Monday :: Nov 11, 2013

A 2016 Democratic Intraparty Battle?

by Steve

While we watch the GOP play out its civil war right before our eyes, many Democrats take comfort in the knowledge that their party seems to be a model of unity. We're focused on holding the Senate next year, and even picking up 10-20 seats in the House to make that body more functional. And yes, Hillary currently seems well-positioned to run and obtain broad support among the electorate for her candidacy in 2016.

But what if there was an intraparty battle awaiting the Democrats? What if Hillary's possible ascension alarmed the progressive wing of the party enough to want an honest debate about what the party really stands for before handing control back to the Clinton wing of the party for 4-8 years? The New Republic's Noam Scheiber thinks such a battle may be in the offing, with none other than Elizabeth Warren as the progressive standard-bearer, if she feels that Hillary is not sufficiently committed to saving the middle class and going after Wall Street.

All of which is to say, if Hillary Clinton runs and retains her ties to Wall Street, Warren will be more likely to join the race, not less. Warren is shrewd enough to understand that the future of the Democratic Party is at stake in 2016. At 64, she knows that if Hillary wins and populates yet another administration with heirs to Robert Rubin, it will be at least eight years before there’s another chance to reclaim the party. “She has an immense—I can’t put it in words—a sense of destiny,” says a former aide. “If Hillary or the man on the moon is not representing her stuff, and her people don’t have a seat at table, she’ll do what she can to make sure it’s represented.”
Warren refused to tell me what would happen if the likely 2016 nominee is wrong on her issues. “You’ve asked me about the politics. All I can do is take you back to the principle part of this,” she said. “I know what I am in Washington to do: I’m here to fight for hardworking families.”
These words may be soothingly diplomatic, but her methods usually are not—and that should be terrifying for Hillary. An opponent who doesn’t heed political incentives is like a militant who doesn’t fear death. “Yeah, Hillary is running. And she’ll probably win,” says the former aide. “But Elizabeth doesn’t care about winning. She doesn’t care whose turn it is.”

Hillary's game plan is clear enough. She will talk just enough of the progressive language to keep the base with her while she assumes the GOP civil war pushes the party so far to the right with its 2016 nominee that she can capture the center and some traditional GOP voters as well. But with Barack Obama letting down so many hope-and-change progressives, and with the Clintons seeming more corporate than progressive to many in the party, why shouldn't the party have an open debate about its true commitment to the middle class and Wall Street accountability before handing her the car keys?

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