Elizabeth Warren takes aim at moderates and generates chants of ‘Warren 2020’

Photo Credit: Erin Schaff / DNCC / MGN
Photo Credit: Erin Schaff / DNCC / MGN(KALB)
Published: Aug. 13, 2017 at 5:50 AM EDT
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Senator Elizabeth Warren used a speech to a grass-roots conference Saturday to take direct aim at Democrats’ diminished moderate wing, ridiculing Clinton-era policies and jubilantly proclaiming that liberals had taken control of the party.

While not invoking former President Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton by name, Ms. Warren sent an unambiguous message that she believes the Clinton effort to push Democrats toward the political center should be relegated to history.

“The Democratic Party isn’t going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill,” she said, highlighting measures Mr. Clinton signed into law as president that are reviled by much of the left. “It is not going to happen.”

Yet Ms. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is widely thought to be considering running for president in 2020, noted to about 1,000 activists here for the yearly Netroots Nation meeting that they hardly needed to worry about the party shifting to the middle as it did in the 1990s. Liberals, she said, have taken charge.

“We are not the gate-crashers of today’s Democratic Party,” Ms. Warren said, invoking a term first used to describe the liberal blogosphere that emerged a decade ago. “We are not a wing of today’s Democratic Party. We are the heart and soul of today’s Democratic Party.”

Despite Ms. Warren’s words, deep divisions remain in the Democratic Party in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign. There is the familiar center-versus-liberal divide as well as an increasingly animated clash between economic-focused activists on the far left and liberals driven more by issues of race, gender and identity.

While Ms. Warren first rose to stardom on the left because of her populist jeremiads against concentrated economic power, she sought to use her remarks in Atlanta to broaden her indictment against what she calls “a rigged system.” Expanding her signature attacks on Wall Street and its political influence, she said that women, African-Americans, undocumented immigrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were all suffering from fundamental inequities.

Ms. Warren lampooned a recent New York Times opinion article, “Back to the Center, Democrats,” by the onetime Clinton strategist Mark Penn and the former New York City Council president Andrew Stein. “The path forward is to go back to locking up nonviolent drug offenders and ripping more holes in our economic safety net,” she said of their argument.

Still, Ms. Warren implored the crowd not to push others out of the movement.

“If we’re going to be the people who lead the Democratic Party back from the wilderness and lead our country out of this dark time, then we can’t waste energy arguing about whose issue matters more or who in our alliance should be voted off the island,” she said, drawing applause.

The annual Netroots gathering began in 2006 when it was called “YearlyKos” and sponsored by the Daily Kos blog. But it has grown in scale, mirroring the rise of liberals in the party.

The conference has also become a proving ground for would-be Democratic presidential candidates. Ms. Warren did little to dissuade a friendly crowd from thinking she, too, was eyeing a White House run.

Recalling the moment earlier this year when Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, rebuked her for not following Senate rules — and said, “nevertheless she persisted” — Ms. Warren repeated the line that has become a rallying cry for her. When she vowed to the crowd in Atlanta that she “would persist,” chants of “Warren 2020” rose u