One of the best assessments of Hillary Clinton is Ezra Klein's article in Vox. I think the Klein is right: Hillary Clinton is a pragmatist who focuses on achievable goals and avoids politically impossible ones.
Klein also argues that Clinton is a political realist; he argues that President Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope stands more as more of a "vision thing" than as a practical, pragmatistic vision. Klein captures Clinton's philosophy by challenging a central tenet of Obama's politics: hope and vision as generative for major changes in American politics.
Klein argues that Hillary is a pragmatist, and that she embraces a philosophy of political pragmatism. Some people think that pragmatism is just another word for compromise, endless compromise which sadly leads to faded vision.
I think Klein is right and I think he captures one of the strengths of Hillary: she strives to achieve that change that is generative of further change, a kind of imaginative political realism that can lead to more change, not endless trimming. Unfortunately, we tend to equate pragmatism as a kind of realism, and this realism leads to a constant and largely symbolic compromises.
Yet there is another way to think of pragmatism, which is perhaps the major philosophical contribution the U.S. has offered to political theory: a theory of progressive change that is somehow both realistic and generative in opening further options and possibilities.
For me, anyway, and perhaps also for Ezra Klein, the uniquely American version of pragmatist progressivism is the true liberal faith. I think this sets Hillary Clinton apart and also creates a powerful opening to a progressive future, especially in health care and much else.
Bernie Sanders preaches a revolution unleashed by health care reform, in this case by creating a "single payer" health care system. But "single payer" stresses only the 'monopsonistic' idea behind most Western versions of universal health care provision. The central idea is to use the government's buying power for health care as the central strategy for creating powerful and generative change to protecting the health of the public.
The Veterans Administration and the DOD both use government's monopsony powers to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry. It is this very power that President George Bush outlawed in his expansion of Medicare's coverage of pharmaceuticals, in truth a huge, wet kiss for the pharmaceutical industry that weakens the public's role in health reform.
Hillary Clinton, in my understanding of what she is proposing, seeks to expand the use of pragmatic, progressive, and generative change that leads to more change. For example, when she is pressed for examples of reforms she wants, she recalls the "public option," to Obamacare, or giving the public the option of joining Medicare as opposed to participating in Obamacare. Here, I also think Hillary Clinton might go further and contrast her responsible pragmatism with Bernie's irresponsible vision: she might outline a "single fund" strategy that enlarges government's role in reforming health care. More on this later.