“Elizabeth Warren is smart to withhold her endorsement while the Democratic primary is still going on,” I remember telling family and friends often this spring. “No matter who wins, she’ll play a big part in bringing the party back together.”
Oy vey, I guess I still hope so. Perhaps I need to quit reading Internet comments sections. That’s where my faith in humanity goes to die. And dying it is, gargling over a swollen tongue as the public discourse transmogrifies into so much cantarella in my wine.
Here’s a taste of what we got from the World Wide Web on Monday after Warren joined presumptive Democratic Party U.S. Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Cincinnati:
“I dunno why y’all still thinking the High CEO buying Warren’s support is something to celebrate, but alright. This election’s been f**ked for months anyway.”
“Warren is a complete liar and sell out. Damn you people are idiot sheep and so delusional! Wake the hell up!”
“Warren the sellout. Gary2016!”
“Warren sold her soul. I wouldn’t vote for neither of them. Elizabeth is being used as pawn to reel Progressives in. To hell with them both.”
“It’s so sad to see someone we thought was Progressive, to be destroyed by Neoliberal-corporatist Clinton. Wall Street must be celebrating.”
And these comments, my friends, come from Facebook stories on progressive websites. These are our friends thus commenting. Sadly, these comments represent a simplistic “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” mentality that leaves no room for the nuances of political reality. It’s an ideological temper tantrum that flouts the only path now open for progressives to continue to make progress.
It’s name-calling and innuendo in the ethos of Donald Trump and sadly plays right into his stubby, little hands.
This was not a selling of Elizabeth Warren’s soul, or the selling of anything else for that matter, as the various unfounded accusations claim. This was basic party politics. And when it comes to realpolitik, folks, ideological hissy fits just won’t do.
First, Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat. Second, Elizabeth Warren hasn’t been stupid a day in her life. She understands that to win in November the Democratic Party must present a united front, especially as the Republican Party fractures and rips its hair after nominating the most openly bigoted presidential candidate since George Corley Wallace, Jr.
Typically, it’s the Republicans who nominate the “next man up,” as it were, and fall in line. Think George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Willard Mitt Romney. In 2016, because 3.8 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary than Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party will have to play that role.
What does that mean for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party? It means that our guy didn’t win. But it also means that the game isn’t up. All is not lost. This is no time for knee-jerk primal screams into the void. This is a time for some very shrewd leverage-seeking.
As a party member, that’s exactly what Elizabeth Warren understands. While Hillary Clinton got 15.8 million votes, Bernie Sanders still got over 12 million. That’s astonishingly better than all the wizards in Washington ever predicted this time last year. Hillary Clinton was such as strong frontrunner for the nomination she cleared the field of stronger opposition in the form of Vice President Joe Biden and Warren herself before the race even began.
Perhaps Biden, or Warren, or Sanders would’ve been a better General Election candidate than Clinton for Democrats. Perhaps. None of them have had to endure the mastication of their reputations by spending over two-and-a-half decades inside the mouth of the national Republican Attack Machine. That’s certainly taken its toll on the 2016 presumptive nominee, and it will continue to do so. “Crooked Hillary,” is a sadly effective ad hominem, much more so than “goofy Elizabeth Warren.”
Clinton long ago figured out that she’d be viciously attacked no matter what she did, and determined that she’d just do it her way anyway. She made mistakes along the way, and those mistakes are where the real, substantive differences between her and the progressive left come in. So in this primary, predictably, she was confronted by the progressive left, and that confrontation was hard fought. Nevertheless, she won.
So now progressives are left to decide whether they still believe the best way to make progress is by continuing to work within and gain influence over the Democratic Party – as Elizabeth Warren does – or whether they prefer instead to join the Charge of the Light Brigade, to relinquish any influence within the administration of the woman likely to become our next president, to cede all say in keeping Hillary honest to her progressive primary promises, to commit political suicide for the sake of ideological purity.
It is a progressive pastime, after all, always allowing the perfect to get in the way of the good. And frankly, for anybody who considers herself a progressive and not a Democrat per se, or an independent, or a liberal without the hang-up of party affiliation, it doesn’t much matter. I would never condescend to demand anybody co-sign a Hillary Clinton presidency.
But please understand why Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren can’t follow that path. She’s not selling out. She’s still fighting, as she must, to recreate the Democratic Party in her own image, in our image, in the progressive image, even if some fellow progressives have given up.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.