Democrats Really Want You to Know They Know Elizabeth Warren

By
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, from left, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, hold a news conference following a private meeting at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014.
Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In December, Hillary Clinton finally did something her party had been waiting for her to do for ages. 

No, you didn’t miss her presidential announcement. Clinton sat down to talk with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a minor religious deity whose public appearances give you a hint of what college would have been like if Beyoncé had been your history professor. 

Lots of Democrats would like Warren to run against Clinton, but at the moment it doesn’t seem likely. Instead, the New York Times reports, the meeting was likely prompted by Clinton’s need to shore up her credentials on pet Warren issues like income inequality and the fact that her friendship with Elizabeth Warren was nonexistent. 

She isn’t alone in worrying.

Although not approved by the FDA, liberally applying Elizabeth Warren to any media appearance or drop in the polls is a widely circulated remedy for any Democrat suffering from injuries in her left flank.

Clinton had mentioned Warren before their meeting, saying she loves “watching Elizabeth give it to those who deserve to get it.” Senator Bernie Sanders “knew Elizabeth Warren before she was Elizabeth Warren.” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois thinks “she is the best.” Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have both called her a friend. Harry Reid gave her a new special job in the Senate late last year, working as a policy adviser who will voice progressive concerns. When asked what she was expected to do in her new role, he replied, “I expect her to be Elizabeth Warren.” 

Reid’s move shows that Democrats are willing to entertain the idea that listening to Warren — or at least making an appearance of it — might be a better way of appealing to progressives than simply invoking her name. 

Clinton’s meeting — and the fact that it didn’t become public knowledge until two months later — suggests that she has come to a similar conclusion. Listening to Elizabeth Warren’s economic ideas is the new invoking Elizabeth Warren, even if you don’t plan to join the bandwagon (or realize that the current ideological makeup of Congress leaves mentioning and listening as the only tools at your disposal).

And as Clinton learned in her last foray into presidential politics, if you don’t have the luxury of being the new, shiny voice of the Democratic Party, you have to at least not underestimate or misunderstand the attraction.