If you want to understand the state of Democratic Party factional politics — or, rather, the lack thereof — in 2014, you could do worse than to look at Elizabeth Warren's 11 commandments for progressives as reported by Emma Roller from the Netroots Nation conference:
- "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we're willing to fight for it."
- "We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth."
- "We believe that the Internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality."
- "We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage."
- "We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them."
- "We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt."
- "We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions."
- "We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work."
- "We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America."
- "We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform."
- "And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!"
As I've said before, the striking thing about this progressive factional agenda is there's really nothing on it that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would disagree with. It is true that if you read this list with your progressive populist decoder ring on, you will know that items (1) and (7) are sort of intended as shots at the White House. But while Warren certainly could have bored down into those issues to make commitments that Obama and Clinton won't match, she didn't in this statement of principles.
She also didn't pick at a number of other possible scabs. State and local Democrats fight quite a bit about K-12 education policy — testing, teacher pay, charter schools, and all that.
National Democrats can typically avoid open warfare over these issues because the federal government doesn't do much K-12 policy, and here's Warren avoiding them. By the same token, Warren doesn't pick up the left-wing banner on NSA surveillance or drone strikes or aid to Israel or any of the other national security issues where liberal intellectuals often differ from mainstream Democratic Party politicians. Nor does Warren attempt to put new issues like patent reform or copyrights on the table.
Not that there's anything wrong with any of that. The point is simply that taking a moment to explicitly write down a progressive catechism at an activist gathering, Warren chose to restate the Democratic Party consensus rather than challenge it. It's a very unified party that's going to run on this agenda whether the nominee is Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren or Martin O'Malley or Deval Patrick or anyone else you like.