Saying “(i)t’s hard to imagine a more perfect marriage of candidate and issue“, Michael Tomasky makes a good argument for why presumed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should adopt paid family leave as a centerpiece of her domestic policy agenda:

First, Clinton would be fulfilling a policy goal put into motion by her husband, who signed into the law the first (unpaid) medical leave act, so it would be a legacy-building measure that ol’ Bill could even help sell to the fellas. Second, she would not only placate the base by doing this, she’d galvanize it (and, let’s be honest, give herself room to take less progressive positions on some other matters). And third, she’d be checking the “bold” box in a huge way.

Tomasky—like many liberal commentators (and most Democratic voters)—sees Clinton as the party’s best candidate for keeping control of the White House in 2016 (and 2020).  Significantly, in making the argument for paid family leave, he points to the relatively modest examples already enacted into law by California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  In doing so, he offers a reminder to progressives frustrated by Republican obstructionism in Washington of the importance of wielding political power in the states.<!–more–>


  • Without Massachusetts’ 2006 “Romneycare” legislation, there’s no 2009 Affordable Care Act; and an additional 20 million Americans would be without access to affordable health care today.  The various state campaigns to raise the minimum wage not only are providing a boost for vulnerable red state Democratic Senate incumbents; they’re also raising the floor for what the next federal minimum wage hike will be.

  • John Hickenlooper got elected governor of Colorado in part because of his political reputation as a “moderate”.  Once in office, he’s governed more as a “liberal”—not because he’s changed but because he had a Democratic legislature with the power to pass progressive legislation, and to redirect funding priorities in the state budget.

  • When African-Americans in Chicago were trying to unite around a candidate for the 1983 mayoral election, Congressman Harold Washington was far and away the most popular choice…but he refused to run saying, “It’s not the man; it’s the plan”.  What he meant was that no Black candidate could get elected mayor of Chicago under the current circumstances.  If, on the other hand, people changed the circumstances by registering 50,000 new voters and raising $100,000, then a Black candidate could win.  (Which Washington did that November; Mama Washington didn’t raise no fools.)

Self-described progressives should spend less time worrying whether Clinton—or any other presidential candidate—is “too conservative”, and more time organizing in their cities and towns and states to build the political power that will create and present to the next president—whomever s/he is—a governing agenda for the next decade.

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