Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton acknowledged Friday that Democratic candidates around the country still face basic questions about what they stand for and which policies their party supports.
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Speaking at a Democrat Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., Clinton urged party leaders to return to the basics and lay out the party’s values for voters.
Fair wages, the “absolute promise of universal health care,” public school funding, gun safety reform and equal pay were at the top of the former first lady’s agenda items that she thought should stay central to the Democratic Party’s platform.
Hours before the event kicked off, the Trump administration announced it would move to formally cut off federal funding to family health care clinics that share the same medical facilities as abortion providers. Experts said the decision could dramatically impact Planned Parenthood facilities specifically.
The administration said the new rule would impose “a bright line” of physical and financial separation between family planning programs and “any program or facility where abortion is performed, supported, or referred.”
While Clinton did not directly address the issue during her remarks, both she and Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said Democrats stand for a women’s right to choose. “And if you believe that you have to vote for Democrats,” Clinton told the crowd.
While working her list of Democratic principles as she sees them, Clinton took a sarcastic and not-so-veiled jab at President Trump and congressional Republicans. “We stand for truth for evidence and facts,” she told the ballroom full of female members of Congress, activists and candidates. “What an incredible thing…We have kind of an affection for evidence.”
Clinton has party largely stayed out of election politics since losing in 2016. Since then the Democratic Party has dealt with some tough and bitter infighting and struggled, at times, to define itself on the national stage.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former presidential campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told ABC News this week that he too thought Democrats were having a hard time spelling out their mission to voters. He argued the answer was for Democrats to embrace a more progressive, populist economic agenda.
In the months after the presidential election, many Democrats blamed Clinton’s defeat, in part, on a lack of a clear campaign agenda and an over-emphasis on President Trump, and in the run-up to the midterm elections this spring, Democrats have been disagreed too about how much they should go on the attack against Trump in their message to voters.
Neither Clinton, nor Perez who introduced her, mentioned President Trump directly. Perez told the room they needed to be “pissed off with purpose,” and spent the majority of his speech also ticking through a basic list of Democratic values as he saw them.
But, Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who took the stage at Friday’s form shortly after Clinton, took a different tack. “He must be impeached,” she said referring to the president.
The idea of whether it would be appropriate to start impeachment proceedings should Democrats take back the House in November has come in several Democratic primaries, especially in deep blue strongholds.
Many in the party disagree with Waters and say unless widespread, popular support for impeachment develops, the party should stay clear.
The focus of the DNC forum this week was support for women in leadership roles. The party committee made a point of appointing women to 70 percent of leadership positions over the last year, and, across the country, Democrats have celebrated the record number of women running for office at all levels of government.
Female candidates, running in new numbers since President Trump took office, have had a number of successes, too, in special elections, statehouse races and primaries.
In Ohio alone this month, 10 Democratic women secured Democratic Party nominations for the state’s 16 congressional races this fall. More than half of the state’s primary winners in the state senate races there were also women.
In Pennsylvania on Tuesday, seven Democratic women advanced to the general election after winning their primaries. That state has had an all-male congressional delegation, making it the largest state in the country without female representation in Washington.
“One day, hopefully very soon, we will remember this president as the best thing that ever happened to our party,” DNC Vice Chair, Congresswomen Grace Meng, New York- 06, told the DNC crowd. “Because of him, over 400 women are running for Congress just this year.”
Clinton finished her remarks saying, “I will be there every step of the way because we are going to take back the country we love.”