Praying for Populism?

I despise when pundits and other People You Follow On Twitter crown political candidates a full three years before election cycle begins. I suspect this is done to test the nerve and writing skills (read: increased visibility and page hits) of these people before the actual horse race begins in earnest in 2016. Truth be told, I do not know which is worse, pontificating on 2016 or all these goddamned Christmas sales and decorations stores are putting up 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Hillary Clinton is not my ideal choice for the 45th President, especially as so many media outlets are declaring her the presumptive Democratic nominee short of the convention, even devoting full-time coverage on her every move (or moves on her behalf). Aside from the fact that a coronation like this already took place  in 2008, a second Clinton era would be a return to the days of old-school D.C. culture, full of drama and scandals that did not require shoddily-written press releases from Darrell Issa’s office to gain traction, or the current hand-wringing over the slow Affordable Care Act rollout.

From my personal perspective, a new age of Clintons in the Executive would be yet another example of entitled baby boomers that never seem to go away coming back to claim another position of power as a vanity. Familiar faces and retreads from the 1990s seemed to magically reappear when Obama was elected the first time, with Hillary herself becoming his Secretary of State. For too many people, it is not the proverbial “Clinton fatigue” people are experiencing; it is the baggage of arrogance that comes with it.

That said, Noam Scheiber of The New Republic makes a great case for Sen. Elizabeth Warren making a run in 2016, as there seems to be a recent wave of populist candidates running and winning elections in significant places, most notably Bill deBlasio’s win in New York City. In his long-read from Sunday, Scheiber explains why the shifting in the cultural priorities of the base may end up being big trouble for the Queen of the Establishment:

It’s hard to look at the Democratic Party these days and not feel as if all the energy is behind Warren. Before she was even elected, her fund-raising e-mails would net the party more cash than any Democrat’s besides Obama or Hillary Clinton. According to the Times, Warren’s recent speech at the annual League of Conservation Voters banquet drew the largest crowd in 15 years. Or consider a website called Upworthy, which packages online videos with clever headlines and encourages users to share them. Obama barely registers on the site; Warren’s videos go viral. An appearance on cable this summer—“CNBC HOST DECIDES TO TEACH SENATOR WARREN HOW REGULATION WORKS. PROBABLY SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE THAT”—was viewed more than a million times. A Warren floor speech during the recent stalemate in Congress—“A SENATOR BLUNTLY SAYS WHAT WE’RE ALL THINKING ABOUT THE OBNOXIOUS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN”—tallied more than two million views.

The poll numbers also suggest the Democratic Party is becoming Elizabeth Warren’s party. Gallup finds that the percentage of Democrats with “very negative” views of the banking industry increased more than fivefold since 2007, while the percentage who have positive views fell from 51 to 31. Between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of Democrats who were dissatisfied with the “size and influence of major corporations” rose from 51 to a remarkable 79.

Scheiber’s not the only one singing Sen. Warren’s praises. Katrina vanden Heuvel writes this today:

Coming out of the Great Recession, the wealthiest few are capturing nearly all the rewards of growth, while most American families are struggling to stay afloat. The new majority forged by Obama — the “rising American electorate” of millennials, people of color, and single women — is struggling the most.

And now leaders of the “Democratic wing” are standing up, naming names and calling for a more equitable, just politics. After all, this extreme inequality isn’t an accident. It comes, as Warren put it, because entrenched interests have endeavored to rig the rules to work for them.

Warren, I believe, has a great chance at challenging Hillary. However, the rise of populism that matters most ultimately lies in the Legislative branch, which calls for a much broader focus on winning the House and strengthening the Senate next year. Hope this happens, and soon.

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