Branding is not everything in politics, but it does count for a lot in an era when coverage of campaigns owes more to the traditions of America’s Got Talent than those of Walter Cronkite. Candidate must define themselves, especially front-running candidates. And Hillary Clinton has from the start of her 2016 presidential run understood the need for some rebranding. What she tried in 2008 did not work. So it is time for something new.
Or perhaps something old.
What to do?
Head for New York’s Roosevelt Island and formally launch the new campaign with a great big rally at Four Freedoms Park, a public space that recognizes Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union declaration of the four “fundamental freedoms” that must be guaranteed for all: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear.
FDR outlined premises that remain essential values for the Democrats Clinton seeks to sway in her race for the party’s nomination, and for the great mass of Americans who must be roused to vote in November of 2016. FDR argued that “there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
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.
The enjoyment—The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
That’s a message that Clinton embraced Saturday—not just in the text of a speech that was drafted to reposition her politically as something more of an economic populist, but in her choice of a platform where she could celebrate “Franklin Roosevelt’s enduring vision of America, the nation we want to be.”
“The way the park is situated, she’s literally wrapping herself in the Four Freedoms speech,” explained Roosevelt Institute president Felicia Wong.
True enough. And there is space amid the broad rhetorical flourishes of FDR’s great speech provides plenty of a space for a mainstream Democrat to occupy. And Clinton sought to fill it with rhetoric about the “four fights” she says she hopes to wage as president: building a better economy; keeping American safe; strengthening communities and families; and repairing a broken political system by standing up for voting rights and fighting to get “unaccountable” money out of politics;.
Clinton hit most of the right notes, placing herself on the side of those who believe in the science of climate change, who are ready to invest in the infrastructure of the future, who seek to make it easier for immigrants to become citizens and who demand that the rights of women, people of color and LGBT Americans be respected. She was especially strong on the democracy issues, earning loud cheers as she declared: