I know that Move.On.org wants to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for president because I got in my inbox its recent online “poll” purportedly asking for my opinion about the idea of a draft Warren campaign. The Move.On polls were open for 24 hours, like a Black Friday internet special, during which the “members” of Move.On, of which there are something like eight million (I guess I count as one because I’m on the group’s email distribution list), voted overwhelmingly to support a $1-million Draft Warren campaign.
Now, Salon reports, “the Howard Dean-founded group Democracy for America formally joined MoveOn.org’s ‘Run Warren Run’ campaign and announced it would invest $250,000 in the effort.” As Mr. Dean himself might have said, yeaoooow!
The Run Warren Run effort got even further support this week in an op-ed piece by The New York Times’s center-right columnist David Brooks, entitled “Warren Can Win.” Perhaps Brooks did not write his own headline (Remember that Mitt Romney’s campaign insisted that Romney never approved the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” until his infamous op-ed article of that name appeared in the Times.), but, in any case, it is misleading because Brooks does not argue that Senator Warren can win the presidency.
Actually, he doesn’t even argue that she has much of a chance of winning the Democratic Party’s nomination. His conclusion: “The history of populist candidates is that they never actually get the nomination. The establishment wins. That’s still likely. But there is something in the air. The fundamental truth is that every structural and historical advantage favors Clinton, but every day more Democrats embrace the emotion and view defined by Warren.”
There is “something in the air”! Not much in the way of hard evidence, especially coming from a writer who loves to cite the latest research of social scientists in his columns. Why then did one of the Times’s “conservative” op-ed voices choose to weigh in on the matter? It almost puts one in mind of Nixon’s supporters and their attempts to meddle in the 1972 Democratic primaries. Something in the air, indeed.
But let’s give Brooks the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was merely observing, as he is paid to do, shifts in the dynamics of our political system that aren’t necessarily quantifiable. In fact, let’s give the progressive wing of the Democratic Party—the faction that sometimes refers to itself as the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party—the benefit of the doubt and credit it for finding its own way to Elizabeth Warren’s Senate chambers without help from the likes of David Brooks.
The proposition that Elizabeth Warren should run for president is a terrible idea. Not because Senator Warren’s ideas are bad or her ideals are unworthy. They’re not. Keeping Wall Street in check and getting the political system to focus on the ill effects of growing inequality in America are laudable goals. But they are not going to win national elections. Progressive programs simply do not sell. And if you have any doubts about that ask President McGovern or President Mondale or President Dukakis or President Kerry. Or look at the results of the 2014 mid-term elections.
Yes, the Clintons are slippery. Yes, they have ties to Wall Street. Yes, they are willing to “triangulate” on any issue. But, to paraphrase then-Senator Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton is progressive enough. The former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State will, on the whole, end up in more or less the right place when it counts—on issues like health care, social welfare, women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, foreign policy, even on most economic issues. Okay, she would not be in favor of strict regulations of Big Business. She would not be as strongly pro-labor or pro-environment or as pro-gressive as Elizabeth Warren, but she has a lot better chance of getting votes from people who are not being polled by Move.On.org.
Considering how adamant the GOP is about trying to cut taxes on millionaires and deregulating industry and repealing the Affordable Care Act, considering that the GOP seems to have a lock on the House for at least the next few terms and that getting the Senate back into Democratic hands is possible but hardly a sure thing—heck, just considering that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to be 82 years old in March, we cannot afford to let the Republicans take the White House in 2016. We can’t be like those Republicans who insist that, if only John McCain and Mitt Romney had been “true” conservatives, they would have been elected President, and we can’t let 2016 be 1972 or, well, 1984.
We can admire Senator Warren. We can love Senator Warren. We can empathize with her anger about the undue power exercised by Wall Street and the one-percenters, but we have to be ready to tell her “Liz, you’re right to be angry, but, when you’re angry, maybe you can walk it off—and whatever you do, please, don’t run.”