Comparison of 2008 and 2016 polling until the first day of primary contests, via the New York Times
Hillary Clinton has had a rough time recently after news broke that she used private email to conduct all business as secretary of state. Never mind that it was likely legal
, or that Republican predecessors
did it too. The situation and how poorly she's handled it renewed calls for a progressive primary challenger in Elizabeth Warren. Yet this is a waste of time and money, because Clinton would almost certainly win the nomination anyway.
Her polling lead is far larger than it ever was in 2007. She has consolidated her support among party elites since then. In 2000, a serious, progressive primary challenge by former Senator Bill Bradley did little to improve Al Gore as a candidate. Instead of wasting time and energy pining for Warren to run, progressives should focus on what actually can improve a Clinton presidency by winning back Congress.
I will readily acknowledge my own disdain with Clinton, wishing instead that Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown were running. Her oftentimes strategically poor political decisions can induce heartburn and Elizabeth Warren would without a doubt be better on the issues. However, this ideological difference is almost trivial compared to the disparity between unified government under Clinton and continuing today’s gridlock under Warren.
The most important difference come 2017 would be potential Supreme Court vacancies. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Anthony Kennedy 80, Antonin Scalia 80, and Stephen Breyer 78. It would not matter how much more progressive Warren is than Clinton if Republicans still hold the Senate then. A Democratic majority would likely use the nuclear option if needed to defeat a filibuster given unprecedented recent abuse of that tool by Republicans. However, a Republican majority might demand a very centrist nominee or someone unacceptable to progressives entirely.
Other appointments matter as well, but there’s also legislation. Healthcare reform, financial reform, the stimulus; these all took unified government to accomplish. But 2009 also showed that it matters to have progressive Democrats in Congress as well. Both Warren and Clinton would support immigration reform, climate legislation, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for women. Republicans in Congress would continue to block all of these things, even if executive actions might work at the margins. Fortunately for Democrats, the 2016 cycle is nearly all offense thanks to successive Republican midterm waves.
Head below the fold to see which races in particular are important for progressive pick-up or primary opportunities.