PHILADELPHIA — When Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the stage here on the first night of the Democratic National Convention to play the role of unifier, she extended a few words of thanks to her Senate colleague Bernie Sanders for reminding “us what Democrats fight for every day.”
When Sanders took the stage later in the evening, he in turn thanked “my friend Elizabeth Warren” in an almost perfunctory tone before segueing into his long-awaited prime-time endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
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The little-noticed exchange was lost amid the pageantry of the moment. But, as each senator looked to claim the night’s headlines, it pried open a window to the coming struggle to determine the leadership of the American left: one that involves a man who has worked outside the party system for four decades and still refuses to officially join the Democratic Party, and the woman who burst onto the scene in her 60s agitating to reform it from within.
Sanders and Warren are legislative allies, but they aren’t particularly close friends. And the progressive movement’s ability to carry out big goals like raising the minimum wage and breaking up the big banks will largely depend on how they can work together given Warren’s new stature and Sanders’ new fame.
So far, there are few signs of new collaboration — and some warning signs for the left.
After a bruising primary season in which each played to their own strengths — Sanders by uprooting the party’s assumptions by running an unprecedented insurgency and Warren by withholding her endorsement long enough to burnish her king-making status — each has seen expectations for their own role within the progressive leadership grow.
But while Warren’s clout within the party structure has steadily increased in recent months — to the point that Clinton allies now privately concede the …