Why Hillary Can’t Count on Progressives in 2016
Policy + Politics

Why Hillary Can’t Count on Progressives in 2016

On the heels of the announcement by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that he might challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign, a new report indicates surprisingly widespread dissatisfaction with Clinton among progressive or more liberal Democrats.

Sanders, a socialist and leading liberal said last weekend he’s thinking about running for president in 2016 as a Democrat or an Independent in a move that could greatly complicate or even threaten a second Clinton bid for the White House.  

Related: Bernie Sanders Could Undercut Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Run   

“The issue is not Hillary. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for many years,” Sanders said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton. The question is: At a time when so many people have seen a decline in their standard of living, when the wealthiest people and largest corporations are doing phenomenally well, the American people want change.” 

Nearly 1,500 activists, strategists, and journalists who work for The Nation and the Huffington Post participated in a progressive members-only Google forum called the “Gamechanger Salon” over the past year, according to The Hill. There was “significant dissatisfaction” with Clinton, a former New York senator and the presumed Democratic presidential frontrunner.

The newspaper said it reviewed hundreds of emails from prominent Democrats, Sierra Club officials, union officials, operatives for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, journalists from the two left-leaning publications, and the president of NARAL. Many complained that Clinton is “too much of a hawk, too cozy with Wall Street, hasn’t spoken out enough on climate change, and will be subject to personal questions and criticisms,” according to The Hill.

The emails span June 2013 and July of this year – a time when Clinton began to position herself for a possible second bid for president and pollsters and the media dubbed her the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination.  

Related: Hillary Clinton’s Steady March to a 2016 Nomination  

Neil Sroka, spokesman for Democracy for America and a member of the private online forum, told The Fiscal Times Thursday there is a “growing concern” among progressives about where Clinton stands on issues related to income inequality in the country.

“Frankly there are concerns she’s had no problem delivering speeches to Wall Street firms since she left the State Department, but didn’t decide to join progressives when they met in Detroit for the Netroots Nation conference this summer,” he said, referring to the progressive group founded in 2006. ”That is really concerning, when you’re meeting with one group of folks and not meeting with the grassroots base of the Democratic Party.”

A problem for Clinton in terms of the far left is her Senate vote in support of the Iraq War in 2002. That hurt her during her battle with President Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign and she recently conceded her vote was a mistake.

Charles Lenchner, a progressive operative and executive director of Organizing 2.0, told The Hill that anyone else who voted for the Iraq War is “tainted.” He added, “Personally, I would like to see a Democratic Party where folks who enabled George Bush to drag the country into a permanent war are punished at the ballot box.”

Related: Just How Rich Is Hillary Clinton?

Many progressives hope Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will change her mind and jump into the presidential race. The consumer advocate and former Harvard Law School professor has said repeatedly she has no interest in challenging Clinton. That leaves Sanders now as arguably the strongest voice for Democrats on the far left.

Sroka described Sanders’s possible entrance into the presidential campaign as “really interesting.” But regardless of whether he, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland or others jump in, Sroka said “the question of whether candidates are going to stand with the emergent and increasingly powerful Warren wing of the party is the essential one.”

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