Can Elizabeth Warren save the Democratic Party? After the bitter fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primaries, many people think the #1 agenda item for Democrats is to heal internal divisions.
If Democrats fight among themselves then Democrats are likely to lose. It’s possible that Donald Trump would not be President of the United States if Clinton and Sanders had not engaged in a pitched battle that almost tore the party apart.
So in choosing a nominee for the 2020 presidential election the party must look to someone who brings people together and is not a representative of just one party faction. Elder statesman Joe Biden might be such a person, although that is not guaranteed and he is well past his prime.
That is why many former supporters of Clinton are looking to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as the right choice to lead the party. She is seen as progressive enough for Bernie supporters and centrist enough for Clinton supporters. Plus, to state the obvious, she is a woman. And that could be important to some people after Clinton’s painful loss which many attribute to sexism and misogyny.
“If Elizabeth Warren decides to run for president, she will find support both from Hillary diehards who still want to elect a qualified woman as president and from Hillary skeptics who want an unflinching champion against corporate greed as the party’s standard-bearer,” said Seth Bringman, a Clinton ally who served as a spokesman for the Ready for Hillary super PAC.
Another factor is that Warren endorsed Clinton wholeheartedly and then campaigned alongside her.
“She won many of us over not only with her endorsement of Hillary in 2016 but with the sincerity of it,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a Clinton supporter. “Warren is also a registered Democrat, and Bernie Sanders is not.”
In 2016 Warren was walking the tightrope between the Clinton and Sanders camps. For many months she was the only Democratic woman in the Senate who hadn’t endorsed Clinton, and this upset some people. However, she also took criticism from Sanders people, with activists accusing Warren of betraying progressives by not supporting Sanders.
Warren has done well in recent polls when compared to her potential competitors in the 2020 presidential race.
A Suffolk University survey out last month found that Warren was the most popular potential 2020 candidate in New Hampshire, taking 25.7 percent support. Former Vice President Joe Biden came in second at 20 percent support, while Sanders came in third with 12.5 percent, despite having won the state in 2016.
In the primaries Warren may lose centrist voters who think she is too tough on Wall Street, although that is a plus to the Bernie crowd. If Corey Booker and Kamala Harris are in the race Warren would have a hard time generating support from black voters, and possibly other minorities.
The 2020 race for the Democratic Party nomination for president promises to be a long and drawn out process, and there is potential for hard feelings and acrimony.
“Warren is very willing to engage President Trump and the GOP head on, which is what a lot of Democrats are looking for,” said Grant Reeher, from Syracuse University. “She can fire up the base, but also argue specifics, and she is authentic in delivering the message. That’s not so much anti-Hillary, but Hillary improved.”
Warren may have a “likability” problem like Clinton had. She is a Harvard professor and may be seen as an elitist.
But likability aside, even Clinton supporters recognize that they must now support someone like Warren in order to keep in alignment with the changes within the Democratic Party.
“It’s very clear to me that this party is going further to the left than it has in the past,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist. “That’s where all the energy and enthusiasm is coming from, the energy and enthusiasm that wasn’t really there for the Clinton campaign.”
If Democrats are going to recapture the White House in 2020 they must have the energy and enthusiasm to turn out all sorts of voters who make up the new Democratic coalition. And if Elizabeth Warren gets enthusiastic support from former Clinton supporters as well as former Sanders supporters, she may be just the person the party is looking for.
Now there is just one small question that remains: Is Elizabeth Warren even going to run for president in 2020?
Nobody knows for sure right now, but if she does it is guaranteed to make the 2020 presidential race much more interesting.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.