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The Democrats’ Goldwater

Elizabeth Warren leads the party’s leftward march.

Aug 18, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 46 • By FRED BARNES
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For Sosnik, the change from his years in the Clinton White House must be vivid. Conservative scholar Steven Hayward says the “most notable shift is that Democrats have shed the relative moderation of the Clinton years on social and economic policy in favor of the old-school, punitive redistributionism of Elizabeth Warren.” Indeed, “Bill and Hillary Clinton’s support for traditional marriage,” Hayward says, “is being airbrushed out of party history as effectively as a disgraced Soviet Politburo member.”

Warren isn’t charismatic or an eloquent speaker, but she arouses liberals in a way Obama hasn’t since his 2008 campaign. She’s also a problem for Democrats. She’s forgotten what happened the last time Democrats tilted sharply to the left (pre-Obama). It was in the 1970s, and the backlash led to the presidencies of Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43. And Obama was elected while posing as a bipartisan unifier.

Sosnik pointed out the liberal trend among Democrats has been accompanied in public opinion by something very un-liberal—“a desire for less government, not more.” Thus Democratic activists must reconcile public support for smaller government “with their own progressive impulses,” he wrote.

That won’t be easy if Warren has her way. She’s not a reconciler. Her most famous remark is that America’s economic system is “rigged” in favor of the high and mighty. And who else is there to uproot the system but the federal government? The 11 principles of progressivism she laid down at the Netroots Nation convention amount to an invitation for Washington to intervene. If such a thing as a small government liberal exists, she’s not one.

Warren’s progressive tenets include these: “Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement .  .  . the Internet shouldn’t be rigged to benefit big corporations and that means real net neutrality .  .  . fast-food workers deserve a livable wage .  .  . students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt .  .  . equal means equal and that’s true in marriage, it’s true in the workplace, it’s true in all of America .  .  . immigration has made this country strong and vibrant and that means reform .  .  . corporations are not people.” These sound nice, but they all require bigger, more intrusive, and more powerful government.

In her mind, this package of liberal ideas is more than a political agenda. “This is 21st-century democracy,” she said. “This is the future of America.” I’d put it differently. Warrenism is the future of liberalism. 

Fred Barnes is an executive editor at The Weekly Standard.

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