Elizabeth Warren finally broke. On June 9, she became the last female Democrat in the Senate to hop aboard the Hillary Express: Destination 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. For many in the Democratic elite, the endorsement is only the tip of the iceberg. They want Clinton to name Warren as her running mate.
Originally the talk of Warren as running mate was tossed around as a feminist, progressive dream. Two bold, strong women working together to each make history as the nation’s first female president and vice president. As time wore on, the idea gained traction to the point that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had his staff review Massachusetts law with respect to the appointment of senators for vacant seats.
The argument goes something like this: Sanders’ people hate Clinton but love Warren for her progressive prowess. Clinton also has a huge deficit given the perception that she is in bed with Wall Street while Warren is known as a sworn enemy of all with slicked hair and pinstriped suits. Therefore, in order to secure the vote of Bernie Bros and those wary of Wall Street, Clinton has no choice but to pick Warren.
Here is why that is a false choice.
First, Warren can be just as, if not more, effective as a surrogate not associated with the campaign. When your name is on the yard sign, you are accountable at a much greater level than if you are a mercenary free to conduct yourself as you please. A candidate is required to stay on message and consult campaign talking points; rinse and repeat.
The Clinton camp is well known for reviewing the speeches of everyone who speaks at her rallies, so one can only imagine the level of control the running make will face. In addition, any gaffes will reflect on the campaign as a whole and serve as a knock against the name at the top of the ticket, instead of just against the speaker.
As an unaffiliated surrogate, Warren would be free to throw her barbs whenever and however she wanted. She could craft her own message and launch her own rapid response apparatus. In addition, if someone else were on the ticket and Warren continued to be the pitbull she has proven to be, it would open multiple fronts against Trump rather than allowing Trump to just rebuke the campaign anytime Warren went after him.
Trump has already anointed Warren with the moniker “Goofy Elizabeth Warren” which means she has successfully opened a bed and breakfast in his head. As the summer progresses, any time that Trump spends calling her names is time not spent attacking Hillary. Trump will look increasingly weak the more he attacks someone who he isn’t even running against.
Second, the constitutional requirement of a VP is to step into the presidency should the president be unable to serve. While it is tempting every four years for candidates to choose people who help them politically, Clinton needs a running mate that can govern if need be.
Warren has great credentials in the finance world, but not anywhere else. She came to Congress based on her chops as a financial reformer. She has since taken committee assignments (Banking and HELP) that allow her to further that work. Should she ever need to sit behind the Resolute desk, she would be woefully unprepared to handle the foreign policy and military aspects of the job.
Third, Warren would only further polarize Clinton’s candidacy. Clinton is already one of the most disliked candidates in the history of presidential politics and a joint ticket with Warren would only exacerbate that problem. Warren isn’t shy about her opinions and is widely viewed as a left wing (read: dirty “L” liberal) warrior.
In theory her presence would bring in from the cold all of Sanders’ supporters who view her as an ally in their quest for economic justice. But choosing Warren solely for the Sanders vote is incredibly shortsighted. Every four years, supporters of the losing primary candidate say they won’t vote for the eventual nominee, but there is barely even scant anecdotal evidence that that actually happens. There are five months until the election and during that time Democrats will get on board regardless of whether Warren is on the ticket.
Fourth, Warren’s Senate seat is more valuable to the Democratic apparatus than her presence on Clinton’s ticket. Democrats have a chance to retake the Senate this fall and they need Warren to do that.
Yes, the president is powerful and vitally important to the direction of the country, but an agenda can’t be pushed without a friendly Congress. The Senate already exists in a delicate balance and if Warren were to vacate her seat for the Naval Observatory, Massachusetts’ Republican Governor Charlie Baker would get to fill her seat, undoubtedly choosing a Republican. The Democrats have a shot at flipping the Senate and that task won’t be made an easier by starting one more seat down.
Fifth, what is in it for her? As Joe Biden is fond of saying, the vice presidency is an inherently inferior and powerless position.
Sure, the office still carries weight, and yes, you have the ear of the president when you want it, but the veep has no true, natural power. Warren is no Dick Cheney and Clinton is no Dubya, so the idea that Warren would be able to exert massive influence over Clinton’s economic agenda the way Cheney directed the Iraq War is nothing but fiction.
Warren has also become a very influential member of the Senate Banking Committee where as her seniority grows-and if the Democrats retake the Senate-she will be able to pass the reforms and conduct the oversight she desires. Why pass that up to attend the funerals of B-list world leaders and sit next to Paul Ryan during Joint Sessions of Congress.
Elizabeth Warren is a fantastic representative for the Democratic Party. She is inspiring, enthusiastic, and eloquent and will be a great asset as the party-and the nation-look to avoid an apocalyptic Trump presidency.
For all the great things Warren brings to the table, she will be much more valuable this election cycle and for years to come as a United States Senator rather than as a passenger in the side-car of Clinton’s Harley.
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