Democrats Divided as Elizabeth Warren Rises

David Coates/Detroit News/AP
David Coates/Detroit News/AP

Democrat losses in 2014 are fueling unrest within the rank and file. The rise of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and the anti-big business populism she represents have created a rift within that party that may take a presidential primary to play out.

It represents a particular challenge to Hillary Clinton as she prepares for an expected 2016 campaign, as she’s generally viewed as aligned with husband Bill Clinton’s more centrist  politics that wasn’t particularly interested in waging war against Wall Street. Certainly, Hillary Clinton can bridge that gap, but if a genuine standard bearer like Warren, or perhaps another populist progressive, takes up the cause, it will make Mrs. Clinton’s run just that much more challenging.

Ms. Warren had gained new prominence on the national stage—and drawn increasing calls for her to run for the White House—with her attempt last week to scuttle a compromise budget bill because of concessions to Wall Street, as well as her opposition to President Barack Obama’s choice for a top Treasury post due to his Wall Street ties. Those moves have reinforced Ms. Warren’s long-standing message that Democrats should fight to reduce corporate influence and the share of wealth controlled by the nation’s richest households.

Other Democrats say Ms. Warren’s message will lead only to more electoral defeats, as many voters will reject the focus on income inequality and instead want policies aimed at broad economic growth. While all Democrats say they want to foster a growing economy, the two wings of the party are at odds over which points should be most central to their message.