Published on TheHill.com on July 15, 2014
Elizabeth Warren could beat Hillary Clinton.
The contrast between the two woman couldn’t be sharper.
Clinton is the ultimate political insider, taking $20 million from Wall Street including $5 million from Goldman Sachs. In two recent speeches to Goldman Sachs — at $200,000 a pop — she spoke about why the big banks shouldn’t be blamed for the financial crisis. “We’re all in this together,” Clinton reportedly told them.
Her political campaigns have been financed by Wall Street. Her family foundation is underwritten by banks, corporations and foreign governments
Even as secretary of State, Clinton aggressively lobbied for major U.S. corporations like Boeing to get lucrative foreign contracts. In Boeing’s case, it returned the favor by making a $900,000 contribution to her favorite charity: the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
Enter Elizabeth Warren, a new face in the Senate whose reputation was made by fighting the very same big banks that finance Clinton. Warren pushed for reforms in bankruptcy, subprime mortgages and student loans.
In her recent book, A Fighting Chance, Warren criticizes the “too big to fail policy” as one that “allows the megabanks to operate like drunks on a wild weekend in Vegas.” She attacks Wall Street for rigging our economic system to favor the top 1 percent. She has become the darling of the left.
Like Clinton, Warren is touring America to promote her book and to campaign for progressive Democrats. Her populist economic message is attracting overflow crowds who cheer her anti-Wall Street rhetoric: “Citibank and Goldman Sachs and all those other guys on Wall Street, they’ve got plenty of folks in the U.S. Senate willing to work on their side,” she said. “We need someone one on our side willing to work for America’s families.”
Warren, who insists that she has “no present plans” to run, certainly hasn’t issued a Shermanesque denial.
If she runs, she might just win.
The overwhelming reason that voters support Clinton is that she would be the first woman president. But so would Warren.
And Warren has an issue: the crony capitalism of the Clintons. Until Hillary Clinton’s recent gaffes — and lies — about her family’s finances, few were interested. But that’s changed. Everyone’s interested now.
Even in her 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap, Warren criticized Clinton’s flip-flop on bankruptcy legislation that was detrimental to working women. Warren persuaded Clinton to convince her husband to veto it. But once a senator, Clinton reversed her position and voted for a virtually identical bill.
Warren has consistently railed against crony capitalism and could credibly attack the Clintons and paint them with their own speaking fees and donations. Add in rumors that President Obama wants Warren to run and has promised financial and organizational support and Warren’s chances jump up a lot further. The left of the Democratic Party is not interested in Clinton’s centrist, hawkish, corporatist positions.
Meanwhile, Clinton is repeating the mistake she made in 2008: targeting general election voters and ignoring the primary electorate. Back then, she supported the Iraq War until well into 2007 and voted for the Patriot Act, alienating her base.
Now, fearful of Obama’s drag on a 2016 ticket, she is distancing herself from the president, obliquely criticizing him as a man who paints “a beautiful vision” but cannot follow through. This won’t play well with the base.
The only real argument Clinton would have against Warren is inevitability: that she will win. That kind of argument holds supporters for a while, but as more and more turn to Warren, drawn by her ideology and her challenge to Wall Street power, the odds become shorter and her chances better. Then, a self-fulfilling prophesy can set in, fueling her candidacy with each gain in poll numbers.
And then, Democrats will remember how Clinton blew the nomination — once assumed to be safely hers’ — in 2007and 2008. The less she looks like a winner, the more they will turn to Warren.
It could happen.
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