Elizabeth Warren's War

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 10 2013 9:47 AM

Elizabeth Warren's War

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On the war path.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

My new piece performs some basic archeology on an event that only just ended—the pitched battle that put the "netroots" and Elizabeth Warren on one side, and Third Way and anonymous bankers on the other. For eight years, really since the online left became politically astute and active, the centrist/business wing of the Democratic Party has been irritating it and undermining what they see as the issues that made them Democrats.

It's not the sort of piece that goes viral, I guess—you want that, you've gotta hype an incident as a Civil War between Possible Presidential Candidates. That's what Alex Pareene conveys in a nice column that complements all of this:

They’re not afraid that Warren will run for president, they’re afraid that she’ll be so popular that other senators will start acting like her. They’re worried that she’ll have money to direct to candidates who share her views. They’re worried that Warren might embarrass Democrats into passing stricter bank regulations. They’re worried that finance’s iron grip on the Democratic Party might weaken. The impetus for writing the editorial was Third Way’s realization that Warren was sabotaging the decades-long project that turned cutting Social Security into a bipartisan goal. A lot of money and time was spent encouraging elite consensus around “entitlement reform,” and suddenly a bunch of senators are talking about making the program more generous. That, of course, is a wildly popular idea, judging by all polling conducted on the subject, but the anti-populism backlash relies on reinforcing the common Washington idea that it is brave to oppose policies most people want and would benefit from. The bankers and CEOs who back Third Way understand that their policy preferences have won out in the Democratic Party in spite of popular opinion.
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Right, it's not about Warren, who trails Hillary Clinton by nearly 60 points in New Hampshire polls, running for president. But the political press can be/always is ridiculous and over-reactive to hype. The "Warren 2016!" stuff is chum that attracts the sharks of the press.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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