As a supporter of Hillary Clinton for president if she runs, I don’t mind the efforts of some Democrats to urge Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to change her mind and run for president. I admire Warren, especially her recent effort to strip the “cromnibus” budget bill of a rollback of Dodd-Frank. On the other hand, she is now being described in the Senate by some Republicans as the “Ted Cruz of the Democratic Party.” A major progressive Democratic House member who supported Barack Obama in 2008 expressed the same concern over the weekend on a liberal-oriented cable network. Unfair, and not good.
The fact is, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and most Democrats are more united on the basic issues than I can recall in a long time. They have all focused on the plight of the squeezed middle class and working families stuck in wage stagnation, their children burdened by substantial student loan debts while the income disparity between the super wealthy and the rest of America grows every year with no end in sight.
Unfortunately, many in the media seem bent on creating bogus substantial differences among them, using empty labels as pejoratives, devoid of facts. For example, a recent Bloomberg news article recently reported that pro-Warren Democrats are concerned about Clinton’s “pro-business economic policies and a roster of Wall Street donors.” But what facts support these labels?
Like Warren, Clinton supported the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As a U.S. senator, Clinton opposed extending tax cuts to those earning over $250,000 a year. She supports Obamacare, increasing the minimum wage and the president’s strict regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the planetary threat of global warming. “Pro-business economic policies”?
Of course, in her two successful campaigns for the U.S. Senate from New York, and in her 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton accepted donations from those who work on Wall Street. So did President Obama in 2008 as well as 2012. But what policies did either support, influenced by such donations? None are cited — none exist.
On foreign policy, former Secretary of State Clinton supported the moderate opposition to the brutal Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad – the current policy of Obama. She supported Obama’s policies backing the use of NATO air power (including French and British planes as well as U.S.) to assist the popular revolt against Libya’s military dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. She supports Obama’s limits on U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Does that justify the label of “hawkish” for her and Obama? Really?
Of course, there are differences in style and approach. Like President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton believes in a lean and efficient government as a partner of the job creation engine of the private sector. And she has demonstrated over the years an ability to work with Republicans to get things done. Howard Dean recently endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. He wrote in Politico Magazine:
Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified person in the United States to serve as President. … [S]he has a record in the Senate of successfully working with both sides of our very combative political spectrum in order to accomplish goals that improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
Warren has repeatedly stated that she is not running for president in 2016. Perhaps that is because she sees no substantial policy differences that would motivate her to change her mind if fellow progressive Democrat Hillary Clinton becomes a candidate. And the senator understands that Clinton is now in the strongest position to become the nation’s first woman president, leading every possible Republican presidential candidate in the polls, as well as on the four personal qualities that Americans most value in a president.
But if for some reason Warren changes her mind and decides to run, vigorous competition and debates among fellow progressives on the best ideas to achieve similar goals will end up strengthening the ultimate Democratic Party nominee — just as was the case for Barack Obama in 2008.
That is why Democrats must resist the media’s apparently unavoidable temptation to create excitement and — may I suggest it? — high ratings and lots of column inches by depicting bogus divisions among Democratic candidates. Supporters of the various candidates need to stick to the facts about their favored candidate and avoid empty, inaccurate labels in describing other Democratic candidates — and insist that the media and the pundits do the same.
Lanny Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton and is principal in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, and is Executive Vice President of the strategic communications firm, LEVICK. He is the author of a recently published book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life (Threshold Editions/Simon and Schuster).