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Democrats Need Permission To Spank Hillary Clinton Over Emails

Elizabeth Warren, here’s your moment to shine.


Regardless of her motives, Hillary Clinton’s use of a “homebrew” email system is deeply troublesome for a couple of reasons.

For one, any home-operated server would presumably not be up to the exacting security standards of the U.S. government, leaving her vulnerable to the whims of hackers of varying levels of capability. Equally troubling is the “transparency” issue: a homebrew system would give a public figure total control over disclosures, which is a complete violation of records retention laws and regulations. Even if Clinton discloses everything, we can never be sure that it was really everything.

Yet Clinton still has her defenders:

This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen:

— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) March 11, 2015

Creating Permission Structures

Obviously, an “Ed Show” text poll is not “scientific,” but it is fair to say that Clinton hasn’t lost her base—yet. It is almost as if the base needs “permission” to rebuke Clinton. President Obama discussed this idea back in 2013, talking about Republicans trying to reach a deal:

… there are common-sense solutions to our problems right now. I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions. I can urge them to. I can put pressure on them, I can, you know, rally the American people around those — you know, those common-sense solutions, but ultimately they themselves are going to have to say, we want to do the right thing.

And I think there are members certainly in the Senate right now and, I suspect, members in the House as well who understand that deep down, but they’re worried about their politics. It’s tough. Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They’re worried about primaries. And I understand all that. And we’re going to try to do everything we can to create a permission structure [emphasis added] for them to be able to do what’s going to be best for the country. But it’s going to take some time.

Obama’s theory is that Republican voters hate him so much they need special “permission” to support a policy Obama supports, even if the policy is in their interests. I reject that explanation of why Republicans have been so intransigent under Obama—I think it comes down to genuine disagreements and the president’s inability to propose policies that Republicans can actually defend to their voters. But the idea that people sometimes need “permission” to support something that their ideological opponents support strikes me as valid.

Using the logic of Obama, then, most liberal voters need a “permission structure” to rebuke Clinton. They’re not going to get it from the scattered critics from the mainstream media or interest groups that are expressing displeasure. They’re certainly not going to get it from Republicans.

Elizabeth Warren Could Do It

They could get it, though, from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Warren is currently the only Democrat with the juice and clout on the party’s Left to challenge Clinton. Even if we accept that Warren really does not want to be president, she should be troubled by the Clinton coronation, considering the Clintons’ deep ties to major corporations and financial institutions. The e-mail scandal is a great opening for Warren. She could release a statement, something like:

I was deeply troubled by recent revelations of former Secretary of State Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while serving as Secretary. Ms. Clinton—who is a trailblazer and hero to women everywhere—should immediately turn the e-mail server over to a special bipartisan Congressional committee, so that malicious intent can be disproved. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike should demand impeccable ethical conduct from our public representatives; only public-spirited people can fight the corporations that have poisoned our politics.

My language is clunky, obviously. But coming out against the Clintons—even just in part—would establish a “ permission structure” that would allow liberals to express displeasure at this conduct. (Which, frankly, they should; liberals would be justifiably apoplectic if President Marco Rubio set up to conduct official business.) That could spiral into other expressions of discontent, which might lead enough liberals to demand another candidate who is actually more in line with their preferences. That could be Warren herself. It could also be Amy Klobuchar or Deval Patrick, two candidates who would (presumably) be closer to Warren’s ideological preferences than Clinton.

If Warren were to endorse another candidate early on, it would give that candidate a genuine shot at breaking into Hillary’s liberal support.

This is not to say that Warren—or a Warren-backed liberal alternative to Clinton—would defeat Clinton in a nomination contest; Clinton would still be the heavy favorite. But Warren can actually challenge Clinton rhetorically and get some traction, based on her popularity on the party’s Left. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley may be running already to Clinton’s Left, but they do not have the attention of the base like Warren does.

If Warren has a problem with Clinton waltzing to the nomination uncontested, it is time to act. If Warren speaks out, at the very least a future “Ed Show” poll about trusting Clinton would see support at lower than 90 percent.