Published with permission from AlterNet.
Mainstream media has been ignoring the centerpiece of Hillary Clinton’s agenda and speeches as she has criss-crossed 2016’s battleground states since the Democratic Convention—that she wants “to make the largest investment in jobs since World War II in her first 100 days in office.”
There’s been no mention of this nor its specifics, for example, on The New York Times’ front page this past week, while, in contrast, between Monday and Thursday there were seven stories about Trump and his running mate, and one that Russia is behind an even larger-than-thought hack of Democratic Party email and donor data.
That blackout may be why Clinton’s campaign hyped Thursday’s speech at a Michigan auto-and-aircraft parts manufacturing plant near Detroit as a major economic address, even though she repeated many things she’s said in other recent speeches since the convention.
But did the Times’ reports that appeared online shortly afterward mention her agenda represents arguably the most ambitious reinvestment plan to revive moribund fundamentals of the U.S. economy in decades? No, their first article, which also appeared on Friday’s front page, focused on her criticism of Donald Trump, saying he was no champion for the working and middle classes. And their second online report, which also made it to Friday’s frontpage, attacked her and Trump for not speaking more about poverty, even though many of her ideas could create jobs and opportunities for the Americans trapped in low-wage, service-sector jobs.
This is a serious omission, where coverage is dominated by the tit-for-tat attacks of candidates but does not detail what Clinton is presenting as a substantive alternative, or pays undue attention to Trump’s latest deliberate provocation. Trump might be falling in the polls and having another bad week, but he is still dominating the news, even if it’s critical. Trump, himself, believes that all press coverage is good because he is holding the national media’s and American public’s attention.
By that calculus, he is winning the messaging battles. Meanwhile, it’s likely to surprise most people who are following the campaign but not seen Clinton’s speeches that she has been telling voters in downtrodden states that in her first 100 days she wants to pass legislation that will rebuilt aging infrastructure (roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, sewer and water systems, etc.), the nation’s electricity grid, and bring broadband to every home—and urging voters to hold her accountable. She proposes paying for the first $275 billion in projects in its initial five years by raising taxes on high-earning Americans.
“Starting on Day One, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II,” Clinton told the Michigan audience Thursday. “We are way overdue for this, my friends. We are living off the investments that were made by our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.”
“We will also help cities like Detroit and Flint connect underserved neighborhoods to opportunity, expanding affordable housing, and we will repair schools and failing water systems as well,” she continued. “You know, I happen to think we should be ambitious: while we’re at it, let’s connect every household in America to broadband by the year 2020.”
Clinton’s plans are so elaborate, so imbued with the belief that the federal government must engage to create conditions favoring economic growth across regions that have been left behind in an age of globalization, that it would be fair game for the national media to challenge her on whether she is over promising. After all, look at how major domestic proposals by President Obama fared in the GOP-dominated Congress after Democrats lost their majority in both chambers in 2010.
But, with very rare exceptions like this Los Angeles Times piece, that hasn’t happened. On the stump in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Florida and Michigan, Clinton has given lots of local examples of how investing in the economy’s underpinnings, in combination with other initiatives to cut red tape and extend government-backed financing to small businesses and entrepreneurs, will create short-term jobs and long-term opportunities. In Michigan, she mentioned rebuilding municipal water systems for Flint; in Omaha she touted how wind and solar energy generation could lift farm incomes.
Clinton says that she will work in bipartisan fashion to accomplish this, pointing to past legislative achievements as First Lady (creating a children’s health care program now serving 8 million), New York’s senator (getting aid for 9/11 first responders) and Secretary of State (passing a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia). Perhaps she understands something about pork barrel politics that isn’t widely advertised, namely, congressional Republicans might back her if they brought home the bacon.
However, the lack of coverage of Clinton’s ambitious domestic agenda includes not pushing back on whether this is campaign trail magical thinking, or she has a path to the finish line that Obama hasn’t had or the political skill to arrive there. Clinton, as everybody knows, is not a newcomer in Washington, so maybe she has an approach that can jibe with Congress. But the lack of coverage of her centerpiece also undermines the notion that this election would provide a mandate for responsible governing.
As it stands now, the presidential choice is largely framed as being between a ranting, raving, finger-pointing bully and someone who is more seasoned, composed and experienced with governing. Clinton, nonetheless, keeps rolling out this economic revitalization agenda regardless of the press coverage. As she said in Michigan on Thursday, it can be done and she can lead the effort.
“We can do this,” Clinton said. “And one of the reasons that I asked Tim Kaine to be my running mate is he also has a record of working across the aisle to get things done as a mayor, governor, and a Senator. We’re going to make full use of the White House’s power to convene. We’re going to get everyone at the table – not just Republicans and Democrats, but businesses and labor unions, academics and experts, but, most importantly, Americans, like all of you.”
Clinton, needless to say, firmly rejected the notion that Trump could deliver anything of substance for America’s working and middle classes. She drew plenty of contrasts, such as, “I’m running for President to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. And based on what we know from the Trump campaign, he wants America to work for him and his friends, at the expense of everyone else.”
But instead of covering her swipes at Trump, it’s time the mainstream media started covering the substance of what Clinton is proposing. Experienced reporters and editors known that the work of government isn’t usually sexy or glamorous or celebrity-oriented, but it is necessary for individuals and society to function and pursue self-betterment. At it core, Clinton is saying that a major federal reinvestment can be a game changer for struggling communities across America. You would think journalists would pounce on her pledges and parse her promises. But, as Trump serves up a new insult every day, mainstream media keeps taking the bait.
Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).
Photo: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses as she speaks at a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk