Many thoughtful media reports on the remarkable address that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gave at the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s Humphrey-Mondale Dinner have focused on the fact that she took apart Paul Ryan.
There is no question that the senator from Massachusetts shamed the congressman from Wisconsin.
One report was headlined: “Elizabeth Warren schools Paul Ryan on poverty in 80 seconds.”
Another announced: “Elizabeth Warren Picks A Fight With Paul Ryan.”
All true. All accurate.
However, what Warren really did in her March 29 speech in Minneapolis was school Democrats with regard to what they should expect from a presidential contender.
Yes, yes, Warren has said that she is not running for the Democratic nomination in 2016. And there are plenty of polls to suggest that, were she to enter the race, she would not have an easy time competing with a prospective Hillary Clinton candidacy—although, notably, Warren’s numbers rise rapidly in hypotheticals that do not feature Clinton.
But let’s put the polls aside for now.
Let’s recognize that a necessary politics does not just reflect public opinion, it anticipates concerns and answers them in bolder and better ways than pollsters and pundits can calculate. Those who would lead the nation ought to offer much more than a set of approved talking points. There must be a vision, a language, that explains the crisis, and inspires a response.
This is a truth that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has brought into his discussions of a possible presidential run, especially when he suggests that any bid by a progressive in 2016 would have to be “revolutionary” in its rejection of the narrow thinking and narrow strategies that have produced low-turnout elections and low-results governance. Sanders gets that the politics of 2014 and 2016 must go deeper—as does Warren.
This has a lot to do with issues.
But it also has to do with approach.
Democrats can’t just talk about inequality. They have to address the economic and political underpinnings of insecurity and injustice. They have to challenge the assumptions of those who argue for the failed strategies of the past.