Elizabeth Warren's Supporters Are Mounting a Quiet Campaign Against Hillary Clinton

April 23rd 2015

Isabel Evans

Earlier this week, a group of politicians, professors, and progressive activists gathered at Civic Hall in New York City with one purpose—to express the belief that one woman must be elected the president of the United States in 2016: Elizabeth Warren.

Although Senator Warren has stated she is not running in 2016, her supporters are not giving up. As Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout remarked to the crowd at the beginning of the evening: “Reluctant leaders can be the most forceful leaders.”

The event, organized by MoveOn and RunWarrenRun, featured remarks by Teachout, Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn; activist Van Jones; and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig. Each speaker told the crowd why Warren would make a strong candidate, from her long-standing fight to address income inequality to her intelligence that would suit her well at presidential debates “You wouldn’t show up to debate Warren without eating your Wheaties,” Van Jones stated.

Lessig commenced his speech by proclaiming that “the system is rigged,” and as a result, Americans have become used to “the politics of resignation.” Elizabeth Warren, Lessig argues, is the only political leader who has the power to reverse this resignation because unlike all the other current contenders in the field, she has proven herself to be genuinely dedicated to financial reforms. Warren, Lessig claims, can “pierce the veil of cynicism” so prevalent today because “even her enemies believe her.”

The RunWarrenRun movement has gained significant traction. More than 317,000 people have signed onto the effort at RunWarrenRun.org and as organizers told ATTN:, Warren has the largest on-the-ground operation in early states of any potential candidate and a polling floor in second place in both Iowa (16%) and New Hampshire (22%).

“We’re basically building the runway so that if Warren actually decides to climb into the cockpit, she’s got the momentum all prepared,” MoveOn Washington director Ben Wikler says. “What we’re seeing on the ground is the kind of enthusiasm she needs to create a breakaway movement candidacy.”

It might seem strange that so much energy is being devoted to the campaign of a non-existent candidate who has emphatically said “no” when asked if she wants to enter the race. But MoveOn organizers believe that with enough of a push from grassroots activists, Warren will reconsider.

Sean, an organizer with Ready for Warren, said: “I think the thing that will change her mind is the realization that in keeping with her values, she has to be the one to step up to the plate.”

Wikler adds, “It’s happened over and over that a candidate kind of comes out of nowhere, wins the Iowa caucuses, and bursts onto the national stage. We think there is a real opportunity for that.”

But it’s hard to ignore the question of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Lessig addressed this in his speech. “To be pro Warren is not to be anti-Clinton,” he said, noting that he agrees Clinton has earned the right to be seriously considered as a presidential candidate. 

The problem, Lessig argues, is that Clinton’s long-curated public persona has created a sense of dissonance among the public. Referring to the recent New York Times story that details some of the revelations to be exposed in Peter Schweizer’s new book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Make Bill and Hillary Rich, Lessig said: “There will be story after story after story like this, which when you say to the public, ‘look, believe that she’s going to be a reformer,’ will trigger all of the cynicism that I’ve said is death for our movement. So I’m not blaming her, I’m not saying this is her fault, but that’s the reality.”