“Four years is a long time from now,” he said. “We'll take one thing at a time, but I’m not ruling out anything.”
At pretty much the exact same time that the AP article was published, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was across town giving a fiery postmortem election speech to labor leaders.
Warren gave Trump credit for resonating with working-class families “deeply frustrated about an economy and a government that doesn’t work for them.” And she added: “The truth is that people are right to be angry. ... He spoke to the very real sense of millions of Americans that their government and their economy has abandoned them.” (The implication being that Democrats didn’t successfully do that.)
It’s not a coincidence that Sanders and Warren reactivated their populist megaphones on the same day that America’s new president-elect toured Washington.
Democrats are a body without a head right now. Sanders and Warren are two of Democrats’ most high-profile figures left standing, and they know it. There’s never been a better moment for either of them to try to fill the political vacuum with their left-wing, populist, ideological message.
“People are angry, they have a right to be angry,” Sanders told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. “But we have to channel that anger against the people who caused the decline of the middle class, and so many people living in poverty, not take it out on our neighbors who happen to be Muslim or Latino or women.”
Both Sanders and Warren proved during the campaign that when they flex their political muscle, the party listens. They each succeeded in their own way of pushing Hillary Clinton to the left — Sanders by running against her, Warren by not endorsing her during the primary season.
And so the Democratic platform in 2016 was the most liberal in years. But from Sanders and Warren’s perspective, that wasn’t the reason the party fell short — the problem was, it didn’t move even further to the left. And both of them have prescriptions for how to make that happen.
(Apparently, so does former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean, who’s thrown his hat in for chair of the Democratic Party.)
The dems need organization and focus on the young. Need a fifty State strategy and tech rehab. I am in for chairman again.— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) November 10, 2016
It’s also not a coincidence that both Warren’s and Sanders’s postelection analysis focused heavily on the white working class, a segment of America that a growing number of Democrats think abandoned them. Exit polls suggest they might be right. The Fix’s Philip Bump points out that Trump got more support from white men without a college degree than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
And the leaders of the labor movement whom Warren spoke to? Bump found that union households went for Trump in numbers not seen since the Reagan era.
“There are many millions of people who did not vote for Donald Trump because of the bigotry and hate that fueled his campaign rallies,” Warren told the executive council of the AFL-CIO. “They voted for him despite the hate. They voted for him out of frustration and anger and also out of hope that he would bring change.”
Their case having been made about where the party went wrong, both Warren and Sanders have moved to set themselves up as chief antagonist to Trump. (A position that would also serve as a prime 2020 launchpad.)
Warren promised in her speech to fight “bigotry. ... In all its forms, we will fight back against attacks on Latinos, African Americans, women, Muslims, immigrants, disabled Americans — on anyone.”
Sanders tweeted this:
If Donald Trump takes people's anger and turns it against Muslims, Hispanics, African Americans and women, we will be his worst nightmare.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 10, 2016
When you boil it down, Sanders and Warren are really saying the same thing: Democrats lost because they failed to communicate a populist message that resonated with the white working class.
The only question is who gets to spend the next four years as the loudest voice.