Feb. 18, 2014— -- What happens when you mix FDR-style populism with a Paul Krugman-esqe love of wonky policy? You get the so-called “Warren wing” Democratic candidates.
They are an eclectic mix of upstarts, largely political outsiders, who are running with freshman Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s cause -- whether she likes it or not.
But what exactly does a Warren wing Democrat want?
“It's time that Washington was more responsive to communities' concerns,” said Shenna Bellows, dubbed a Warren wing candidate for Senate in Maine. “It's important to restore our constitutional freedom.”
If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is -- at least on the surface -- strikingly similar to the tone of another insurgent political movement of recent years: the tea party.
Warren wing candidates are by no means tea party-like in their aims or even in their methods. They are firmly in favor of government and there is little desire to, for example, oust sitting Democrats in a quest for ideological purity.
But both parties are now figuring out how to respond to the clamoring of movements within their parties that demand that they address the same concern: Americans are sick of Washington and no longer believe lawmakers are working with their best interests in mind.
“Washington is ossified and procrustean -- old and rigid,” said Daylin Leach, a Pennsylvania state senator who is competing in a crowded Democratic primary to represent the 13th Congressional District. “I do think we have lost the ability to solve big problems.”
“What we do need is fresh ideas and people with a fresh approach,” he added. “I’d like to think that if I’m in Washington in 30 years I’ll still be trying to come up with the solutions for the problems that we have.”
This progressive, populist force within the Democratic Party is notably diverse. Some are younger, political novices, others are closer to the average age of elected lawmakers in Washington right now.
They all agree that economic populism is the core of their mission: raising the minimum wage, holding Wall Street and other special interests accountable, making education -- particularly higher education -- more affordable and attainable. But otherwise, name the issues and you can probably find a Warren wing candidate who will put it near the top of their list of priorities.
Bellows, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, has championed reining in the National Security Agency's surveillance regime on the campaign trail. Her focus on that issue has netted her new libertarian supporters to add to her base of progressive supporters. Earlier this year, she surprised the political establishment by out-raising incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins in the last quarter of 2013.
Leach, on the other hand, has championed legalizing recreational and medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania, and has had a long history of pushing progressive ideas in the state Senate.
Expanding Medicare and Social Security is at the top of the list for Lee Rogers, a California doctor running in the 25th Congressional District.
And Rick Weiland, who is running for the Senate in South Dakota, asserts that special interests dominating money in politics has been the source of most if not all of the political ills that America currently faces.