Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are increasingly seen as leaders of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, largely as a result of being the most talked-about alternatives among progressives to Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
Progressives who are most enthusiastic about Warren and Sanders tend to be those most engaged on the issues of challenging Wall Street and corporate power and making the economy work for the majority of working families. It’s obvious why those issues are at the top of the marquee as people fight about 2016.
But if you’re going to be an alternative to Hillary, you have to be an alternative to Hillary all the way around, not just on corporate power and the economy. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you have to have the most progressive position on any issue that anyone can imagine – that’s obviously not how it goes. But if most Democrats have a progressive position on an issue, you should not be far away from majority Democratic opinion.
Here is a low bar test: if Obama is more progressive than you are on a key issue, you are not providing an alternative to Hillary. If President Obama is staking out a progressive position on an issue, and a bunch of Republicans are attacking him, and a bunch of Senate Democrats are defending the President, but you are not among them, then you are not providing an alternative to Hillary.
Unfortunately, that’s where we are right now with respect to Warren and Sanders and the issue of diplomacy with Iran.
I regret calling “diplomacy with Iran” a “progressive position,” as I would regret calling closing the gun show loophole or ensuring universal access to reproductive health services a “progressive position.” On the merits, the notion that there is some feasible alternative to diplomacy for dealing with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program deserves no more intellectual respect than the notion that Bush blew up the World Trade Center or that Obama was born in Kenya. But in the world that we know, sometimes we have to fight tooth and nail to defend the obvious.
Unfortunately, the opponents of diplomacy and the advocates of useless confrontation are again scaremongering, pretending to believe that the extension of the talks with Iran and the interim agreement is a catastrophe, pretending to believe that if the US pursues Nixon’s “mad dog” theory, the Iranian government will sign a surrender agreement that even the most pro-Western reformists in Iran wouldn’t support.
Fortunately, a bunch of Senate Democrats are standing up against this nonsense, defending the extension of talks and the interim agreement, including Senators Feinstein, Boxer, Baldwin, Murphy, Levin, Johnson, Schatz, Kaine and Casey.
But curiously, Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders are not yet counted among the Senate Democrats now standing up for diplomacy.
If you think that’s not how it should be, you can tell Senator Warren and Senator Sanders that here.