Well before the July 4 weekend, there were plenty of political fireworks on social media and in the mainstream press around Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, progressive darling.
To the dismay of many of her supporters, Elizabeth Warren had endorsed Hillary Clinton and campaigned aggressively with her on the stump in Ohio, the two of them dressed in blue and lashing out at Donald Trump. Warren was by far the more electrifying speaker, telling an enthusiastic crowd in the Cincinnati Museum Center that Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, would “crush you into the dirt to get whatever he wants.”
Some pundits believe Warren would be an ideal running mate for Clinton in her second bid to occupy the White House. They note she has a strong record of attacking the big banks and a crowd-pleasing oratorical style that could draw a big portion of the 23 million votes Bernie Sanders received in the Democratic primaries out to support Clinton in the general election.
But Sanders’ more committed supporters regard Warren as damaged goods, a sell-out to a hawkish candidate with serious Wall Street connections. They also note that the folksy Massachusetts lawmaker had sharply criticized former Secretary of State Clinton in her 2003 book, The Two Income Trap, and later on Bill Moyers’ show for first opposing and then voting for legislation as a New York senator that would have made it more difficult for debt ridden Americans to file for bankruptcy. (Warren has since defended her position.)
“I Iiked Elizabeth Warren until the time she started being so opportunistic,” said Ted Zatlyn, a Sanders supporter and former managing editor for the Los Angeles Free Press, a now-defunct granddaddy of alt weeklies in California. He described Elizabeth Warren as a politician “in the negative sense.”
“What’s so odd is that she has been decrying the money system and yet she’s now supporting the candidate who’s hip deep in campaign funds from Wall Street,” he said. “So I’m disgusted with Elizabeth, to tell you the truth.”
At the same time, Zatlyn believes that Warren is the “obvious choice” for the Democratic ticket. “I hate to make predictions, but she’s the only one who can get Bernie’s followers. When she spoke as a warm up for Hillary [in Ohio], she gave a speech that brought the house down.”
Yale-educated attorney Laura Wilson, a partner in a Lyndonville, Vermont law firm, was once an ardent fan of Elizabeth Warren. No longer. She too says Warren “sold out” and wrecked her credibility as a progressive by endorsing Clinton before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and by “hanging Bernie out to dry.”
Her main gripe is that Warren, long regarded as an ally of the democratic socialist from Vermont, stayed neutral during the primaries. She didn’t endorse Sanders “when her endorsement could have made a difference in Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, California. It could have turned things around in New York” and other states, Wilson said.
Wilson, who doesn’t believe Warren will wind up as Clinton’s running mate, says that the former First Lady could face difficulties getting entrenched Sanders supporters to vote for her in the general election.
“Roughly 25 percent of them in the last polls I read said they will not vote for Hillary Clinton,” Wilson said. “When you put that together with the independents, she’ll have a problem for the general election. Bernie wins more independents than Hillary.”
A June 14 Bloomberg poll of likely general election voters found that 55 percent of Sanders supporters plan to vote for Clinton, 22 percent plan to vote for Donald Trump, and 18 percent plan to vote for Gary Johnson. A three-day CNN poll completed on June 19 found that 74 percent of Sanders supporters would vote for Clinton over Trump in November, given a choice between the two.
For their part, many Clinton supporters consider the die-hard Sanders partisans to be naïve and purer-than-thou in their attacks on the presumptive Democratic nominee and their more recent ones against Elizabeth Warren.
“For the past year, folks have been telling me that Liz Warren is the greatest human being to ever walk the face of the earth (I don’t disagree),” wrote music historian Pat Thomas, author of the 2012 book, Listen, Whitey: The Sound of Black Power, in a Facebook post on July 5. “Yet these same folks are now telling me she’s a horrible bitch.”
“Did it ever occur to you Facebook-trained political scientists that Liz can do more for you ‘working with Hillary’ than battling her?”
Most of Thomas’ Facebook friends seemed to agree. “What people don’t understand is that the Clintons (yes both), are malleable, follow the polls intensely, and can be pushed in the right direction, even though they have a very shaky moral compass of their own,” opined one. “Having fiery Warren on the inside can only help.”
Another commenter noted: “I can’t wait for the cries of SELLOUT!! once Bernie finally and unambiguously endorses Hillary.”
(That could happen sooner than later now that Sanders and Clinton are conferring about hosting a joint event in New Hampshire next week.)
As for Elizabeth Warren becoming a vice presidential candidate, Thomas told The National Memo Wednesday that it would be “foolish” for her to become Hillary’s running mate because “a vice president has no real clout. She can do more good working with Hillary” in the Senate. He adds: “But I think it’s naïve for people to think that she can remain fiercely independent and battle everyone with her saber sword and remain in Washington, D.C. Everyone has their price. There are so many compromises they have to make.”
Asked who purists on the left might accept as Clinton’s running mate, Ted Zatlyn (who intends to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein for president), said he could think of only one national figure with enough integrity to fill that bill.
“But he’s dead,” he said of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, a leading progressive Democrat who was killed in a plane crash in 2002.
Photo: Elizabeth Warren, candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, addresses the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo