For someone who supposedly doesn’t believe in photo-op politics, Ed Miliband went to enormous lengths to get his picture taken with Barack Obama last week. He needn’t have bothered. Even if the Labour leader does become Prime Minister next year, the Obama Presidency will be drawing to an end – and all eyes will be on the front runners for 2016.
For the Democrats, that person is overwhelmingly likely to be Hillary Clinton. Or is it? She was supposedly the frontrunner eight years ago, but then along came a certain senator from Illinois.
Could history repeat itself with another wildcard candidate? In a piece for The Hill, Dick Morris argues that it could. Mr Morris, of course, has a rather complicated history with the Clintons – and his own career as a political strategist has had its ups and downs. Nevertheless, his analysis is an interesting one:
“Clinton is the ultimate political insider, taking $20 million from Wall Street including $5 million from Goldman Sachs. In two recent speeches to Goldman Sachs — at $200,000 a pop — she spoke about why the big banks shouldn’t be blamed for the financial crisis. ‘We’re all in this together,’ Clinton reportedly told them.
“Her political campaigns have been financed by Wall Street. Her family foundation is underwritten by banks, corporations and foreign governments
“Even as secretary of State, Clinton aggressively lobbied for major U.S. corporations like Boeing to get lucrative foreign contracts. In Boeing’s case, it returned the favor by making a $900,000 contribution to her favorite charity: the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.”
The Democrats love to portray their Republican opponents as the tools of big business, but they themselves are up to their necks in big money politics.
American voters – like those in Europe – are sick of the old establishments. They’ve been sick of them for a while now, but this time around they want something more than the hopey-changey mood music that Barack Obama did so well (and David Cameron not so well). And as Dick Morris points out, this time there’s someone ready – and possibly willing – to give it to them:
“Enter Elizabeth Warren, a new face in the Senate whose reputation was made by fighting the very same big banks that finance Clinton. Warren pushed for reforms in bankruptcy, subprime mortgages and student loans…
“Like Clinton, Warren is touring America to promote her book and to campaign for progressive Democrats. Her populist economic message is attracting overflow crowds who cheer her anti-Wall Street rhetoric: ‘Citibank and Goldman Sachs and all those other guys on Wall Street, they’ve got plenty of folks in the U.S. Senate willing to work on their side,’ she said. ‘We need someone one on our side willing to work for America’s families.’”
Warren is, in many ways, a standard-issue liberal Democrat; in the Senate she represents Massachusetts – the emblematic liberal state. However, she also possesses a combination of credibility and populist appeal that hasn’t been seen among left-leaning, New England Democrats since the Kennedy era.
It also matters that she’s a woman:
“The overwhelming reason that voters support Clinton is that she would be the first woman president. But so would Warren.”
Despite the enthusiastic support of party activists, Warren claims to have no “present plans” to run against Clinton, but there are several reasons why conservatives should hope that she changes her mind.
Firstly, her candidacy would expose the mainstream Democrats for the self-righteous hypocrites that they are. Sadly, the Republicans aren’t, for the most part, any better, but the world might just wake up to the fact that they’re not any worse.
Secondly, Warren has important things to say on issues like financial regulation that need to be heard. With western economies returning to a semblance of normality, there’s a danger that people will think that the problems that caused so much harm over the last decade have gone away, when they really haven’t.
Thirdly, a genuine reformer on the left might just prompt the emergence of a genuine reformer on the right. In 2012 the Republicans indulged themselves with a freakshow before finally picking a solidly uninspiring spokesman for the corporate establishment. To win back the White House in 2016, they will have to offer something more than that.