Sunday, May 22, 2016

Elizabeth Warren and the Progressive Long Game

Mark Graber

Elizabeth Warren is the long game for progressives, not Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren is a lifelong Democrat.  Bernie Sanders is not.  Elizabeth Warren has spent her political career working with and promoting progressive (and other) Democrats.  Bernie Sanders has not.  The process by which Democrats select presidential nominees does seem rigged against Bernie Sanders, but for the simple reason that the system for selecting the next pope is rigged against people who convert to Catholicism only after the papal seat is vacated.  One might note, in this respect, that the process by which Democrats are selecting nominees for Congress does not seem particularly rigged against progressives who identified as Democrats for longer than forty-five minutes before declaring their candidacy.  A fair case can be made that any change Democrats make in their presidential nomination system might in the future work against Elizabeth Warren and other progressive Democrats who have formed extensive relationships with other Democrats during their lengthy political lives.  At the very least, we ought to withhold judgment about whether the Democratic presidential nomination system is rigged against progressive Democrats (i.e., John Kerry, Barack Obama, who ran to the left of Hillary Clinton in 2008), until a lifelong more centrist Democrat unfairly wrests the nomination from a lifelong more progressive Democrat.

Having a Democrat in the White House in the White House for the near future matters more than having a progressive in the White House.  The difference between what President Clinton and what President Sanders might accomplish from 2016 to 2020 with Republican control of the House of Representatives (and probably the Senate) is likely to be minute.  Their possible accomplishments pale in comparison to what President Warren might do in 2020 or (assuming a two term Clinton presidency) in 2024 with Democrats in control of the national legislature.  But imaging Democrats majorities in both houses of Congress after Republicans gain control of all three branches of the national government in 2016 is difficult.   Republicans in control of all national institutions will through gerrymandering, voting suppression and floods of money in the political process create a constitutional order in which Democrats are reduced to a permanent minority (even if, owing to demographic changes, Democrats are a popular majority).  On the bright side, complaints about gridlock, the lack of constitutional change of any sort, and constitution dysfunction will be considerably muted in this new political universe which progressives have in their power to bring about by sitting on their hands this November

Playing the long game means working harder to make Elizabeth Warren or a Democratic of similar progressive values the heir apparent than fighting to the death of the Democratic Party for Bernie Sanders.  This means the fundamental goal of the forces behind Sanders (and progressives supporting Clinton) is to make sure Warren gives the keynote at the convention (the speech of the heir apparent) and progressives are given major primetime roles more generally.  Having Warren and people like Secretary of Labor Tom Perez (brilliant speech at Maryland Law graduation this week) become the face of the Democratic Party's future will do more over time to reduce inequality in the United States than harping on the presumptive Democratic nominee's warts (which pale when compared to the cancer Republicans have chosen to nominate).

Progressive politics is a marathon, much as Bernie Sanders would like to turn the next month or so into a sprint.

Older Posts
Newer Posts