A group of influential progressive intellectuals are giving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton their seal of approval ― and urging fellow progressives, including those who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic primaries, to do the same.
In a letter that went public on Tuesday and was provided in advance to The Huffington Post, more than 50 progressive economists and other policy experts endorse Clinton’s candidacy ― not simply as a way to defeat GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, but also as a way to advance a liberal economic agenda.
The letter warns that “drastic increases in income inequality have created a deep malaise among many Americans who are increasingly excluded from the promise of a better future.” Then it offers an overview of Clinton’s proposals ― including a higher minimum wage, big spending on infrastructure and new early childhood education programs ― that are designed to bolster economic fortunes for the poor and middle class.
Many, and probably most voters don’t know about Clinton’s agenda. And those who do may not have faith she’ll pursue those policies in office. This is particularly true for voters who supported Sanders in the primary and know Clinton primarily through her associations with Wall Street and her public statements in favor of her husband’s legislative achievements, including the expansion of free trade and imposition of time limits on welfare.
The letter does not mention Sanders explicitly. But Martin Carnoy, a Stanford economist who helped draft and gather signatures for the letter, said one of his goals was “to reassure progressives that Clinton is committed to the [progressive] agenda we have listed.”
The figures behind the letter may help with that. Carnoy’s partners in the enterprise were Robert Reich, a former labor secretary who is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Derek Shearer, a former ambassador to Finland who is now a professor at Occidental College.
Reich and Shearer’s ties to the Clintons go back in the 1960s, when they first met Bill Clinton at Oxford. They also have strong progressive bona fides. Reich, in particular, became famous for arguing with more conservative advisers in the Clinton administration ― and, more recently, for endorsing Sanders in the primaries.
Informed progressive observers will also recognize the letter’s other signatories ― including Economic Policy Institute President Larry Mishel, who was beating the drums about wage stagnation before it was fashionable; Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, an early advocate for treating free trade more skeptically; and Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez, who is among the world’s most influential experts on inequality.
The list also includes a few people with White House experience ― among them, University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson, an Obama administration veteran perhaps most famous for her advocacy of generous work-family supports.
“I think you would be safe to say that almost all these names are in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” Carnoy said. “They are all deeply concerned with issues of inequality and social justice.”
Of course, vouching for the progressive elements of Clinton’s agenda is one thing. Vouching for her commitment to enacting them is quite another. In Washington, progressives have made clear they plan to apply political pressure, should Clinton become president, to make sure she doesn’t walk away from her policy commitments ― or fill her administration with appointees uninterested in pursuing an aggressively liberal agenda.
But Shearer, for one, thinks Clinton may surprise skeptical progressives.
“I’ve long felt that Mrs. Clinton would make a more progressive president than her husband,” Shearer said.
Read the full letter below: