Hillary Rodham Clinton rolled out a populist pitch and left-wing agenda Saturday, promising to restore a “shared prosperity” for all Americans in a speech at the first big rally of her Democratic run for president.
The former secretary of state stuck to themes of economic and political fairness, presenting herself as a champion of all Americans and decrying Republicans as beholden to the wealthy and corporations.
“Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers. Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations,” Mrs. Clinton told a crowd of a couple thousands at a park on Roosevelt Island in New York City’s East River.
She said that working-class Americans had rebuilt the country’s economy after the Great Recession, working overtime and multiple jobs to pull themselves out of hard times — and now they deserved to share in the rewards of the economic rebound.
“Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain, too. You brought our country back. Now it’s time, your time, to secure the gains and move ahead,” said Mrs. Clinton. “That is why I am running for president of the Untied States.”
“I’m running to make our economy work for you and every American,” she said.”For the successful and the struggling … for the factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day, for the nurses who work the night shift, for the truckers who drive for hours and the farmers who feed us, for the veterans who served our country, for the small business owners who took a risk, for everyone who’s been knocked down but refused to be knocked out.”
The campaign billed the rally as a campaign kick off, though Mrs. Clinton announced her run two months ago. Since then she slowly unfurled her campaign with small events in early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
All the while, she has carefully avoided taking position on most issues, safeguarding standing as her party’s all-but-inevitable presidential nominee who so far faces only token opposition from fellow Democrats.
The big rally in her adopted home state of New York, where she served as U.S. senator for eight years, was the first time she outlined an agenda, which attempted to satisfy the Democratic Party’s liberal base that remains skeptical because of her long record as a centrist.
She checked off many items wish list of the liberal activists, including a crack down on Wall Street and big corporations, fight climate change, provide universal pre-school and day care, mandate paid sick leave, equal pay for women and marriage rights for gay Americans.
Still, Mrs. Clinton has yet to offer detailed policy proposals. The campaign has promised to flesh out the agenda in coming days.
Mrs. Clinton use the venue, Franklin Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, to underscore her commitment to the progressive movement and the vision of FDR, which she said had been carried forward by President Obama and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Clinton and the Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, made their first appearance on the campaign trail at the rally.
“President Roosevelt called on all Americans to do his or her part, and every American answered,” said Mrs. Clinton. “He said there is no mystery about what it takes to build a strong and prosperous America: Equality of opportunity, jobs for those who can work, security for those who need it, the ending of special privilege for the few, the preservation of civil liberties for all, a wider and constantly rising standard of living.”
“That still sounds good to me,” she said.
Immediately after the rally, Mrs. Clinton embarked on a two-day swing across Iowa.
Mrs. Clinton took aim at her Republican rivals. She said they were offing the same “tickle-down” economic policies that she said caused the economic downturn and created massive income inequality.
“There may be some new voices in the Republican presidential choir but they are all singing the same old song, a song called ‘Yesterday,’” said said, paraphrasing a few lines from the song by the Beatles.
“You know the one: ‘All our troubles look as though they are here to stay and we need a place to hide away,’” she said. “They believe in yesterday. … These Republicans trip over themselves promised lower taxes for the wealthy and fewer rules for the biggest corporations, without regard for how that will make income inequality even worse.”
She also blasted the GOP candidates for what she was their intention to deny climate change, cancel healthcare coverage for millions of Americans, revoke abortion rights, block gay marriages and deport “immigrants who work hard and pay taxes.”
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Allison Moore said it was Mrs. Clinton who was stuck in the past.
“Hillary Clinton’s announcement speech was chock full of hypocritical attacks, partisan rhetoric and ideas from the past that have led to a sluggish economy leaving too many Americans behind,” she said. “Next year, Americans will reject the failed policies of the past and elect a Republican president.”
The speech also drew fire form Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rivals.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is waging a long-shot challenge for the Democratic nomination, responded to Mrs. Clinton’s speech by saying America needs a new generation of leaders.
“Democrats, and in fact, our nation, will not make progress with status quo thinking. We need someone who can bring new leadership, strong progressive values, and a record of getting things done to the White House—and that person is Martin O’Malley,” said O’Malley campaign senior strategist Bill Hyers.
He noted that Mr. O’Malley has long fought to rein in reckless behavior on Wall Street, increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, expand Social Security and give citizenship to illegal immigrants.
“In Maryland, Governor O’Malley enacted one of the most progressive agendas in the country, and that’s just what our country needs right now — someone who can get things done,” said Mr. Hyers.