If only it were Elizabeth Warren on the brink of taking the White House. At a New Hampshire rally, tearing remorselessly into the misogyny of Donald Trump, Warren was a reminder of what could have been. The US presidential election has not, to say the least, showcased the best of the US: the country of the anti-slavery movement, the suffragettes, the labour movement and the civil rights movement. Instead, the racism and bigotry that infests significant swathes of the country has been distilled into human form and paraded for a global audience. Hillary Clinton is the only means to stop the victory of a candidate who could send the last remaining superpower hurtling into a political death spiral. But although the Bernie Sanders movement has shifted the Democratic party to the left, let’s not pretend a Clinton presidency would provide an alternative to a society rigged in favour of Wall Street and corporate America.
Warren, on the other hand, has been a determined champion of Main Street. She has passionately campaigned against Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which would grant corporations the ability to sue elected governments in secret courts to stop policies they don’t like. She is unlikely to be invited to give lucrative speeches to Wall Street firms: she has castigated the failure to prosecute bankers for the financial crisis, and has supported a campaign to “Take On Wall Street” with a raft of reforms. It took Warren’s campaigning zeal to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which provides some protection for consumers in the financial sector.
She’s a champion of workers’ rights, campaigning for those employed in the “gig” economy to get basic employment protections and social security. She has fought for a genuine living wage, arguing that the minimum wage would have risen to $22 an hour if it had increased at the same rate as productivity. She has demanded action to crack down on corporate tax avoidance, passionately making the case that “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.”
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She has courageously embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, demanding reform of the police to stop the unjust killing of black Americans. She has co-sponsored a bill to repeal the authorisation for the Iraq war – which Clinton, of course, voted for – and has demanded the return of US troops from Afghanistan. And she backed equal marriage for same-sex couples before Clinton belatedly converted to the cause.
Not that Warren is perfect: her sympathy for Israel’s military offensive in Gaza is, to say the least, a disappointment. But Warren is unapologetically in the tradition of courageous Americans who confront elites and stand up for the rights and freedoms of the average citizen. She has, naturally, been abused by the horror show that is Trump: because she claims Native American heritage, he calls her “Pocahontas”.
Despite the earlier hopes of many American progressives, it will not be Warren in the White House next year. But both Warren and Sanders have risen to prominence for a reason. Growing numbers of Americans are disenchanted with a society where so much wealth exists alongside so much insecurity. Trump – although sadly not Trumpism – will almost certainly be defeated at the polls by the decent American majority next month. But President Clinton may swiftly find herself under pressure from an emboldened progressive movement – one with very little patience.