Clinton comes under pressure from left in campaign’s homestretch

Hillary Clinton is coming under competing pressures from centrist and liberal Democrats about what comes after Election Day, even as she seeks to finish a contest that her campaign says remains highly competitive. 

Progressives want to make sure the Democratic nominee sticks to the promises she made in the contentious primary with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on issues from providing free college tuition to millions of students to increasing the federal minimum wage. 

{mosads}They are also already exerting pressure on Clinton to put liberals in her Cabinet, particularly on economic issues. 

The release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails by WikiLeaks is further fueling tensions with the left, ensuring that even if Clinton can claim a mandate, she’ll have no real honeymoon period within her own party as she enters office.  

“I don’t think she spent enough time locking down the base before she began reaching out to the center in the general election, so there is lingering weariness because of that from the left,” said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. 

But it’s not just pressure from the left that Clinton is feeling in the campaign’s waning days. 

She is also hearing from voices in her extended orbit who are already calling on her to reach out to Republicans on bipartisan efforts to improve the economy and other policy issues. 

Allies have said she could easily signal an effort to reach out to those in the GOP by appointing Republicans to the Cabinet, similar to what President Obama did by tapping then-Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) to be his secretary of Transportation and keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the George W. Bush Administration, in place.  

All of this is coming in the backdrop of a presidential race that is by no means over. 

Clinton’s campaign has warned supporters that it expects the race to tighten and that voter turnout will be crucial if the Democratic nominee is to be elected president on Nov. 8. 

National polls show Clinton with a lead, and she is ahead of Republican Donald Trump in a number of battleground states, but Trump is positioned to compete in Florida and Ohio, two states where victories would put him close to the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. 

Still, there are signs that Clinton’s campaign strategy is becoming intertwined with arguments for an Election Day mandate. 

The Democratic nominee’s campaign has set their sights on traditional Republican strongholds like Arizona, Georgia and Utah in the hopes of upping their score on Election Day and giving Clinton the ability to claim a mandate as she enters office. 

But that’s not as simple as it might seem. And even the thought of a honeymoon, should she win, seems non-existent. 

“She doesn’t get a honeymoon. She’ll have to make a honeymoon,” said William Galston, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution who served as a policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton during his administration. “Having won the presidency, she’ll have to earn the right and the ability to function as president. There’s a big difference between winning an election and being able to direct the country.”

Galston, who said it’s going to be a “balancing act” for Clinton, added that she will likely put out agenda items that are acceptable to progressives while showing Republicans she’s willing to play ball. 

Almost as important, Galston said, is how Clinton conducts herself, beginning with the transition. He predicted that Clinton would meet with the leadership of both parties to probe for common ground in the same way she did when she was a senator. She might make some headway on issues such as infrastructure, work-family balance and immigration reform, he predicted. 

But he said appointing “token Republicans” in the Cabinet, as Obama did at the start of his administration, “didn’t do much to cool down hyper-partisanship” and would be a relatively fruitless effort. 

Speaking to reporters this week, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon signaled a willingness to work with Republicans. Fallon said the campaign has “put forward ideas for the first 100 days that are the ones that Republicans should have every reason to work with us on.”

But in an interview with The Washington Post this week, Sanders encouraged Clinton to go tough on Republicans. “It’s not good enough for me, or anybody, to say, ‘Well, look, Republicans control the House. From day one, we’re going to have to compromise,'” Sanders said.

“The Democratic Party, before they start compromising, has got to rally the American people around our ideas and make it clear that if Republicans do not go along with reasonable ideas to benefit the middle class and the working class, they are going to pay a very heavy political price.”

Simmons agreed, recommending that Clinton deal with the Democratic base first. 

“The more she can assuage the worries of her base in the first 100 days, the more leeway she can get to do creative things with Republicans after that,” he said. 

If Clinton doesn’t take that approach, “she could very well end up in a fight with Congress where she’s fighting on two fronts: Democrats who think she’s going too far and Republicans who think she’s not going far enough.”

Strategists for both parties along with other political observers all agree that the path forward for Clinton is all dependent on the outcome of the election — particularly down ballot— and the political climate that comes with it. 

“The partisan warfare feels like it’s going to get worse, not better,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. “The feeling is that she’s not going to have a tremendous mandate because this election has not been about voting for Hillary Clinton. It’s been about voting against Donald Trump, and the fact that they’re still relatively close in the polls poses problems for her.”

Still, Grant Reeher, the director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University, predicted that Clinton could have an easier time working with Congress than Obama did. 

“She will be more skilled than he was at working with Congress,” Reeher said. “That was not the favorite part of the job. That’s not his style. I think it’s more her style. The only hesitation I have is, will it matter?” 

As she aims to work with Republicans, Reeher cautioned that Clinton can’t forget about her own party, which includes the people who once supported Sanders — and even while they support her, are still weary of her.

“She’s going to have to be careful not to leave them behind because that will cost her,” Reeher said. “The question has always been ‘where are they going to go?’ But they’ve seen an option now, and there’s a whole different recipe.”

Tags Bernie Sanders Bill Clinton Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Minimum wage

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