The Democratic wing of the Democratic party is starting to assert itself, wanting to bring back old-fashioned liberalism into the Wall Street-dominated party of drone-strikes, civil liberties violations, and corporate bailouts. What annoys them about the Obama administration they trace back to Bill Clinton. And although many people assume that the Democratic nomination for president is Hillary Clinton’s for the taking, more and more Democrats are pinning their hopes on someone else to be the first woman president: Elizabeth Warren.
From Noam Scheiber, Elizabeth Warren is Hillary Clinton’s Nightmare | New Republic:
On one side is a majority of Democratic voters, who are angrier, more disaffected, and altogether more populist than they’ve been in years. They are more attuned to income inequality than before the Obama presidency and more supportive of Social Security and Medicare. 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.
On the other side is a group of Democratic elites associated with the Clinton era who, though they may have moved somewhat leftward in response to the recession—happily supporting economic stimulus and generous unemployment benefits—still fundamentally believe the economy functions best with a large, powerful, highly complex financial sector. Many members of this group have either made or raised enormous amounts of cash on Wall Street. They were deeply influential in limiting the reach of Dodd-Frank, the financial reform measure Obama signed in July of 2010.
But as central as this debate is to the identity of the party, Democrats won’t openly litigate it until they’re forced to ponder life after Obama. Partly out of deference to the president, partly out of a preoccupation with governing, and partly because there is no immediate political need, parties rarely conduct their internal soul-searching when they control the White House. It’s only when the president finally contemplates retirement that the feuding breaks out with real violence. Think of the Republican Party after George W. Bush. Or, you know, Yugoslavia.
Judging from recent events, the populists are likely to win. In September, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, running on a platform of taming inequality, routed his Democratic mayoral rival, Christine Quinn, known for her ties to Michael Bloomberg’s finance-friendly administration. The following week, Larry Summers, Obama’s first choice to succeed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, withdrew his name from consideration after months in which Senate Democrats signaled their annoyance with his previous support for deregulation. Not 48 hours later, Bill Daley, the former Obama chief of staff and JP Morgan executive, ended his primary campaign for governor of Illinois after internal polls showed him trailing his populist opponent.
All of this is deeply problematic for Hillary Clinton. As a student of public opinion, she clearly understands the direction her party is headed. As the head of an enterprise known as Clinton Inc. that requires vast sums of capital to function, she also realizes there are limits to how much she can alienate the lords of finance. For that matter, it’s not even clear Clinton would want to. “Many of her best friends, her intellectual brain trust [on economics], all come out of that world,” says a longtime Democratic operative who worked on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and then for Hillary in the White House. “She doesn’t have a problem on the fighting-for-working-class-folks side”—protecting Medicare and Social Security—“but it will be hard, really wrenching for her to be that populist on [finance] issues.”
Which brings us to the probable face of the insurgency. In addition to being strongly identified with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate 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.
But see this liberal’s warning.
If we were to have one or the other, who would be better as President, Elizabeth Warren or Hillary Clinton? Would Senator Warren be the Democrats’ best hope, or would she be the Republicans’ best hope?