Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Peter D. Rosenstein Headshot

Would an Elizabeth Warren Primary Challenge to Hillary Clinton Be Good for Democrats?

Posted: Updated:

There is chatter from both the old anti-Hillary wing within the Democratic Party, and even some who support her, about why there shouldn't be a coronation of her as the Democratic candidate if she decides to run. In the United States we don't do coronations. But one has to question what the term means in this case.

In The Hill column Left wants challenger for Hillary, Roger Hickey, Co-director of the Campaign for America's Future said, "I do think the country would be well served if we had somebody who would force a real debate about the policies of the Democratic Party and force the Party to debate positions and avoid a coronation." Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America, a liberal grassroots advocacy group, said, "The Democratic Party would benefit from a competitive presidential primary in 2016."

Many Democrats across the spectrum have real concerns about what would be accomplished by insisting Democrats go through a bruising primary. Why compete for attention with the entertaining yet very scary show that promises to be the Republican primary debates? Why insist on looking for an issue that can split the Democratic Party?

Hillary is a progressive candidate but more moderate in her views than some ultra-progressive Democrats. Some think having Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who could raise millions, run against Hillary in the primary would be exciting. But they need to ask themselves whether it would just be exciting theater or actually make the Party stronger in the election. Would a possible Warren win of some primaries in the Northeast make the Party more of less likely to win the Presidency? I am a great fan of Elizabeth Warren but don't see how a primary campaign by her benefits the Party in the general election. I want to see a Democrat win in 2016 and in Hillary Rodham Clinton we have possibly the best prepared person to ever run for President.

That shouldn't stop democrats from debating the issues that Warren and her supporters believe in. Those issues include enacting a new Glass-Steagall Act and discussing the impact on the economy of Bill Clinton's signing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which repealed parts of Glass-Steagall which had separated commercial and investment banks. In the same column The Hill reported that "Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) suggested debates on inequality in wealth and trade policy; protecting the safety net; and moving forward on global warming". These issues also deserve discussion and debate. But we can have those debates which can get acrimonious outside the Democratic presidential primary stage. It would seem to me the only people that would gain from those debates becoming acrimonious in the Democratic primaries in 2016 would be Republicans. I want a progressive Democratic Party platform in 2016 and believe that can be achieved without an all-out antagonistic primary.

Republican primary voters tilt more and more to the far-right wing of their Party and force their candidates there; Democratic primary voters have the propensity to tilt more and more to the left forcing our candidates there. Then surviving candidates run to the center, or at least try to, in the general election. Romney tried but thankfully couldn't in 2012. Why would we intentionally put a Democratic candidate in that position if we don't have too?

There will be primaries and caucuses to select the Democratic nominee for 2016. But the major candidates that are in those primaries won't necessarily be looking to defeat or weaken Hillary Clinton if she decides to enter but rather to make strong showings for themselves. The names mentioned thus far aside from Warren include; Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. Clearly none of them appear to have the potential to beat Hillary but they could in debates show the depth and diversity of ideas in the Democratic Party. It will be important for Hillary to debate and run a full-out campaign so there won't be a coronation. But maybe we can avoid a bloodletting and by doing that avoid weakening the Party's eventual candidate.

No one else in the Democratic Party today can so effectively put together the broad coalition that elected Barack Obama and then add to that likely wins in states like West Virginia and Arkansas. Women, African Americans, Hispanics, and the young will all coalesce around Hillary if she is the candidate. Let's not intentionally do anything to make that harder. Should Hillary decide to run she will have what some jokingly refer to as apron strings and we can realistically foresee Democrats winning the Senate and the House if she is at the top of the ticket in 2016.