A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Will 2016 Democratic primary be a two-woman race?

Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Jan. 8, 9 or 10

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) this week delivered the keynote address at the AFL-CIO's Wage Summit in Washington, D.C., where the labor federation is seeking to create a strategy to campaign for an economy that works for workers.

“Warren is a true champion of working people with the right vision and leadership,” AFL-CIO President Trumka said. She “knows how to protect Main Street from Wall Street, fight for jobs and rebuild the American Dream.”

The AFL-CIO also says it plans to recruit and endorse a pro-worker presidential hopeful before the 2016 campaign for president starts, and an increasing number of people think Warren fits the bill.

She recently asked Congress, “Are you there for the folks who are out there trying to work for a living, or are you just there for the millionaires and billionaires?” That echoes the old union saying, “Which side are you on?”

Many pundits say Hillary Clinton is unbeatable, but Democrats seem to be in an internal struggle between “neoliberals” chummy with Wall Street and progressive populists.

Warren, 65, who defeated incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) two years ago, says she’s not running for president. But support for her is growing. Many former Obama campaign volunteers are encouraging Warren to run, web sites and Facebook pages such as are active, and last month, more than 100 supporters gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, where the nation’s first presidential caucus will occur, to urge her candidacy.

True, Clinton can boast of being Secretary of State, a U.S. Senator, First Lady while husband Bill was president from 1993-2001, and a successful Arkansas attorney and businesswoman. But there are key differences between Clinton and Warren.

* “Hillary Clinton represents the old politics of the status quo and accommodation to Wall Street's power,” said writer Miles Mogulescu of Huffington Post.

* “Elizabeth Warren represents a new politics in which, by challenging the power of the oligarchy, she has the potential of reclaiming the white working class for Democrats and uniting them with the coalition of professionals, single women, gays and minorities,” Mogulescu added.

* Clinton was in the middle of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during her husband's presidency and backed deals with Oman, Chile and Singapore while a Senator. As Secretary of State, she was an advocate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated with 11 Pacific nations.

In contrast, Warren last month warned that TPP could empower foreign corporations to challenge U.S. laws.

* In her 2003 book “The Two Income Trap,” Warren blasted Clinton for reversing her position as First Lady by voting as a New York Senator in 2001 for a bankruptcy bill, said David Sirota in International Business Times: “That legislation makes it more difficult for credit card customers to renegotiate their debts, even as it allows the wealthy to protect their second homes, yachts and investment properties from creditors.”

Apart from different domestic priorities, Clinton’s foreign-policy approach could be described as bullets, bombs and boots on the ground. For example, her book “Hard Choices” concedes her connection to the 2009 military coup in Honduras that toppled democratically elected president Mel Zelaya. And she’s been shown to have pushed controversial fracking projects in Eastern Europe, specifically Bulgaria and Romania.

Bill Edley, a former Illinois State Representative active in Democratic Party politics for 25 years, helping the campaigns of Paul Simon, Bill Bradley and Howard Dean, said, “I don’t think anyone but Wall Street can count on Clinton’s character. Labor has received verbal commitments before from the Clintons on key legislation. It hasn’t worked.”

A former stockbroker who graduated from the London School of Economics, Edley added, “Organized labor is the best champion in this struggle – to ensure government is there for working Americans. Labor has tried the ‘go along to get along’ approach for 30 years and got taken down the primrose path to the poor house. It’s time for a more pro-active approach.”

Warren may be a long shot, but she has something to offer, and she’s recognized as a formidable challenger by conservatives, too.

“Even for those of us who disagree with Warren fundamentally, it seems clear that she does have a significant and growing chance of being nominated,” said conservative columnist David Brooks in the New York Times. “The crucial distinction Warren makes is this one: It’s not just social conditions like globalization and technological change that threaten the middle class. It’s an active conspiracy by the rich and powerful. The game is rigged.”

[PICTURED: Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton testifying together on Capitol Hill. AP photo by Scott Applewhite, from Huffington Post.]

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