chief Harry Sloan.

The campaign went public with those efforts on Wednesday, launching an initiative called “Together for America,” which is focused on recruitment of and outreach to Republicans and right-leaning independents.

Those efforts, aided by GOP frustration with Trump, have been successful so far.

The Clinton campaign is touting endorsements from nearly 50 Republicans, including current and former members of the House and Senate, former Cabinet secretaries, Ambassadors, business people, and leaders in the armed forces.

Clinton’s allies argue that the push to win over Republican at the ballot box does not mean Clinton is shifting on policy.

Those Republicans joining the Clinton train, they say, are doing so out of concern about Trump’s character and temperament, not because they expect Clinton to adopt Republican policy positions.

For the most part, liberals see Clinton’s effort as a smart strategy and aren’t worried it is a sign of how she would govern.

“Getting Republicans to say Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with running on bold progressives ideas liked debt-free college, expanding Social Security, a public health insurance option and Wall Street reform,” said Progressive Change Campaign Committee founder Adam Green.

Yet progressives interviewed by The Hill also said Clinton’s work to secure the left’s trust is far from complete.

They argue she can’t depend on Republican voters to beat Trump and must ensure the full Democratic base comes out to support her on Election Day.

“This is going to be a base turnout election, so there’s a real risk if you work too hard to win some of these endorsements that are anathema to progressive values that it could hurt Democratic turnout and enthusiasm and will make the legislative fights you’ll face in the White House even tougher,” said Democracy for America (DFA) spokesman Neil Sroka.

“At the end of the day, the Republicans signing on right now won’t be there for her the day after the election,” Sroka said. “The base can be there for her, but it may not be if the pursuit of Republican endorsements becomes the overwhelming focus of her campaign.”

Liberals still hold Clinton’s support for the Iraq War against her, and many also distrust her on economic issues.

Clinton opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which liberals worry President Obama will pursue in a lame-duck session of Congress. Clinton supported the trade deal as a member of the Obama administration, and her husband signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada into law as president.

The Democratic nominee’s paid speeches to Goldman Sachs employees were another point of concern in the primaries that reflected worries among liberals that the Clintons are too closely tied to the financial industry.

“We all know that Democrats adopted this progressive platform because of Bernie’s movement and that the Clinton circle accepted many of those things even though they don’t support them,” said Jonathan Tasini, a liberal economist and Sanders supporter who launched a primary challenge to Clinton in 2006 but is backing her in the general election.

“I know with certainty that we’ll have epic battles on our hands with a Clinton administration on policy,” he said. “But that doesn’t run contrary to me wanting to see her do everything she can to defeat Donald Trump. That’s the motivating force right now.”

Polls show liberal voters have coalesced behind Clinton since the Democratic National Convention last month.

A Monmouth University survey released this week found Clinton receiving 92 percent support from Democrats, up from 88 percent last month and 85 percent in June. And a CNN survey that found Clinton receiving 94 percent support among Democrats also showed her with 86 percent support of former Sanders backers.

At the same time, liberal groups have begun launching petitions and email campaigns to keep the pressure on Clinton to hold steady in her support of the progressive policies she embraced during the primaries.

A coalition of 15 left-leaning groups sent a letter to Clinton on Wednesday in an effort to discourage her from putting former Wall Street executives in her Cabinet if she wins the White House.

That follows pressure from DFA and another liberal group, Credo Action, which have been circulating petitions urging Clinton to use her planned major economic speech on Thursday near Detroit to announce opposition to a lame-duck session vote on the TPP.

“We expect Clinton’s Thursday economic speech to include numerous big progressive priorities,” Green said.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
See all Hill.TV See all Video