The message Democrats need to hit for 2016

After the 2014 electoral debacle, much has been written about Democrats needing a message. Of course, first and foremost, Democrats must be obsessed about creating good-paying jobs in America. But there's one other message that is authentic to us and to our hopeful Democratic nominee:


Hillary Clinton at the 2014 CGI annual meeting in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Hillary Clinton at the 2014 CGI annual meeting in New York.

Since long before the time Hillary Clinton wrote that "it takes a village," she has been advocating a belief that we, as a country, are all in this together. That, just like in your own family, our American family takes care of each other. In your family you take care of your aging parents. Period. In our American family, we take care of all of our parents, through strong policies like Social Security and Medicaid.

In your family, you raise and protect your children. In our American family, we believe that every child should have access to a quality education and a safe home, whether we gave birth to her or not.

I'm not talking about sentimental gush or bleeding-heart softness. I'm talking about fierce duty and loyalty to family. I'm talking about powerful protection of family members.

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In your family, you lend your brother a hand if he gets laid off. You don't cut him off; you help him. In our American family, we make sure that all of our brothers and sisters are given a bridge to something better through unemployment insurance, if they find themselves without income.

That's what we do. That's who we are. As we say in the faith community, that's whose we are.

Yes, we believe that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But we also know this truth: many children were not issued boots upon arrival. These are all our children. We are a family. And in a family, no one gets left behind.

And you know what? It turns out that when we believe that way, and act upon that belief, our economy does better too. If our children are better educated, our brothers and sisters make a better living, and our parents are taken care of, we will all be better off.

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This is exactly what Hillary Clinton has dedicated her life to — what she calls "the basic bargain of America," that "no matter who you are or where you come from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you'll have the opportunity to build a good life for yourself and your family." This is the same opportunity that young middle-class Hillary Rodham had, and the opportunity that she wants for everyone in the American family.

That is why Hillary has long advocated for a progressive tax structure to ensure, among other things, that we can fund a basic safety net for Americans. For while you may fall on hard times today, and I may fall on hard times tomorrow, together we hold a net that is strong enough that neither of us will fall through.

That is why Hillary has protected working families going through difficult times through no fault of their own, leading the fight in the Senate to extend emergency unemployment benefits.

That is why she has been determined to expand access to education and healthcare for children across all walks of American life. As First Lady of Arkansas, she expanded early childhood education for economically disadvantaged children. In the Senate, she worked across the aisle with former Missouri Senator Kit Bond in an effort to expand voluntary full-day pre-K for children from low-income families. Today, as part of the Too Small to Fail Initiative to improve the health and well being of children five and under, she is working to close the "word gap" for kids in low-income families who often have smaller vocabularies than their classmates.

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Hillary Clinton has worked to increase health coverage for millions of children in low-income and working families through the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a program she helped created as First Lady.

As Hillary says, "You should not have to be the grandchild of a governor or a senator or a former secretary of state or a former president to believe that the American Dream is in your reach." Opportunity and success shouldn't be limited to those lucky enough to be born into wealthy families, or to the grandchildren of governors or senators. Instead, we should remind ourselves that we belong to one another, to one team, to one family. And we are fiercely proud of belonging to a country — a big American family — where no one gets left behind.

That is why I am ready for Hillary.

Commentary by Jennifer Granholm, who served as governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011. She currently is the director of the American Jobs Project at UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter @JenGranholm.