Tuesday, December 16, 2014


David Brooks thinks Elizabeth Warren can win a Democratic presidential primary against Hillary Clinton. Here are his reasons:
Her chances are rising because of that word "fight." The emotional register of the Democratic Party is growing more combative. There's an underlying and sometimes vituperative sense of frustration toward President Obama, and especially his supposed inability to go to the mat.

Events like the Brown case in Ferguson and the Garner case in New York have raised indignation levels across the progressive spectrum. Judging by recent polls, the midterm defeat has not scared Democrats into supporting the safe option; it's made them angrier about the whole system. As the party slips more into opposition status, with the next Congress, this aggressive outsider spirit will only grow.

In this era of bad feelings, parties are organized more around what they oppose rather than what they are for. Republicans are against government. Democrats are coalescing around opposition to Wall Street and corporate power. In 2001, 51 percent of Democrats were dissatisfied with the rise of corporate power, according to Gallup surveys. By 2011, 79 percent of Democrats were. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month, 58 percent of Democrats said they believed that the economic and political systems were stacked against them.
Yes, but that last poll result doesn't mean much -- in the same poll, 51% of Republicans said they believed that the economic and political systems were stacked against them, as well as 55% of whites. If Warren does somehow get the Democratic nomination, does anyone seriously thinks she'll get a massive Republican crossover vote in the general election? Does anyone seriously think she'd be the first Democrat in decades to win a majority of the white vote? That question just isn't a litmus test for liberalism.

As for the rest of what Brooks says, I think it's a mistake to see a rise in progressive activism as a sign of big changes in the Democratic Party. Progressives are outraged at what the Senate's torture report revealed; overall, however, 46% of Democrats think CIA treatment of prisoners was justified, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, as opposed to 45% of Democrats who don't. Progressives support gun control -- but a recent Pew poll says that a majority of African-Americans think gun ownership does more to protect personal safety than it does to put safety at risk, as do 47% of moderate and conservative Democrats. Progressives believe business is inadequately regulated -- but a September Gallup poll shows that only 39% of Democrats overall think that there's "too little" regulation of business, while 22% think there's "too much" and 35% think the amount is "about right."

Progressivism, alas, is still a niche viewpoint. Except on gay marriage and, lately, weed, progressives seem incapable of broadening the appeal of their (our) message. Whatever Sean Hannity or Megyn Kelly is ranting about on Fox tonight has the potential to become a mainstream point of view; that's not true for Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes.

Except in the most general terms, I don't think Warrenism is the ideology of the majority of Democrats -- I wish it were otherwise, but I don't see it. The forty-plus-year backlash against the dirty-hippie sixties taints progressivism, even in the eyes of many Democrats. So does having a Democratic president who hasn't been able to bring about a broad-based economic recovery -- progressives can say all we want that more rather than less should have been done, but most people think progressivism got a fair test and failed.

And no, a potential Warren campaign won't be a rerun of the 2008 Obama campaign. The Obama campaign confuses a lot of people, because Obama in 2008 was progressive in his general rhetoric of movement-based change, but not noticeably more progressive than Hillary Clinton in his specific policy positions. He rallied progressives, but he didn't scare the more moderate Democratic base. Warren will be noticeably to the left of Clinton. I think that will turn off a lot of Democrats.

I think Warren, as a senator and maybe as a presidential candidate, can start the process of moving the party to the left. Eventually, maybe she can make being a progressive seem, to the heartland, like an acceptable way of being an American. But there's still a big selling job to do. For now, if she runs for president against Hillary Clinton and is seen as the progressive candidate, I think voters will retreat to Hillary as the safer choice. There's progressive unrest out there -- there just isn't enough yet.


Victor said...

Obama hasn't disappointed me, because I never expected, or thought, that our first African-American President would, or could, be a fire-breathing liberal.
I expected him to be a competent moderate Democrat. Which he's proven to be - although it took him a long, long, time to realize that the only helping-hand coming from Republicans was in the form of a fist.

Hillary won't get any help from them either.
Hell, NO Democrat ever will!

If Warren runs, and moves Hillary to the left, then I'm all for it. Even if she bows out a short period later and returns to he seat in the Senate.
She's doing just fine as my voice in the US Senate, and hopefully, she'll be there for many, many years.

It's critical though, that whoever our candidate is, s/he MUST defeat the Republicans - or else, this republic is lost.

Ten Bears said...

No. Simple answer to a simple question.

No fear.

Danp said...

Did any Republicans cross over to vote for Obama? Even 1? With Warren, the election will be about issues. With Clinton, it will be about Hillary. If Warren is articulate, she'll win. Hillary would have a much bigger problem convincing even Dems that she is not in the pocket of the financial industry. Or that she has any real principles. She is simply an awful choice!

Stellours said...

Warren has repeatedly said she wasn't going to run.
Blogs like this should get together and find someone who is a fire breather that we can get behind and create a momentum.
Someone like Bernie crossed with Allen Grey that even republicans will appreciate for their direct talk.
I would really rather not have to vote for Hillary. I don't think she'd make a good president.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Look at the history from the Progressive Era to our own time.

Progressivism was and is about class issues and taming capitalism.

Liberalism prioritizes other things, LOTS of other things, over class issues that weren't even seriously on the agenda except for radical outliers in the Progressive Era, race and sexual liberation issues being the most obvious.

I like Warren over Hillary for her apparently somewhat stronger progressive streak.

I think voters would share that preference.

But the big money donors who run the real primary - the money primary - most certainly won't agree.

They are the kind of anti-progressive liberals who cheered when Bill Clinton made that free trade deal, and when he announced to stunned Democratic voters that the Era of Big Government was over.

Are you shitting me?

Without Big Government there is no progressivism.