Democratic Presidential Candidates Charm DNC Faithful
Four Democratic presidential candidates spoke Friday at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in Minneapolis. Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Gov. Martin O’Malley each gave 10-minute speeches, in between words from Democratic Party leaders. Here are a few highlights from the candidates’ elevator-pitch speeches to the party faithful.
The former governor of Rhode Island highlighted his past political record and vision for the country.
Chafee touted his political credentials as the only candidate running who has served as a mayor, senator and governor. “That means I know how to plow the snow. I know how to pick up the trash. I know how to have good schools … and keep property taxes down,” Chafee said.
He called his time in the Senate, back when he was a Republican, “the bad years of Bush and Cheney.” Chafee said he voted against big tax cuts for the wealthy, the war in Iraq, and the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, and he “stood strong” on environmental protection, abortion rights and LGBT rights.
He also said as part of the “Gang of 14,” comprised of seven Republicans and seven Democrats, he worked to promote bipartisanship in the Senate.
On supporting marriage equality in Rhode Island, Chafee said, in addition to believing in civil rights, “I wanted a tolerant atmosphere. That’s what makes an economy grow.”
Chafee said his foreign policy vision for the country is to end conflicts abroad, and promote the idea that “prosperity comes through peace.” He said he supports the Iran nuclear deal, and was concerned by the rise of right-wing groups in Europe and the potential destabilizing effect of refugees from Africa and the Middle East entering Europe.
Despite switching party nominations, Chafee said he doesn’t “flip-flop” on the issues, and has had “the courage to take tough votes.”
Greeted by loud applause and chants of “Hillary,” the former Secretary of State, senator from New York, and First Lady said the next election will decide whether the “country keeps moving toward opportunity and prosperity for all,” or whether Republicans get the chance to halt progress made by Democrats and the Obama administration.
Clinton focused on the economic struggles of American families, citing the rising costs of prescription drugs, child care, and college, as middle-class wages remain stagnant and women still don’t earn equal pay compared to men. “Unions are under concerted attack by Republicans and their allies,” she added. (Clinton has so far been endorsed by two large unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.)
“I believe raising incomes and supporting families is the defining economic challenge of our time,” Clinton said. “It will be my mission every single day in the White House.”
As a Democrat, she listed her and the party’s political values: supporting affordable health care, equal pay and equal rights, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, benefits for seniors, and an end to mass incarceration and gun violence.
Her speech stuck to an us-versus-them framework that framed her as the Democratic nominee who will challenge the Republican nominee in the general election. Republican candidates, she said, have tried to outdo each other’s “ideological purity” and offered no solutions during the recent GOP presidential debates.
Clinton hit back at Donald Trump (the GOP’s “flamboyant frontrunner”) for saying he’d do a better job for women than she would. “You can’t make this stuff up, folks,” she said, adding that it might be a fun issue to debate during the general election campaign. She also criticized Republican candidates for calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Clinton said her first job out of college was working at the Children’s Defense Fund, and she would continue fighting for children and families, as she has throughout her career, as president.
The former Maryland governor and mayor of Baltimore touted his political record as a “lifelong Democrat,” criticized the hateful rhetoric coming from Republican presidential candidates, and questioned the Democrats’ plans for limiting debates among their own candidates seeking the party’s nomination.
“Is this how the Democratic Party elects its nominee?” O’Malley asked, wondering aloud about the reasoning behind holding six Democratic debates rather than more.
He said Democrats need the opportunity to showcase their ideas and solutions to the country’s challenges in the form of debates, and should not be silent in the face of Republicans who “double down on trickle down,” and openly denigrate women and immigrants.
O’Malley said the first GOP debates were comparable to an episode of Survivor, and referred to Donald Trump as a “hate-spewing carnival barker.”
“[The Democratic Party] must engage in this debate, and we must engage in it nationally,” he said, repeatedly punctuating his statements with the line, “We need debate.”
O’Malley said he supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensuring overtime pay for overtime work and equal pay for women, and expanding Social Security for seniors.
While conceding that he was not the only Democratic candidate who holds progressive values, O’Malley said he is “the only candidate for president with 15 years of executive experience as a big city mayor and as a governor.”
Citing his record of reducing violent crime in Baltimore and improving public schools in Maryland, the former governor said he planned to “rebuild the American dream” with concrete plans and actions. He also reminded the DNC that he passed marriage equality, an assault weapons ban, and other progressive policies in the state of Maryland.
“It’s about actions, not words,” O’Malley said.
The Independent senator from Vermont acknowledged to the DNC audience that when he first announced his candidacy, few took him seriously. But now, Sanders said, things have changed. The party outsider has been drawing large crowds, and he said, more individual campaign contributions than any other presidential campaign. The average contribution to his campaign? $31.20.
The candidate focused on his campaign’s main themes of addressing income and wealth inequality and getting money out of politics. While Sanders admitted he has not made many campaign promises, he said one he could make was his criteria for nominating a Supreme Court justice: The nominee would have to be willing to re-hear and overturn the court’s decision in Citizens United. Sanders also called for the public funding of elections, and an end to voter suppression across the country.
Channeling President Obama’s catchphrase on clarity, the candidate said Democrats lost the last midterm elections because of low voter turnout. “Millions of working people, young people, and people of color gave up on politics as usual and they stayed home,” Sanders said. The way for the party to win next year’s elections, he added, was to “generate excitement and momentum and produce a huge voter turnout.”
Sanders received loud applause and his statements were interspersed with chants of “Bernie.”
On the economy, Sanders said he would take on the billionaire class and ensure corporate America paid its fair share of taxes, as well as break up the “too big to fail” banks that are “too big to exist.”
He said he opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal as well as the Keystone XL pipeline, and would support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and develop a national jobs program to put Americans to work and rebuild U.S. infrastructure.
He touted his vote against the war in Iraq, and his support for criminal justice reform, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, sustainable energy, and tuition-free public higher education.
“We must become the country in the world which invests in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration,” Sanders said.
He suggested that we could live in a country where health care is a right, parents have access to quality child care, and seniors and veterans have access to the benefits and health care they deserve.
Given the collapse of the middle class, Sanders said, “We do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics.”
Photo above: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addresses the Democratic National Committee (DNC) summer meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Craig Lassig