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Will: A hint of 2016 excitement

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton, seen here at a Senate hearing, are potential rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. (Associated Press)

The New Republic magazine was, appropriately, the stimulant that last week gave the Democratic base a frisson of anticipation about a possible Elizabeth Warren presidential candidacy in 2016. Now in her 11th month as a Massachusetts senator, she is suited to carry the progressive torch that was fueled 99 years ago this month by the New Republic's founding.

Its first editor was Herbert Croly, whose 1909 book “The Promise of American Life” — Theodore Roosevelt read it, rapturously, during his post-presidential travels — is progressivism's primer: “The average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat,” so national life should be a “school.” “The exigencies of such schooling frequently demand severe coercive measures, but what schooling does not?” And “a people are saved many costly perversions” if “the official schoolmasters are wise, and the pupils neither truant nor insubordinate.”

Today the magazine, whose birth was partly financed by a progressive heiress, Dorothy Payne Whitney, is owned by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Warren, a scourge of (other) economic royalists, and especially of large financial institutions, is a William Jennings Bryan for our time: She has risen from among Harvard's downtrodden to proclaim: “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of derivatives.”

Before she sank to a senator's salary, she was among the 1 percenters, whose annual incomes now begin at $394,000. Hillary Clinton recently made more than that from two speeches, five days apart, for Goldman Sachs, a prowling Wall Street carnivore that Warren presumably wants to domesticate. Between Warren, hot in pursuit of malefactors of great wealth, and Clinton, hot in pursuit of great wealth, which candidate would be more fun for the kind of people who compose the Democrats' nominating electorate?

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