And the longer Clinton waits to take a stand on inequality issues like raising the minimum wage, the more her decision will be made for her by her party, which is increasingly internalizing much of Warren’s agenda. From Bill de Blasio’s win in New York City to progressives’ campaign to attack the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, and especially to President Obama’s State of the Union, the center of gravity in the party is moving to the left.
In that sense, the invisible primary against Clinton’s invisible candidacy has already started. While no secret cabals of liberals are working to move an eventual candidate Clinton to the left, the activists are already accomplishing that by moving the entire party. “Economic inequality is the fundamental question of our time. It is generation-defining,” says Heather McGhee, the newly elevated president of the policy center Demos, who, at 33, represents a new generation of liberal leaders. “Both parties are going to have to answer to this question.”
Just as LGBT and reproductive-rights activists have done with their issues over the years, this new generation of economic progressives wants to make fighting inequality an issue that any Democratic presidential candidate will take for granted as a priority. If it becomes a matter of political necessity, then it almost doesn’t matter who the candidate is. “It’s not about personality; it’s about policy,” Sheyman says.