Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says she isn't running for president, but her rhetoric is still being heard on the campaign trail. On Monday, Hillary Clinton appeared at the Aspen Ideas Festival and channeled the Massachusetts populist.
Warren's basic message has two layers. The first is that the "system is rigged" against the middle class, a refrain that nearly made it into the title of her recent book before she went with the slightly more optimistic Fighting Chance. The system is controlled by and for the benefit of the elites, she argues, who write rules to tilt the game in their favor. That analysis flows from Warren's academic work, but it can be self-defeating when applied to the political realm -- accepting the argument's logic leads to the conclusion that engaging in the game at all is a waste of time. Indeed, millions of nonvoters do just that each election day, expressing a disdain with the system by not bothering to show up.
That leads to the second layer of Warren's analysis: that if the government can deliver for the people in a concrete way, the people will re-engage with a system they feel they have a stake in. Warren put the idea into practice. After ushering in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she won a Senate seat from grateful voters.
Clinton, interviewed by Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson, latched on to the rhetoric about the game being rigged, and also about the disengagement that comes when people recognize it as such.
"‘We have to do a better job of getting our economy growing again and producing results and renewing the American Dream so Americans feel they have a stake in the future, and that the economy and political system is not stacked against them," Clinton said at the event Monday. She added that Americans "feel like they’re falling behind, at best maybe they’re running in place, they don’t think the economy has recovered in a way that helps them or their families."
While Warren has neither embraced nor rejected the concept of a presidential bid, Clinton has been openly mulling what it would mean to run for president again as she promotes her new book, Hard Choices.
Clinton's discussion of income inequality comes amid a series of gaffes related to her and her husband's wealth, which triggered charges that she is out of touch with the struggles middle-class Americans face.
Watch a juxtaposition of Warren and Clinton above.
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