Mutual contempt: Why MoveOn's bid to get Elizabeth Warren to challenge Hillary is far from surprising

The progressive group isn't Ready for Hillary. The former secretary of state probably won't be shedding any tears

Published December 9, 2014 2:23PM (EST)

Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren                 (Reuters/Carlo Allegri/Michael Dwyer)
Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren (Reuters/Carlo Allegri/Michael Dwyer)

The progressive group is poised to launch a $1 million campaign to draft Elizabeth Warren into the 2016 presidential race, the latest sign that many liberal activists view the prospect of a Clinton restoration warily.

Pending a vote by its 8 million members, MoveOn will open offices in the early voting Iowa and New Hampshire, air pro-Warren television ads, and unveil a website, "Run Warren Warren," where visitors will be able to sign a petition urging the Massachusetts senator to enter the 2016 contest, the New York Times' Jonathan Martin reports. Meanwhile, Warren's camp continues to insist that she "isn't running for president" -- language that has failed to deter pro-Warren forces, who note that the senator and her aides have spoken only in the present tense when referring to a presidential campaign.

While MoveOn's executive director, Ilya Sheyman, told Martin that the group's draft-Warren effort isn't about "any other candidate," its desire for a progressive challenge to Hillary Clinton, who's widely expected to mount a second White House bid, is the latest salvo in an ongoing war between the organization and Clinton's orbit.

Ironically, MoveOn began during the 1998 impeachment fight against Bill Clinton. The group urged lawmakers not to impeach the president over the Monica Lewinsky affair, arguing instead that they should censure the president and "move on," hence the organization's name. But the group's anti-war and economically populist stances have fostered tensions with the hawkish, corporate-friendly wing of the Democratic Party represented most prominently by the Clintons.

Still, Hillary Clinton wooed MoveOn during her ultimately unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination. "You've been asking the tough questions," Clinton said at a MoveOn town hall in April 2007. "You've been refusing to back down when any of us who are in political leadership are not living up to the standards that we should set for ourselves... I think you have helped to change the face of American politics for the better... both online, and in the corridors of power."

But MoveOn opted instead to endorse then-Sen. Barack Obama, who assailed Clinton for her vote to authorize the Iraq War and for her close ties to Washington lobbyists, a message that appealed to progressive activists like those who have long powered MoveOn. Once Obama won the group's support, Clinton railed against MoveOn at a private fundraiser, audio of which was obtained by the Huffington Post.

" endorsed [Obama] -- which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down," Clinton said. "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with."

"And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me," Clinton added.

Six years later, progressive unease over Clinton's foreign policy positions and close Wall Street ties hasn't abated. Whether Warren heeds MoveOn's call to run or not, it's a safe bet that the group will continue to give voice to those frustrations if Clinton enters the race.

By Luke Brinker

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