No Throwback Thursdays For Clinton, But Warren…

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 26, 2015 10:45 AM
No Throwback Thursdays For Clinton, But Warren…

Okay. I know we’ve been over this before about the presidential ambitions of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Guy’s written about it; I’ve written about it. It’s etched in stone: she’s not running. Yet, she doesn’t seem to be a person who will be happy serving in the Senate. She likes to get things done, speak her mind, and proudly represent the ever-growing progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Clinton’s views are anathema to any progressive; she’s heavily reliant on donors from the financial sector, she’s overly cautious on policy (thanks to the defeat of ClintonCare in 1993), and she voted in favor of the Iraq War. The last one is especially infuriating to left-wing Democrats.

David Frum, Bush’s former speechwriter and senior editor at The Atlantic, penned a piece where he essentially says that Warren’s persona isn’t compatible with the dynamics of the Senate, which moves slowly; something that progressives hate in politics. She isn’t really driving the debate, despite what some Washington insiders think, and if she wants to drive the debate, she should run for President. She can, and she probably will by Frum's calculations. After all, this is it. Presumably, the time will pass her by if she sits out 2016. The new blood of the Democratic Party will rise up to take the reins in 2020. By then, Warren will be 71. Lastly, Warren has spoken openly about how Clinton has turned her back on the core principles of Democrats:

Warren has suggested that President Bill Clinton’s administration served the same “trickle down” economics as its Republicans and predecessors.

Warren has characterized Hillary Clinton herself as a conscienceless politician who betrayed her professed principles for campaign donations.

Could Warren do it? Of course she could. More than almost anybody running in 2016—more even than Republican insurgents like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul—Warren has both her message and her constituency ready to hand. Hillary Clinton speaks to those Democrats who feel that Barack Obama went too far. Elizabeth Warren speaks to those Democrats who feel he didn’t go far enough. And if Warren’s supporters aren’t as spectacularly wealthy as Clinton’s, together—as Barack Obama proved in 2008—they can give more than enough to fund a winning campaign.

What about the general election? Not since 1960 has the Democratic party won the presidency with a Massachusetts liberal, and even that victory proved a squeaker. But elections are comparisons, and if Warren has weaknesses in such a contest, Hillary Clinton has more. Suppose the Republicans nominate Jeb Bush, as seems at least plausible. What’s the Clinton message in such a contest? “My husband had a better job creation record than your brother”? She won’t be able to portray him as a candidate who owes everything to his famous last name. She won’t be able to ask questions about how he made so much money so fast without delivering any real world good or service to anybody. She won’t be able to dismiss him as out-of-touch with the realities of everyday life. She can’t say that he’s a throwback to the politics of 20 years ago. Each and every one of those most promising lines of attack on Jeb Bush will be foreclosed to Hillary Clinton, because every one of them will be even more damaging to her than to him. But Elizabeth Warren can speak to them. There’s no national Democrat who can draw a sharper contrast with Jeb Bush than Warren; no Democrat who has more in common with him than Hillary Clinton.

By now Warren knows (assuming she didn’t know before she arrived there) that the only thing the Senate can offer somebody like her is the velvety asphyxiation of every idealistic hope. If what you like best is the sound of your own voice and the deference of those around you, then a senatorship is a wonderful job. If you’re in politics to accomplish things, the institution must be almost unbearable. Can Warren bear it? The endless talk, talk, talk? The scoldings from White House aides whenever she says or does something they deem unhelpful? The merciless editing of her speech at the next Democratic National Convention —and the surgical exclusion from the innermost council of the party leadership? That’s the “unique role in the national conversation” in which a Hillary Clinton led Democratic party will cast Elizabeth Warren. Warren's got nothing to gain from staying put in the Senate except drudgery, ineffectuality, and humiliation.

So, it really doesn’t matter if Warren feels she has a shot to win the presidency. She’s might be in it–as Frum noted–to escape the overly packaged atmosphere in the Senate. She has nothing to lose, which is something that the Clinton team might be weary about in the primaries.

Frum added that if Warren runs in the race, she could force Hillary to the left, but, unlike how conservatives shifted Romney to the right on some things; he failed in 2012. A more left-leaning Hillary could win in 2016, which is a terrifying thought.

Moreover, Liz is something new and fresh, albeit with a progressive zest. There’s nothing new about Hillary–zilch. So, there’s no throwback Thursdays with Rodham, but Warren could be an interesting wild card in the primaries. On the other hand, while Warren could muster a scrappy progressive grassroots army, her biggest donors would probably abandon her if Hillary's running.

We shall see what happens, but given that Democrats, especially those in Iowa, want to see someone–anyone–to challenge Hillary, we shouldn’t be shocked if Warren does take the plunge when the 2016 campaign season gets serious.