What Should the Left Do About HRC?

Since each day lowers the already very poor odds a viable challenger like Elizabeth Warren is going to take on Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, there will be plenty more of the already abundant talk about how self-conscious progressives can “keep Hillary honest,” or in the words of Haley Sweetland Edwards’ new piece at TIME, “nudge Hillary Clinton to the left.”

Haley runs through the options, mostly involving (beyond praying for Warren to run after all) keeping certain ideas “out there” and promoting them in other venues like Congress. But I have a somewhat different suggestion: the Left should focus on promoting Hillary’s adoption of progressive ideas–and rejection of non-progressive ideas–she is likely to have the power to enact if she wins. That means a greater emphasis on, say, banking and environmental and labor regulations, and a more pacific foreign policy, and maybe less emphasis on Expanding Social Security or Single-Payer Health Care or other proposals that will require congressional action. Truth is, it’s very unlikely Democrats will come out of 2016 with anything like the kind of congressional majorities they won in 2008, and you saw how hard it was to get a lot done even then. Probably the best-case scenario for the Left is to hope Hillary outrages conservatives with her “imperial” executive actions as much as Obama does now.

Now I know, I know, some people believe that “moving the Overton window” of acceptable policy ideas is very important, and thus so too is promoting legislative concepts that have no immediate prayer of adoption. But as Michael Tomasky notes in an important piece on what he calls “lesser-evilism,” the top consideration for progressives really ought to be how a particular administration is going to affect the people who rely on the thousands of decisions made way down the food chain every day. In the meantime, the Left should also be building a “bench” so that in 2020 or 2024 they are not having this same discussion.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.