What does Hillary Clinton stand for? And is she willing to fight for the causes that are important to young adults?
Those two questions should have relatively straightforward answers, especially for a politician who has been in the public spotlight for more than thirty years. And yet, they’ve been impossible to pin down.
On the one hand, she’s argued she’s a fierce progressive who will advocate for government solutions to society’s problems.
“I take a backseat to no one when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values,” she told a crowd in July.
But her decades in politics have shown her to be a politician who never gets in front of a social issue and is relatively conservative on fiscal issues. Just months after painting herself as a progressive, she told a group in Ohio: “You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center. I plead guilty.”
She also has a complicated record when it comes to young adults’ policy positions. In 2008, when she was desperately trying to maneuver a comeback against Barack Obama in the primaries, poked fun at young voters’ optimism.
“The sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect!” she dryly told a crowd.
This election, sensing that she’s absolutely going to need millennial voters if she’s going to have a chance to win in November, Clinton has been actively praising young adults as agents of change.
“From the first days of this campaign, you have shared the problems that keep you up at night and the hopes that get you up in the morning,” Clinton wrote in an editorial for Mic.
“You’ve fought for some of the most important accomplishments in our nation’s history … And it’s nothing short of inspiring,” she continued.
Clinton’s comments would be similarly moving, if there was any hope that they represented her true feelings. They don’t. Take these newly leaked comments from a speech Clinton gave at a closed-door fundraiser hosted by Anthony Welters, the executive chairman of an investment consulting firm:
“It is important to recognize what’s going on in this election. Everybody who’s ever been in an election that I’m aware of is quite bewildered because there is a strain of, on the one hand, the kind of populist, nationalist, xenophobic, discriminatory kind of approach that we hear too much of from the Republican candidates. And on the other side, there’s just a deep desire to believe that we can have free college, free healthcare, that what we’ve done hasn’t gone far enough, and that we just need to, you know, go as far as, you know, Scandinavia, whatever that means, and half the people don’t know what that means, but it’s something that they deeply feel. So as a friend of mine said the other day, I am occupying from the center-left to the center-right. And I don’t have much company there.
Once again, Clinton’s true nature reveals itself. When she’s angry at her political misfortune, or speaking off the record—the moments when Clinton is at her least scripted and most honest—she demeans young voters.
What does Clinton stand for? Simple: Whatever she perceives to matter to the group she’s speaking to. If they’re young and progressive, Clinton is a liberal firebrand. If they’re moderate and fiscally conservative, Clinton morphs into a centrist with a track record of working with banks.
Will she fight for young adults? It depends. Does she desperately need their votes in order to win the election? Then yes, she’ll enlist progressive surrogates and draft policy plans that appeal to the expressed desire of young people. Does she perceive she’s got a comfortable lead and can win by appealing to independents? Then no, she has no use for young people who have no patience or understanding for the hard realities of governing, and whose boundless optimism gets in the way of her incrementalist leanings.
Positions can evolve. We get that. But they don’t turn on a dime. They don’t change from speech to speech. Those are hallmarks of someone who stands for nothing and no one other than their own political fortunes.