The first element of a movement to draft a candidate for the presidency—and, make no mistake, a serious effort to draft Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren into the race for the 2016 Democratic nomination is now afoot—involves popular mobilization. Grassroots activists have to get engaged in the development of a campaign that tells a reluctant candidate that there really is a base of support out there in first-caucus and first-primary states—and across the country. This has happened, as an increasingly ambitious “Run Warren Run” movement has taken shape in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states.
The second element is trickier. To the grassroots mobilization must be added a measure of elite opinion that might tip a reluctant prospect (as Warren surely is) toward serious consideration of a candidacy. Prominent figures with something to lose, or perhaps to gain, must step up to support the draft effort. That began to happen when former secretary of labor Robert Reich, who served in the administration of President Bill Clinton and was seen as a likely supporter of presumed 2016 Democratic fron-trunner Hillary Clinton, said early in March that Hillary Clinton should face a primary challenge and “I wish that challenger would be Elizabeth Warren.”
Reich’s support, like that of the Working Families Party, a growing number of legislators in key states, and actors and activists such as Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon, offered an indication of the interest in the effort to draft Warren. And now The Boston Globe has provided formal confirmation of the enthusiasm.
The largest newspaper in Warren’s home state, a significant media force in southern New Hampshire (where its endorsements are sought and prized), and one of the most influential old-line daily newspapers in the country, the Globe surprised a lot of Democrats Sunday with an editorial headlined: “Democrats need Elizabeth Warren’s voice in 2016 presidential race.”
The editorial—published as criticism of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private e-mail system while serving as secretary of state has raised old doubts about the former first lady—bluntly declared, “Democrats would be making a big mistake if they let Hillary Clinton coast to the presidential nomination without real opposition…”
“Clinton’s deep reservoir of support, from her stints as first lady, New York senator, 2008 presidential candidate, and secretary of state, no doubt poses a formidable obstacle. But Barack Obama overcame Clinton’s advantages in 2008, and Warren or another candidate still could in 2016,” noted the Globe editors. “Even if they don’t, Clinton herself would benefit from a challenger. As former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick put it recently, ‘My view of the electorate is, we react badly to inevitability, because we experience it as entitlement, and that is risky, it seems to me, here in America.’ Fairly or not, many Americans already view Clinton skeptically, and waltzing to the nomination may actually hurt her in the November election against the Republican nominee.”
The Globe made it clear, as do supporters of the “Draft Warren” movement, and of other potential contenders such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, that this is about more than Clinton’s strengths and weaknesses. This is about core issues, and fundamental questions regarding the future of the Democratic Party and the country.
“[The] Democratic Party finds itself with some serious divides that ought to be settled by the electorate. Some are clear-cut policy differences, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an enormous free-trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations that Warren opposes and Clinton backs. Even in areas where the candidates agree, there are bound to be different priorities: It’s hard to imagine a President Clinton defending and enforcing the Dodd-Frank legislation with as much vigor as a President Warren, for instance,” explained the Globe editorial, which added:
Indeed, the big-picture debate on financial regulation and income inequality is what’s most at peril if the Democratic primaries come and go without top-notch opponents for Clinton. While she has a great many strengths, Clinton seems far more likely to hew to a cautious approach on economics. Her financial backing from Wall Street, her vote in the Senate to reduce bankruptcy protections and her past reluctance to raise capital-gains taxes are no secret. Nothing about her record suggests much gumption for financial reform or tackling the deeply entrenched economic problems that increasingly threaten the American dream.
In contrast, the editorial suggested, “unlike Clinton, or any of the prospective Republican candidates, Warren has made closing the economic gaps in America her main political priority, in a career that has included standing up for homeowners facing illegal foreclosures and calling for more bankruptcy protections. If she runs, it’ll ensure that those issues take their rightful place at the center of the national political debate.”
Rejecting tortured arguments that Warren could do more in a gridlocked Senate than with the bully pulpit of a presidential candidacy. “As a member of the minority party in the Senate, her effectiveness is now much more limited than when she first won election, since Republicans control the legislative agenda,” the Globe explains. “Democrats face an uphill challenge to reclaim the Senate in 2016 and face even slimmer prospects in the House. For the foreseeable future, the best pathway Warren and other Democrats have for implementing their agenda runs through the White House.”
That’s a strong argument, coming from a newspaper that Warren must—and does—take seriously. This does mean that Warren, who has repeatedly said she does not intend to run, will suddenly change course and enter the 2016 race. But it does mean that the “Draft Warren” movement is developing the scope and character of a classic draft effort. And a classic draft effort—with grassroots energy and validation from former cabinet members and major media—is hard to ignore.