Jun 8, 2016 by

The Opinion Pages | Editorial


Credit Angie Wang

With the nation’s primary season drawing to a close, Hillary Clinton is set to make history as the first female presidential nominee of a major political party.

Mrs. Clinton’s name on the ballot in November would be another milestone in the quest for women’s rights, which, as she noted years ago, are human rights. This achievement is worth cheering by all, regardless of party, because it further opens the door to female leadership in every sphere.

The sheer muscle Mrs. Clinton put into her bid sets an example of hard work for others eager to follow her path into public service.

Indeed, the optimism and engagement of young voters has been a welcome bright spot in this election season. More than any other age group, voters aged 18 to 33 say they believe in the power of ordinary people to influence their government. Overwhelmingly, they say that a fair and inclusive process is more important to them than seeing their favored candidate win.

Now comes more hard work for Mrs. Clinton. Many in this newest generation of American voters say that they don’t trust her, or that she represents a Washington disconnected from their struggles. They backed Bernie Sanders and his demand that government provide health care, education and opportunity for everyone. Among some of his supporters there will be lingering frustration and a belief that the party’s leaders conspired to deprive them of their choice.
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This isn’t an accurate or fair assessment, but Mrs. Clinton must address it. Unlike the Democratic stalwarts Mrs. Clinton delivered to Barack Obama in 2008, younger voters, including many Sanders supporters, are generally less likely to turn out. Unless she makes a substantial effort to win them over, they might stay home, and low turnout historically helps Republicans.

The general election campaign will afford Mrs. Clinton more room to expand on her ideas for lowering health care costs, managing college debt and addressing income inequality. The Democratic National Convention in July could include a fresh look at the way the party chooses its nominees. About 50 percent of young people describe themselves as independents, and open primaries in every state would allow them to vote for candidates of either party without jumping through bureaucratic hoops. The party may also revisit the “superdelegate” system, in which party insiders play an outsize role in choosing the nominee.

Beyond these policy-related efforts lie opportunities for Mrs. Clinton to demonstrate her commitment to running an accountable White House, should she win the presidency. This will require greater openness and directness from a candidate who has had a tendency to dodge uncomfortable questions.

Releasing transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street would signal her commitment to reversing these perceptions. So, too, would clearly acknowledging what the State Department inspector general has said: that using a private email server for official business was not allowed or encouraged, but she did it anyway, in a misguided effort to protect her privacy.

Donald Trump is correctly pointing out that Mrs. Clinton has gone many months without answering questions at a news conference. It is past time for her to hold a forthright session with reporters.

Since declaring his candidacy a year ago, Mr. Trump has revealed almost no policy knowledge or workable proposals. His intention appears to be to turn the general election into a referendum on Mrs. Clinton’s character.

As Mrs. Clinton again showed in her foreign policy speech last week, she understands what the presidential race should be: a contest of ideas and overall fitness to lead. Such a campaign could inspire millions of newly energized young people to stay engaged through the election and beyond, which would be another remarkable achievement.

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