Politics

Sen. Harry Reid's Retirement Opens Seat For Progressive Democrats Like Elizabeth Warren

| by Will Hagle

Sen. Harry Reid announced his retirement today, ending his nearly 30-year career in Congress. His departure also marks the end of his 10-year run as leader of Democrats in the Senate. Reid’s retirement opens up not only the 2016 Senate race in Nevada, but also a seat as Senate Minority Leader. In announcing his retirement, Reid endorsed New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer to take his place. 

Reid used a baseball analogy in describing his decision to step down from a powerful position in the U.S. Senate. “I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” he said, according to the New York Times. I don’t want to be a 42-year-old trying to become a designated hitter.” 

Despite Reid’s endorsement of Schumer, some progressive groups have been pushing for a different Democratic candidate to fill Reid’s place: Elizabeth Warren, the progressive Senator from Massachussetts. Warren has been a favorite candidate of progressives around the nation, even if the politician herself doesn’t demand the attention that so many have given her. 

Public support for Warren signifies a slow but significant shift in some Democratic supporters. Just as the Republican Party split off to the more activist-oriented Tea Party in recent years, there’s growing support for progressive candidates who don’t adhere to the typical viewpoints of the traditionalist Democratic Party. It's a natural reaction for Democrats disappointed with the outcome of President Obama's tenure. The only names being mentioned as challengers to Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency, aside from Joe Biden, are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Sanders is a self-described socialist, and Warren is an unapologetic progressive. Both are far from the establishment status quo. 

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Warren has repeatedly stated that she will not be running for president in 2016. Still, the idea continues to be floating around progressive circles. With Reid’s departure, Warren’s supporters see another opportunity to place her in a position of power. They see Warren as an alternative to Schumer’s Wall Street connections and traditionalist Democratic viewpoints. Whether she will actually run for the Democratic leadership remains up to Warren herself. Given her track record thus far, her supporters shouldn’t get their hopes up. But with the political landscape expected to change yet again in 2016, progressive Democrats should have hope that Warren and others can have the power change their party for the better from within. 

Sources: The New York Times, The National Journal