Sen. Bernie Sanders looked glum at times as he sat with the Vermont delegates on the convention floor Thursday night listening to his former rival Hillary Clinton delivering her acceptance speech after locking up the Democratic presidential nomination.
Sanders challenged Clinton in the primaries with his democratic-socialist calls for income equality, universal health care coverage, expanded Social Security, a crackdown on Wall Street bankers and an end to a corrupt campaign finance system dominated by “millionaires and billionaires.”
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But Sanders and his supporters extracted serious concessions from the Clinton forces as they forged a new Democratic Party platform. And Clinton’s speech Thursday night to a largely cheering convention was peppered with policies and rhetoric drawn from Sanders’ populist campaign.
Clinton called out Sanders early in her address to thank him for the contribution he had made in the campaign, one that pushed her farther to the left in an effort to appease the party’s liberal wing.
“You’ve put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong,” she said, addressing both Sanders and the wider audience of liberal Democrats and progressives who remain highly skeptical of the former secretary of state and whether they should support her. “And to all of your supporters here and around the country, I want you to know, I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy and passion.”
The more moderate, politically pragmatic Clinton gradually moved further to the left in her more than year-long campaign for her party’s nomination. At the same time, her overarching themes aren’t dramatically different now than where she stood on June 13, 2015, when she formally announced her campaign on Roosevelt Island in New York City.
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Back then, she told the crowd gathered on an island in the East River named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt that “I’m running to make our economy work for you and for every American.” Like Roosevelt, she said, she wanted to “make the economy work for everyday Americans, not just those at the top.”
Her goal, she said, was to “make the middle class mean something again, with rising incomes and broader horizons,” while giving the poor “a chance to work their way into it.” After years of stagnant wages, she added, “The middle class needs more growth and more fairness,” adding that “For lasting prosperity, you can’t have one without the other.”
Clinton’s acceptance speech Thursday night in a general thematic sense wasn’t all that different from her Roosevelt Island speech. The biggest change, however, is that she has allowed Sanders and his supporters to fill in some key details, locking her into a commitment to social and economic policies she once resisted.
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While some of what she said and promised Thursday night could ultimately turn out to be just posturing in a move to unite the party against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump this fall, for now at least it signals some substantial policy shifts by Clinton.
Here are five ways Sanders pulled Clinton to the left that were reflected in her speech at the convention Thursday night:
1. The minimum wage. Democrats amended their platform to call for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, one of Sanders’s top priorities, although it would be gradually raised over time. Clinton had previously backed a $12 minimum wage. “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,” she said.
2. Universal health insurance. Clinton initially opposed Sander’s plan for a national health care system, arguing that Congress should simply build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act. However, under pressure, she unveiled a plan to provide expanded coverage by allowing some people under the age of 65 to purchase coverage through Medicare. “If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care, join us,” she said.
3. International trade. While she was secretary of state, Clinton described the pending Trans Pacific Partnership agreement as “the gold standard” for free-trade agreements. Under pressure from Sanders, she changed her mind and said it wasn’t a good deal for working Americans after all. “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,” she said
4. Wall Street regulations. Sanders and others called for reinstituting the Glass-Steagall law prohibiting commercial banks from engaging in investment practices, but a year ago Clinton opposed that, arguing there were other ways to achieve the same result. But now the Democratic platform calls for restoring the law. (The Republican platform does too, to the surprise of many observers.) “I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again,” Clinton said.
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5. College tuition and student debt. Clinton at one time derided Sander’s proposal for providing free tuition to all students attending publicly supported colleges and universities, saying it wasn’t financially feasible. Now she and Sanders are in agreement on a plan that would provide free tuition to students from families with incomes of up to $120,000 a year, or about 80 percent of all families. “Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!” Clinton said.