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The Danger Of Centrist Conventional Wisdom

The same conventional wisdom centrists who were sure Hillary Clinton was going to win in 2016 are terrified Elizabeth Warren will be the nominee this time.
The Danger Of Centrist Conventional Wisdom
Image from: Getty Images

By Mike Lux, Heather Booth, and Bob Creamer

The same conventional wisdom centrists who were sure Hillary Clinton was going to win in 2016 are terrified Elizabeth Warren will be the nominee this time, Tom Edsall’s latest column, The Danger of Elizabeth Warren, being the latest example. In fact, though, Warren’s progressive populism represents the clear best choice Democrats have in terms of being able to take on the fake populist, right wing anti-establishment politics of Trump.

Elizabeth Warren has shown a remarkable ability to dominate the Democratic issue debate, and has been rated as the top or tied for the top debater in every post-debate poll so far. She has consistently generated as big or bigger crowds than any other candidate, has brought in more volunteers in the early states than anyone, and has generated more online contributions than anyone except Bernie, who had a huge head start from the 2016 campaign.

In terms of the general election, there have been numerous public polls showing her beating Trump by solid margins, similar to Biden and ahead of other potential Democratic nominees. Stan Greenberg, who was the pollster for both Clinton and Gore did a battleground state survey that showed Warren doing just as well Biden, and her message holding up better against attacks than Biden’s. Hillary lost 20% of the Bernie vote in 2016 to third party candidates, Trump, or not voting, and polls show Elizabeth getting 95% of that vote against Trump in a general election match-up. She is leading in the polls right now in terms of enthusiasm from young people compared to other Democratic candidates, a crucial demographic Democrats have to turn out big to win.

The conventional wisdom Democrats are determined to ignore this data. Edsall’s scary piece about how Warren could doom not only the presidential election, but the entire Democratic ticket in November, 2020 is only the latest example of this kind of thinking.

Here’s the problem: the people Edsall quotes are not people who share Warren’s policies or politics.

Two of the people quoted are Republican pollsters, who won’t be getting any clients this cycle if they predict rosy things for any Democratic candidate. Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, a Democratic consultant whose clients in the last cycle included two of Warren’s opponents in the race, Gabbard and Moulton (although Moulton has withdrawn), is a source, as is Krystal Ball, a strong Sanders supporter.

Meanwhile, two economists were quoted attacking Warren’s policies. One, Jeffrey Frankel, was a member of President Clinton’s economic team, which supported Wall Street and media deregulation and the kind of trade deals that Warren has opposed. The other source was Larry Summers, who led the Clinton push for Wall Street deregulation, has been a consultant to Wall Street banks, and who Warren opposed when Obama nominated him for Federal Reserve Chair. But there are plenty of economists who believe that warren’s policies would work well.

Edsall references a NYT/Siena poll that shows Biden doing better in battleground states than Warren but doesn’t acknowledge that both Biden and Warren were within the margin of era of being tied, or site all the contradictory polling we mentioned above.

Edsall quotes a source from the Cook Report saying her proposals are not broadly popular, but doesn’t mention all the public polls that have shown her wealth tax, her student debt forgiveness plan, her proposal to add to Social Security benefits, her child care proposal, her proposals to break up big corporations, her tough stances on Wall Street, and many other proposals are actually wildly popular. And they generate the enthusiasm that will be needed in this campaign.

Most importantly, Edsall and other Warren critics don’t mention this: the conventional wisdom in politics is almost always wrong. All you need to do is look at 2016: according to all the usual political experts, Bernie was never supposed to give Hillary a tough fight, Trump was never supposed to win the nomination, and Hillary was supposed to glide to victory over Trump. If voters were looking for the small changes and careful moderation that the pundits suggest, they never would have elected Trump, and they wouldn’t have voted more strongly than most of the pundits expected for a big change in government 6 of the last 7 elections.

Elizabeth Warren is right: voters are looking for big structural changes. They don’t like the DC establishment, they don’t like the corruption they perceive in Washington, and they don’t like business as usual. Warren is the Democratic Party’s best chance at victory in 2020.

Ed. Note: This article is the opinion of the authors and in no way constitutes an endorsement by Crooks and Liars of any candidate in the primary.

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Mike Lux has worked for six presidential campaigns and the DNC, was part of two presidential transitions, and was a Special Assistant to the President in the Clinton White House. He is the author of two books on politics and is a co-founder of the Democracy Partners consulting firm.

Heather Booth has been a political and social change organizer since the civil rights and early women’s movement. She has worked on many electoral and issue campaigns, including directing the campaign for financial reform.

Robert Creamer’s been a political organizer and strategist for five decades, and worked on hundreds of electoral and issue campaigns and served as consultant in the last three Democratic Presidential campaigns.

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