While we have basked in the warm glow of Republicans torching each other since last year, Democrats too have had their scarcely controlled battle lines. These were most recently brought into view by Donna Brazile’s book rollout that featured a blast at the incompetence of Hillary’s presidential campaign, and favoritism by the DNC toward Clinton. This was remarkable coming from Brazile, who was famously dismissed by CNN for sharing debate questions with Hillary’s campaign during the 2016 primaries. Bernie supporters predictably said, “We told you so!”
From the party’s point of view, the only thing good about Brazile’s revelations is that they are coming now and not in the middle of next year’s campaign. The antagonisms and recrimination that have carried over from the campaign have been exacerbated. Clinton people resent the Sanders backers for quixotically contesting a nomination that, in their view, should have been Clinton’s by acclamation. Bernie people resent that very arrogance, as they see it. They thought Bernie offered a face that was new to national politics (however old he really is), and a refreshing set of ideas for how to put America on the right track again.
The difference between the two candidates can be illustrated by their approaches to health care. While Bernie pushed straightforwardly for single payer as obviously the best and cheapest solution, Hillary bore the scars of her failure to reform health care during her husband’s administration. Thus, she was characteristically more cautious, supporting Obamacare and advocating for small fixes to the glitches. It’s not that she opposes single payer on principle, she just doesn’t see it getting through the real politics of Washington.
Of the potential candidates out there, Warren is best positioned to mobilize Democrats and progressives across the lingering divides of 2016.
Hillary and Bernie, as politicians, will in the end go along and get along, because there’s not that much that divides them on policy or principle. It’s a matter of emphasis and nuance.
Their followers are another story. It was striking, during the primaries, how many Bernie supporters had pretty much the same visceral hatred for Hillary that most Republicans had. A lot of Bernie supporters actually bought the whole Republican line about Hillary. Conversely, many people (particularly older women) who supported Hillary as the first woman to have a realistic chance to be elected president, really resented her demonization by Bernie supporters.
So there’s still a lot of raw emotion out there. Much of it is getting channeled into hating Donald Trump (just as Trump can still rile up his base by attacking “Crooked Hillary”). But the party (and progressives more broadly) need to get themselves on the same page heading into 2018 and 2020, with a positive vision and a new voice.
Senator Elizabeth Warren can be that voice, can express that vision. She has made most of the points that Bernie Sanders has made, how the current economy has been systematically undermining the vast majority of Americans in order to make the rich richer and the corporations more powerful. She has shown that she can reach white working class voters with that message. Her record and her rhetoric on women and minorities is impeccable.
And yet, without changing that record or that rhetoric, she endorsed Hillary from early on. So the Hillary people can remember that, and the Bernie people can focus on her actual message, which is largely the same as Bernie’s.
Bernie Sanders, were he to run again, could never unify the party, for the reasons cited above. Nor could anyone drawn from the Hillary wing, for the same reasons. Of the potential candidates out there, Warren is best positioned to mobilize Democrats and progressives across the lingering divides of 2016. He biggest liability, perhaps, is her age, and that doesn’t matter if she’s running against Donald Trump, who’s several years older.
Elizabeth Warren for President!