It’s not quite panic yet, but a certain apprehension has begun to fray Democratic nerves at the open of the 2016 presidential cycle.
Over the weekend, The Boston Globe’s editorial board became the latest overtly liberal outlet to call for a challenge to Hillary Clinton. The editorial board insisted that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) must throw her hat into the ring, and not simply to sharpen the skills of the Democratic Party’s likely nominee.
And those calling for her to stay in the Senate would do well to remember that she doesn’t have to make the choice between running for president and being a senator — she can run for higher office while remaining in the Senate, as candidates from Barack Obama to John McCain to John F. Kennedy did. If Senator Warren does run, she’ll either become President Warren or continue being Massachusetts’ senior senator. It’s a win-win.
To be clear: Senator Warren has said she’s not running for president, and we take her for her word. But we also believe she’s open to persuasion. We recall that not long ago, Warren wasn’t running for Senate in Massachusetts — until she was persuaded to do so by a draft campaign.
“Massachusetts, we know Elizabeth Warren has made you proud. Now she can make many more Americans proud — and give them a fighting chance — if she chooses to run for president,” The Globe editorial importuned with an unsubtle dose of flattery. “Senator Warren, we hope you’re reading this. Our country needs you. Please run.”
The editorial made a detailed case for why they believe that Warren’s message of economic populism could resonate with the broader national electorate. It wasn’t especially compelling, but it’s not altogether clear that it was designed to be. This editorial was a tribal scream of a familiar sort. Replace “income inequality” with “climate change,” and you have Ezra Klein’s aborted call to action that was purportedly aimed at drafting Al Gore into the race.
Neither The Globe nor Klein spent much time examining the conditions that led them to call for a competent candidate to challenge Clinton. Neither piece mentioned the word “emails.” They didn’t discuss the Clinton Foundation. They never even hinted at the fact that these and other scandals have robbed the former secretary of state of the voters’ trust. But the honest Democratic voter will and has confessed that Clinton’s behavior is shocking, and it has prompted them to consider a question that most will not even utter aloud: What if she loses to a Republican?
In their hearts, surely Klein, The Boston Globe, and much of their shared readership believe that it’s at least possible for Clinton to lose the 2016 race for the White House to the Republican nominee. Despite the fact that the GOP’s standard-bearer will have been tempered by what is likely to be a withering primary fight and an aggressive vetting led by the political media, the prospect of a Democratic candidate losing a general election has become a difficult concept for the left to come to terms with.
For years, the left has embraced the idea that demography is destiny. They reason that even the naturally strong headwinds the Democratic Party faces in the effort to secure a third consecutive term in the White House will be overcome as an ascendant coalition of women, young, and minority voters deliver the long-promised generation of Democratic dominance. Sure, these voters stayed home in 2010 and 2014, but they showed up to reelect Barack Obama and they will likely turn out again to ensure his legacy is secured. To listen to Democrats and consume the polling data they cite is often all it takes to become convinced that even a modestly weakened Clinton will be able to fend off a Republican challenger.
But the left’s flailing and half-hearted attempts to draft an anti-Clinton into the race puts the lie to the notion that the Democrats are confident in their likely 2016 nominee. It’s not just that partisan liberals are sizing up Clinton and asking themselves if this is the best the Democratic Party can do, although that is a factor. Clinton’s failure to comprehensively answer the questions surrounding her ethics and competence as secretary of state sparked this mutiny. Clinton and her surrogates responded to the surging tide of scandalous revelations, which has not yet abated, by staying mute for just long enough to be able to call the revelations “old news.” But “old news” for the Clintons has a bad habit of evolving into all-consuming breaking news. She’s a time bomb, and they know it. Not every Democrat is content to pray she doesn’t erupt before she secures 270 Electoral College votes.
There will be no competitive primary challenge to Clinton. In quiet and contemplative moments, progressives would probably confess that they know that, too. Warren will not jeopardize her future with her party by weakening and diminishing a figure with a prohibitive shot at the nomination and a strong chance to be the next President of the United States. Al Gore won’t surrender his status as Climatological Cassandra or his lucrative career on the speaking circuit. Like it or not, the party is stuck with Clinton. For many on the left, this is an increasingly terrifying prospect.