November 15, 2013

M.D. Harmon: Elizabeth Warren may be the left’s best hope for White House in 2016

Unlike Hillary Clinton, the ultra-liberal senator from Massachusetts could fire up the Democratic Party.

A few weeks ago, when I read that Hillary Clinton already had a virtual lock on the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, I noted that despite her obvious popularity in her party, she had some strikes against her in the “actual accomplishments” department.

That is, she has very few of them. Once you get past her titles – first lady, senator, secretary of state – there isn’t much to say, and most of what is worth noting isn’t good.

Still, a similar lack of achievement didn’t stop the current incumbent from being elected (twice), even though buyer’s remorse seems to be sinking in at last.

Indeed, Bill Clinton’s rebuke this week to President Obama, telling him to keep his promise to let people retain health care policies they liked, is widely seen as a move to insulate his wife from the fiasco that is Obamacare – which has depressed Obama’s job approval rating to 39 percent in a recent Quinnipiac poll.

Recall, too, Hillary Clinton once had a similar “virtual lock” on the 2008 nomination. But the party recoiled from her and selected a half-term senator from a liberal state with no discernable legislative accomplishments.

In the previous column, I made the minor jest that Democrats had a potential alternative who could avoid Hillary’s retread image – Michelle Obama.

But now it appears that the left wing of the party dreads another Clinton presidency so much that a different woman (one who actually holds political office, although her qualifications mimic Obama’s in 2006) just got a 10-page endorsement from the very liberal New Republic.

In a Nov. 10 column, senior editor Noam Scheiber said the party is returning to its “populist” roots. That poses problems for Hillary, who has strong, long-term ties to Wall Street financiers and Washington lobbyists.

“With the Clintons’ penchant for melodrama,” Scheiber writes, “and their checkered cast of hangers-on – one shudders to consider the embarrassments that will attend the Terry McAuliffe administration in Virginia – Clinton-era nostalgia is always a news cycle away from curdling into Clinton fatigue. Sometimes, all it takes is a single issue and a fresh face to bring the bad memories flooding back.”

Meanwhile, he says, “A majority of Democratic voters ... are angrier, more disaffected, and altogether more populist than they’ve been in years. They’ve grown fonder of regulation and more skeptical of big business. A recent Pew poll showed that voters under 30 – who skew overwhelmingly Democratic – view socialism more favorably than capitalism. Above all, Democrats are increasingly hostile to Wall Street and believe the government should rein it in.”

But fortunately, Scheiber says, the party has someone able to fill the soon-to-be-available Manolo Blahniks at the top: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Any candidate who challenged Clinton “would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren.”

Supporting that view, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote Nov. 11 that “Clinton represents the head of the Democratic Party. But Warren is its heart.”

However, some analysts think a challenge from Warren would merely seek to influence Hillary, not defeat her.

Alexander Bolton, writing Nov. 12 in The Hill, a political junkie’s journal, says a Warren candidacy would serve as a sea anchor to leftward, “to prevent (Hillary) from moving to the middle during a Democratic primary.”

But maybe not, Cillizza says: “As Clinton learned in 2008, a candidate that appeals to voters’ hearts can beat a candidate that appeals to their heads. And Clinton, for all of her built-in advantages in a 2016 race, will be hard pressed to ever be the heart candidate of the party base. Elizabeth Warren would be that candidate the minute she signals her interest in running. That fact should scare Clinton and her political team.”

Curiously, the same people who claim Republicans shouldn’t support staunch conservatives like Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee also want Democrats to elect a second hard-line leftist with a half a term in Congress and no notable achievements.

How has that worked out so far, folks?

But in the left’s view, Democrats only need another term or two to complete Obama’s stated goal of “fundamentally transforming” America into a European-style socialist state.

And they don’t believe Hillary burns with the same fire they do to accomplish that.

Whether or not most voters want to pursue such a dead-end path never seems to bother the progressive left

But Americans didn’t want Obamacare, and Democrats still shoved it down their throats for ideological reasons. Will 2016 be deja vu all over again?

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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