The mainstream media can’t write enough stories about the split in the Republican Party between so-called establishment types and the Tea Party, particularly as the split might relate to the 2016 presidential race. And I don’t blame the MSM. The split is real and the story important.
But what about the Democrats? Will they be united behind Hillary Clinton or will she face a substantial challenge from the left?
The MSM must have had time on its hand and space to fill this week, because it has taken up this question. Thus, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post has written a piece called “Why Elizabeth Warren should scare Hillary Clinton.” And at Politico, Ben White and Maggie Haberman have an article up called “Wall Street’s Nightmare: President Elizabeth Warren.” The impetus for these stories came from a New Republic cover article by Noam Scheiber with the title “Hillary’s Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies with Elizabeth Warren.”
Cillizza believes that Warren has a realistic chance to seize the 2016 Democratic nomination from Clinton. She would do so by running a populist, anti-Wall Street campaign focused on the evils of income inequality in America. Her model, of course, would be Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Income inequality would replace Iraq as the rallying cry of the insurgency.
Clinton reportedly is testing income inequality as one of six central themes for her campaign. But she is ill-positioned credibly to attack Wall Street, with which she has close ties and whose denizens have helped make her rich through speaking fees. The very fact that Clinton is testing the issue as one of six themes demonstrates how artificial her advocacy would be.
Meanwhile, Cillizza finds Warren impressive. He gushes:
There’s more to Warren. . .than simply her willingness to stake out unapologetically liberal positions. It’s the way she does it, a sort of quiet confrontation — yes, we know that seems contradictory — that has created an image of her as one of the only people (in either party) willing to speak truth to the political and financial powers-that-be.
But then Cillizza isn’t difficult to impress if you’re an untested but pedigreed left-wing Democrat with presidential ambitions.
Politico’s piece is more insightful than Cillizza’s. It sees the main threat posed by a Warren candidacy as its potential to push Clinton to the left during the primary season. It also suggests that Warren’s challenge, if it materializes, would steer huge amounts of Wall Street money into Clinton’s war chest, making her vulnerable to claims that she is beholden to the high-finance community. On balance, I’m not sure she would mind.
Cillizza does make a very important point, though – Warren is something of a stiff when it comes to campaigning. Cillizza doesn’t put it this way, of course. Instead, he spins it as follows: “[Warren] often comes across as wonky rather than “wow”. She’s heavily focused on policy, not politics.”
Whatever. The bottom line is that Warren is no Barack Obama on the campaign trail; for that matter, she’s not even Hillary Clinton.
Keep in mind that in 2012 Obama ran 23 points ahead of Romney (the state’s former governor) in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Warren won her race by only 7.5 points.
In my view, Warren will run only if we experience another major economic downturn between now and, say, mid 2015. For only in that event (1) would her populist, class warfare themes have sufficient resonance with the Party rank-and-file and (2) would she gain traction with the Party’s elites, who would then see the need for an anti-establishment candidate.