Moderate Democrats Push Back Against Warren's Claim That Progressives are 'Heart and Soul' of Party

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) / Getty Images
August 18, 2017

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) told activists at the liberal Netroots Nation conference last weekend that progressives are the "heart and soul" of the Democratic Party, but moderate Democrats are pushing back against Warren's claim.

Several Democratic strategists, donors, and political organizers from across the country criticized Warren for her claim about a liberal takeover and said that Democrats can't win in swing states with progressive candidates, according to The Hill:

The clash is further proof of the divide in the party after 2016’s disappointment. Even as they face a Republican Party torn over how to deal with President Trump, Democrats are still trying to figure out what kind of a party they are.

The Obama and Clinton supporters say they have grown tired of having to deal with fighting over progressivism and 1990s-era battles over former President Bill Clinton’s work on welfare and criminal justice reform, which were campaign issues last year and subjects of criticism by Warren just last week.

"We can't win the House back with progressives running in swing states," former Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D., Calif.) said.

Tauscher, the leader of the "Fight Back California" super PAC aimed at winning back seven House seats in California, said that welfare and criminal justice reform is a "tired, old debate."

"And it's certainly not going to help us win," she said. "Our party should be looking to expand the tent. If we divide ourselves, we're doing our opponents' jobs for them."

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D., Nev.) strategist Jim Manley said several progressive issues have become popular in the party, but he said that the party is in a rebuilding process.

"I don't think we as a party can be casting too many people aside," Manley said. "We need to figure out how to grow and bring everybody together. I realize that's happy talk but that's the reality. When you start talking about purity tests, that's a little problematic."

Following Warren's speech at Netroots, the New York Times published an article about Warren taking aim at moderates, which said that she "sent an unambiguous message that she believes the Clinton effort to push Democrats toward the political center should be relegated to history."

Warren's spokeswoman Kristen Orthman pushed back against this narrative by pointing to a part in Warren's speech where she talks about Democrats not "wast[ing] energy arguing about whose issue matters most or who in our alliance should be voted off the island," the Hill reported.

Democratic strategist Brad Bannon defended Warren's comments by saying that progressives "are the dominant voice in the party."

"She definitely will inherit the Sanders vote," Bannon said. "And I think a candidate who is willing to speak their mind and talk like Warren does have a better chance than a centrist who is calculating about everything he or she says. I don't think the electorate wants someone calculating … They had cool and calculating with Hillary Clinton."

A Gallup poll earlier this week shows that 6 in 10 liberal respondents have favorable views of Warren, but the poll also shows that Americans are split in their support for her. 34 percent of Americans view her positively compared to 31 percent who view her negatively.

Warren is fighting to preserve herself as the progressive voice for the Democratic Party in a potential 2020 presidential bid.

"She’s fighting not only for her own space but she’s fighting to win the argument, and I have no problem with that," Manley said. "That’s what this party is all about."