clock menu more-arrow no yes

Watch: Hillary Clinton's official campaign launch

Two months after announcing her presidential candidacy, Hillary Clinton is holding the first official rally of her campaign Saturday, on Roosevelt Island in New York City.

As Jonathan Allen wrote, the venue, named in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt is no accident. Clinton, searching for a way to excite the progressive base and a rationale for how her presidency would be different, will model herself after FDR.

Roosevelt is indisputably the most successful Democratic president ever, having transformed U.S. domestic policy by enacting the New Deal, and led the country's fight in World War II. And the Clinton campaign's decision to embrace of his legacy seems designed to have a few effects.

First, it's intended to motivate liberals who may be disillusioned near the end of the Obama years, as Republicans have made gains nationwide and progressive policy proposals have died in Congress. There's been a sense from some that Obama hasn't been effective enough, so Clinton's team wants to portray her as a fighter who will win new policy victories. (Though it's unclear whether Clinton will be able to do so if her victory doesn't give her party big Congressional majorities, like FDR had.)

Second, at a time when Bernie Sanders's candidacy is winning some excitement on the left, the Clinton campaign's FDR example seems to be in part a pitch for progressives to focus on effectiveness rather than only on ideals or liberal purity. Think of it as an updated and improved version of Clinton's 2008 argument that John F. Kennedy's inspiring rhetoric didn't get the job done on civil rights, but Lyndon B. Johnson's legislative savvy did. FDR, too, was primarily a pragmatist who got the job done.

Third, Clinton has more hawkish instincts than the rest of her party on foreign policy. Some progressives are very uneasy about this, particularly because of Clinton's vote to authorize the Iraq War back in 2002. More broadly, the Democratic base has been skeptical of military intervention abroad since Lyndon Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War. Clinton wants to suggest that her views won't necessarily mean a redux of George W. Bush or LBJ, but instead FDR, a "strong" Democratic foreign policy president who led the country for most of World War II.