On Friday, Elizabeth Warren gave the morning keynote speech at Netroots Nation. Held in Phoenix, Arizona this year to highlight immigration reform, Warren also spoke at length about financial reform -- and what she feels any presidential candidate must be prepared to do about it. She said, "anyone"; but it seemed pretty clear she was talking to Hillary Clinton. Here's Warren:
We have a presidential election coming up. I think anyone running for that job - anyone who wants the power to make every key economic appointment and nomination across the federal government -- should say loud and clear that they agree: we don't run this country for Wall Street and mega corporations. We run it for people. Anyone who wants to be President should appoint only people who have already demonstrated they are independent, who have already demonstrated that they can hold giant banks accountable, who have already demonstrated that they embrace the kind of ambitious economic policies that we need to rebuild opportunity and a strong middle class in this country.
To put this in context: a few days earlier, Clinton gave a major speech, and talked about financial reform. It did not have the teeth of Warren's orations on that subject. For example, Clinton said "too big to fail is too big a problem", which is about as weaksauce a parroting of Bernie Sanders' "too big to fail is too big to exist" as you could imagine.
Really, though, what Clinton's toothless statements do is give her the ever-important out with her rich, banker donors. She didn't say anything that she couldn't pass off later as necessary campaign rhetoric. Sanders, of course, is all-in. He neither wants nor expects to get the banks' support. Clinton already has taken their money, and a lot of it -- which puts her in the awkward position of needing to seem like a reformer, without alienating the people she'd ostensibly be reforming.
Which brings us to the heart to of the issue.
Warren has yet to endorse a candidate. Financial reform is one of Warren's most important issues; and whoever she endorses will have to be seriously strong on Wall Street. Oh, and by the way, whoever she does endorse will quite probably seal up the nomination. For Clinton in particular, given progressives' skepticism about her ties to Wall Street, Warren's endorsement would be huge, and would also serve to deflate Sanders' campaign. For Sanders, it would hasten the tipping point moment he's likely already approaching.
There's still a lot that could happen, of course. But there's no mistaking how impactful Warren's support will be. With her remarks, Warren made it pretty clear that she's not buying Clinton's lukewarm financial-reform rhetoric, and that Clinton better shape up if she wants to have a hope of getting Warren's endorsement and the help of the powerful progressive movement Warren helped grow. Boom! The cannonball is, as it were, resoundingly in Clinton's court.
Of course, in reality it's hard to imagine Warren not endorsing Sanders. Their positions match up almost one for one. Just listen to Warren's list of progressive values at Netroots Nation '14; and compare that to Sanders' speech Friday at the Iowa Democratic party Hall of Fame Dinner, or in Madison, Wisconsin on July 1.
He and Warren are of one mind, and Warren has already spoken of Sanders in glowing terms: "I love what Bernie is talking about. I think all the presidential candidates should be out talking about the big issues." By contrast, progressives, and Warren chief among them, aren't sold on Clinton. Like a politician of the pre-internet age, Clinton knows how to say things that sound good. But she does not take the substantive positions she needs to, that modern information access requires. Sanders emphatically does. Here he is at length, from June 19 in Las Vegas:
Let me tell you, that when we use words like 'fraud', when we use words like 'irresponsibility', when we use terms like 'illegal activity', these are just other words for Wall Street. The greed, the insatiable greed on Wall Street, their recklessness, their irresponsible behavior, their illegal behavior, drove this country into the worst recession since the great depression. And let me tell you what very few other people will tell you. There are some candidates, and some folks who say, well, you know, we have to re-regulate Wall Street. The truth of the matter is that given the current politics of America, it is not Congress that regulates Wall Street, it is Wall Street that regulates Congress. If we are concerned about the power and destructive activities of Wall Street, the only solution is to break up these huge financial institutions. If a bank is too big to fail, that bank is too big to exist, we're gonna break 'em up.
If you watched the clip of Warren on Citigroup from the start of this article, that will all sound very familiar; and it makes it abundantly clear that she and Sanders are like two bank-busting peas in a financial reforming pod.
Clinton didn't show at this year's Netroots. Frankly, her campaign might not have survived the spectacle of her inevitable lukewarm reception. But her decision not to attend speaks volumes about what she knows about how progressives feel about her. She knows, and she is running scared.
Warren had said we needed to give Clinton a chance to prove herself, to demonstrate that she could be a progressive champion. Not so much, so far. And on Friday, Warren called Clinton out for falling short, and told her (and the rest of us) unequivocally that that chance is running out.
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