The coming liberal meltdown
This past weekend, two events occurred that may indicate a schism in the ranks of liberals that could roil Democratic politics in 2016.
First, Netroots Nation, the convention of the far left, announced they would be in Phoenix, AZ next year. This moved netroots pioneer Markos "kos" Moulitsas to declare that, because of Arizona's immigration law, he would not set foot in the state or spend one dime of his money:
Netroots Nation announced two days ago that Phoenix, Arizona would host its 2015 conference. I wish the conference the best, but it will unfortunately take place without Daily Kos' attendance or assistance.
I made very clear in the wake of Arizona's passage of SB 1070 that I would not be setting foot in the state, nor spending a dime in it until the law was revoked. The law, however gutted by the courts, remains on the books, as does systemic harassment of Latinos, so my pledge still stands.
Yes, this is a big deal. Most of the thousands of attendees at this year's Netroots Nation convention are activists whose allegiance to Kos remains firm. In fact, Netroots Nation grew out of the old "Yearly Kos Convention" that was first held in 2006. There is obviously a split in this important progressive group that is being exacerbated by the current immigration crisis.
But the real potential for a schism comes from the advocacy of the Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren for a radical agenda that is so popular on the left, that Hillary Clinton, if she runs for president, will have to acknowledge and probably adopt to some extent. That goes for any other Democrat who runs as well.
Warren addressed the Netroots Nation and brought down the house with a campaign-style speech:
Warren is a darling of the left, where many wish she would run for president, something the senator says she has ruled out. But her fans see Warren as an aggressive champion for working people, willing to take the fight to Wall Street, to big corporations and to Capitol Hill. And in the address, Warren embraced that image.
“We don’t win every time,” said Warren, who has recently been hitting the trail to stump for Democrats running in the midterm elections. “But we’re learning to win. We’re learning to win, and we will keep winning. We will fight and we will win.”
She nodded to her 2012 victory over former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in which she played an instrumental role, as two victories accomplished on the strength of the progressive movement. And she ticked through a laundry list of liberal priorities as she outlined where this section of the base stands today.
“We believe —I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014 —we believe in equal pay for equal work, and we’re willing to fight for it,” she said to big applause. “We believe that equal means equal and that’s true in marriage, that’s true in the workplace, that’s true in all of America, and we’re willing to fight for it.”
As the applause mounted, Warren encouraged the audience by murmuring, “that’s right,” and “you bet.”
“We believe immigration has made this country strong and vibrant and that means reform — we are willing to fight for it,” she said.
Some of the loudest applause of the morning came when she dinged the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which allows some private companies to claim religious exemptions and not pay for contraceptive coverage mandated under the health care law. Democrats see the ruling as one way to galvanize base enthusiasm ahead of the midterms.
“Oh, and we believe that corporations are not people,” Warren said, a reference to a comment Mitt Romney made in the last presidential election. “That women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it, we will fight for it.”
Unlike President Obama, Warren is unable to couch her radical ideas in soothing language that might be acceptable to a majority. She us unabashed in her playing to the resentments and fears of the American people - a tactic that almost always fails in electoral politics. But because she speaks to the soul of progressives, the Democratic nominee will have no choice but to adopt much of the language if not the issues she is pushing.
Can the GOP take advantage? If they can force the Democratic nominee to move toward the center during the general election campaign, this will certainly dishearten the Democratic base and could lead to a lot less enthusiasm and turnout in 2016. It could also open an opportunity for Republicans to appeal to more centrist Democrats if the party embraces Warren's radical agenda.
Anything that depreses turnout or reveals the other party to be extremists will be to the GOP's advantage in 2016.