As pundits begin the next presidential circus cycle of who said what, and who can win; one thing has been constant in their comments: Hillary Clinton. Perhaps it is an exaggeration to state that every single pundit is convinced not only that she will run, but further, that she would be an incredibly tough opponant for any candidate from the right.
On one hand, this is true. She has experience, political acumen, beltway connections, name recognition, the possibility of being the first woman POTUS, and she isn't batsh*t crazy like her polar opposites on the right. She is probably the single best candidate that the left can run.
On the other, she is only the best candidate if we are only focusing on the real-politik idea of who is likely to win. Speaking as a person who is pretty far to the left; I have some qualms about voting for Ms. Clinton. She is a washington insider;' one who will return us to the status quo. The question should not be: 'who has the best chance of winning; it should be 'who is the candidate that will move our country forward'
I don't like Ms. Clinton, and the Left must face the fact that in the absence of an alternative, Ms. Clinton will get our vote. However, I think that there actually are alternatives.
For a long time, I've resigned myself to the idea that 2016 will be a year where I vote for the lesser of two evils. As much as I dislike Ms. Clinton, she would be a competent POTUS; and as distasteful and corrupt i find her, there is not a snowball's chance in hell that my vote is going to the Right.
Then Bill De Blasio became the mayor of New York city. Then Socialist Alternative started to rise. Then Income Inequality began to be discussed in the mainstream. Then Sea-Tac agitated for a higher minimum wage. Then fast food workers went on strike for a living wage... All around us, there are the seeds of a progressive and populist movement. As the right has mounted attacks in their primaries from the right; I believe that a challenge to Ms. Clinton could be mounted from her left. Hypothetically, I'll suppose that Elizabeth Warren decides to to run for president.
Across almost every poll, the positions of the Left Proper (rather than centralist left) have majority support across American political fault lines; but only so long as they are asked about specific policies, not in connection to specific parties. Gun regulation; LGBT rights; ending the War on Drugs; ending our stance of perpetual war; directly addressing climate change... the list goes on.
If Ms. Warren were to run on a progressive platform, I believe that she would stand a good chance in the primaries against Ms. Clinton. Further, I believe that a progressive platform would be able to win at a national level. Fact of the matter is that the body-politic of this country desires true change. Not the same old establishment that has held control of this country for decades.
This desire manifests in several ways, the three examples I would cite would be the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the rise of the Tea Party, and the flare up of the Occupy protests. Each was the result of a deep disillusionment and apathy that developed during the Bush years. Both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement share a distrust of the current government, but they seek to address that distrust in different ways.
The strategy isn't to try and capture the centre, the centre does not exist right now. The strategy is to find positions where the Left and the Right loop toward one another. I call it the Horseshoe strategy. Progressive positions cut across race, class, religions, and political allegiance. If the message can be formed in such a way that Ms. Warren can capture votes from both the Left and the Right, she could be as formidable of a candidate in the general election as Ms. Clinton would be.
However, mounting this challenge from the Left would also be quite risky. First, the primary battle would be brutal. Ms. Clinton has access to the network that carried Mr. Obama to two presidential elections. Facing her entrenched position and resources I would liken to the meat grinder of the Battle of Somme. As we have seen with the Republican primaries, rough primaries end up forcing candidates to take extreme positions which end up hurting them in general elections. Progressive positions can win, but we must be careful of the possibility of ending up as extreme as the current generation of the Republican party. We must not eat each other alive. Above all else, we do not want to split the vote of the Left.
Second, Ms. Warren would not be as sure of a bet as Ms. Clinton. Current odds put Ms. Clinton as +125, compared to Ms. Warren's +3500. If we choose to embrace a progressive platform rather than the normal Democratic platform, we will face an uphill battle in the general election. As much help as we will get from the Republicans shooting themselves in the foot, we still need to build a strong national case for the progressive position.
The Horseshoe strategy would be as follows: while still devoting resources to Ohio and the other swing states, focusing the majority of resources and attention to supposedly safe states held by the Republicans. The goal would be to break out of thinking that only the swing states matter. Instead, our goal would be to turn traditionally Red States into battleground states.
In war metaphor terms: we want to outflank the right, and force them to spread themselves thin in order to cover what are supposedly safe states. The more resources the republicans devote to protecting their states, the less they can devote to swing states. Of course, this sword cuts both ways. The Left would also need to divert resources away from the swing states. However, the Progressive position should offset the negatives of fighting in 'safe' states. If we successfully capture the heartland of the right, or even if we just scare them; we can shatter the already fragile base of the Republican party.
Of course, none of this is particularly likely. A national grassroots organization for Progressives simply does not exist currently. Obama's machine does, and it has proven itself in two general elections. But despair is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must start working towards a just society, and the two parties we have are not the paths to that just society. I believe more and more that they way forward to forge a powerful progressive and populist movement. The seeds of a progressive movement are already here, already all around us, we just need to start giving them what they need to bloom.