The twist is that Clinton almost certainly has the best chance in the field to deliver such a speech as president, yet she might still face a hellish four or eight years in office without a crisper organizing theme that pledges fundamental change, because so many voters in the opposition party—and her own—will be nursing bitter disappointments from Day One. She’s already in danger of pre-alienating the Democratic base, with many Sanders supporters vowing never to support her.
Some agenda items of a second Clinton presidency would be obvious enough. Dogged preservation of Obama’s legacy (and her husband’s), including health care reform. Continuance of the Democrats’ agenda on immigration, including by executive actions where possible. Support for early childhood programs, affordable child care and debt-free college education. Pragmatically hawkish foreign policy around the world.
But such initiatives seem out of scale with the size of the problems the country faces, and the depth of the anger and distress that is driving the movements behind Sanders on the left and Trump on the right. Clinton contends that Trump’s and Sanders’ various protectionist prescriptions for rescuing the middle class range from unrealistic to unAmerican. But she has not made a compelling case for how she herself would address the dislocations and anxiety that are partially the byproduct of the economic globalization that Bill Clinton and Obama both embraced wholeheartedly.