“Run Warren Run” is finally ready to stop. This week the two liberal groups behind the high-profile effort to draft Elizabeth Warren into the 2016 race at last accepted what their dream candidate has been saying for months: She will not challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, which pledged in December to spend $1.25 million on Warren’s campaign, announced Tuesday that they will officially suspend their efforts early next week. The groups won’t completely abandon Warren, though. They say they’ll shift their resources to issue-specific advocacy, including opposing the push to give President Obama “fast-track” trade authority, raising the minimum wage, and reforming campaign finance laws—all issues squarely in line with Warren’s own efforts in the Senate.
While the organizers are finally giving up on their President Warren fantasy, they were nonetheless quick to claim a few qualified victories along the way. “Although Run Warren Run may not have sparked a candidacy,” MoveOn.org’s Ilya Sheyman and Democracy for America’s Charles Chamberlain wrote in a Politico Magazine op-ed, “it ignited a movement.” That’s a bit of an overstatement. Sheyman and Chamberlain are correct when they argue the campaign-for-a-campaign did wonders for Warren’s national profile, which in turn gave her a bigger stage in Washington from which to speak for the left. But to what degree did the Run Warren Run campaign—as well as the smaller efforts of the Ready for Elizabeth super PAC, which trudges on—generate excitement for Warren and the larger progressive moment? And to what degree did the effort simply embody and capitalize on the progressive base already in place?
Muddying the issue somewhat is Bernie Sanders, who is having his own moment on the left. Sanders is no Warren copycat. He is, after all, a 73-year-old liberal who’s spent the last two and a half decades in Washington as a self-declared socialist. He may be benefiting from the Warren-size hole in progressives’ hearts, but he doesn’t need to parrot his Senate colleague or anyone else to fill it. Based on the latest polling, he has already had remarkable success picking up the support of Warren’s superfans. Progressives may have preferred Warren, but they seem more than happy to settle for Sanders.
One thing we can credit Run Warren Run for, at least in part: Warren’s coulda-been foe Hillary Clinton has already taken more progressive stands—on criminal justice and immigration, for instance—than anyone had expected. It’s hard to imagine her having done that if she wasn't convinced that’s where the Democratic base was right now. Warren didn’t necessarily move them there. But without her and the pseudo-campaign that used her name, progressives would have had a more difficult time making it clear that’s where they stood, and just how many of them there are.
Previously in Slate: