Contentious presidential primaries are usually an opportunity for a party to take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide what it wants to be. But even if Hillary Clinton quashes a season of introspection by steamrollering any 2016 challengers, a possibility that looks increasingly likely if she decides to run, liberal Democrats are still confident they can make themselves heard.
Progressives' apprehension about Clinton is no secret—she's seen as too cozy with Wall Street at home and too eager to use the military abroad—but they're not holding their breath for Senator Elizabeth Warren (who has repeatedly pledged not to run) or another liberal idol to swoop in and stop Hillary. [...]
And the longer Clinton waits to take a stand on inequality issues like raising the minimum wage, the more her decision will be made for her by her party, which is increasingly internalizing much of Warren's agenda. From Bill de Blasio's win in New York City to progressives' successful campaign to marginalize the centrist Democratic think thank Third Way, and especially to President Obama's State of the Union, the center of gravity in the party is moving to the left.
In that sense, the invisible primary against Clinton's invisible candidacy has already started. While no secret cabals of liberals are working to move an eventual candidate Clinton to the left, the activists are already accomplishing that by moving the entire party. "Economic inequality is the fundamental question of our time. It is generation-defining," says Heather McGhee, the newly elevated president of the policy center Demos, who, at 33, represents a new generation of liberal leaders. "Both parties are going to have to answer to this question."