Populist Left: A New Hot Ticket?

30 September 2013 |permalink | email article

After Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at a luncheon in Beverly Hills last month, women from the audience swarmed around her. many asking the same question: will you run for president? This month Warren’s fiery speech at the national AFL.CIO convention, with some union members stood on chairs, shouting out to her. When she joined a MoveOn.org conference this summer to promote her student loan legislation, 10,000 people got on the line—the liberal group’s biggest audience on any call in four years. Sworn in just ten months ago, the Massachusetts Democrat said she is not interested in running for president.

But in seizing on issues animating her party’s base—the influence of big banks, soaring student loan debt and the widening gulf between the wealthy and the working class—Warren is challenging the centrist economic approach that has been the defacto Democratic policy since President Bill Clinton and his fellow moderates took control of the party two decades ago. Privately, some Democratic donors from the financial industry seem unnerved by Warren’s rise, underscoring the tension between the party’s liberal and centrist wings. The ascendent power of Warren and her fellow populists is best captured by their torpedoing the nomination of Lawrence H. Summers, President Clinton’s treasury secretary. who was blocked before President Obama could even nominate him to lead the Federal Reserve.

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