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Hillary Clinton has moved aggressively to the left on a series of major issues in the early weeks of her campaign, pleasing activists in the Democratic base and setting up a strong contrast with Republicans.
Since she became an official candidate, Clinton has said she supports gay marriage to be legal nationwide, a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending by millionaires and billionaires, body-worn body cameras for all police departments in the country, comprehensive criminal justice reform and declared immigration reform must include a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.
These stands align her with key parts of the Democratic base: African-Americans, Latinos and people who are lesbian, gay or transgender. And Clinton’s views could put Republicans, who struggled to win these groups in 2008 and 2012, on the defensive.
Only one of the GOP 2016 candidates, the longshot Carly Fiorina, has said she supports same-sex unions. None of them have unequivocally said they support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And several Republicans are casting the problems illustrated in incidents like Baltimore as part of a broader breakdown of America families and not urging criminal justice reform as Clinton did.
“If our government leaders want to attack poverty, they should first acknowledge that an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents,” Jeb Bush wrote in a column published Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune, describing his solutions in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray and the resulting riots on Baltimore.
He added, “The evidence on this is incontrovertible. And conservatives should not be afraid to say that as the family breaks down, so does opportunity. Our goal should be to build up families.”
Liberal activists say they will push Clinton on other issues, such as raising the minimum wage and increasing Social Security benefits. And Clinton has not yet declared her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal backed by Obama but opposed by many liberal activists.
But they acknowledge they are pleased with the early stages of Clinton’s campaign.
“So far, so good,” said one leading progressive activist.
Clinton’s moves are a shift left in a number of ways. Her husband ran in 1992 and 1996 as the Democrat trying to reclaim white and working-class voters for the party, while Clinton appears to be embracing and fighting for the votes of the Latinos and blacks who have helped Obama win. Her forceful rhetoric on racial disparities in American’s legal system went beyond how Obama has spoken on these issues. And she has been much more liberal on gay rights and immigration than in her own 2008 campaign.
"So far, so good."
Clinton’s moves could shift the dynamics within the GOP primary. For now, the leading Republican candidates, Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have taken careful stands on immigration, suggesting that they are open to a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, but being vague about citizenship.
If one of the more conservative candidates in the race, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, says he would oppose citizenship in all cases, that could force the other Republicans, particularly Walker, to adopt such a stance as well.
"@HillaryClinton's full embrace of amnesty is unfair to hardworking Americans & immigrants who followed the law to achieve these rights," Walker said in a tweet on Wednesday.
Her strong support of gay marriage coincides with rising support of same-sex unions in America. Bush, Rubio and Walker have for now said marriage is between a man and woman but they would not seek to ban same-sex unions as president.
Clinton could make such a position seem intolerant and therefore untenable in a general election.