Et Tu, Elizabeth Warren?
Senator Elizabeth Warren has officially endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton for president - a somber moment for Bernie Sanders supporters.
I bought an ‘Elizabeth Warren for President 2016’ bumper sticker back in 2013. A professor at Harvard, her speeches on economic populism and a rigged political system were viral sensations (Obama’s “you didn’t build that” blunder in 2012 was an awkward reprisal of her “roads & bridges” speech). In the wake of the Great Recession, and at the behest of President Obama, she created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans blocked her nomination to direct the CFPB, so she defeated conservative darling Scott Brown (along with his prop pickup truck) to replace the deceased Ted Kennedy and become the junior senator from Massachusetts. Senator Warren used hearings and the senate floor to call to task the Wall Street banksters – and bureaucrats supposedly regulating them – for their actions and reactions surrounding the crash.
It wasn’t long before the term ‘Warren Wing of the Democratic Party' was embraced by progressives sick of establishment liberals. She was destined to fulfill the promise in which Barack Obama seemed uninterested (and that Howard Dean had arrghed away before). Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Professor, had become a political rock star. And I bought a bumper sticker.
Then, in a secret December ’14 meeting, Elizabeth Warren reportedly agreed not to run for president on the promise that Hillary Clinton would... pretend. To be more liberal? To give voice to progressive concerns during the primary? To name Warren veep? I certainly hope Hillary didn’t promise to break up the Big Banks or reinstate Glass-Steagal…
Bernie Sanders never intended to run for President of the United States. He held out, waiting for someone, anyone to step up and challenge Hillary from the left. Al Gore, maybe; perhaps Brian Sandoval; especially Elizabeth Warren. Instead, were conservative Jim Webb, goofy Lincoln Chaffey, blow-dried Martin O’Malley, and shunned Larry Lessig.
Hillary Clinton was the front-runner of front-runners. A shoe-in for the nomination. And yet, a septuagenarian socialist Jew who wears Men’s Warehouse suits and doesn’t seem to own a comb managed had the courage to step forward and managed to pull even in national polls and win 20-plus states. Of those states, Massachusetts was not one. Had an extremely popular and progressive senator from the state endorsed the extremely popular and progressive senator running for president…
To be fair, Hillary Clinton has long been known to keep an enemies list, replete with a rating system and payback rendered. No one - including Senator Sanders - expected Bernie to seriously challenge Hillary. He was simply supposed to drag Hillary a bit to the left while giving a voice to progressive values on a national stage. Fellow progressives had to make the political calculus whether supporting the progressive candidate, in what they assumed to be a losing effort, was worth inducing sure Clintonian wrath.
A year ago, this was a fairly valid justification. After Iowa and New Hampshire, when it was clear the Bernie was a serious and viable candidate, that calculation was changed. Perhaps Elizabeth Warren had already promised, as a woman, not to challenge Hillary's breaking of America's highest glass ceiling. Maybe her hands were tied. But then, by endorsing Hillary Clinton, after standing on the sidelines when it seemed to matter most…
For progressives like me – people who never identified as democrats, yet embraced the ‘Warren Wing’ – the worry is Howard Dean (who had said that the stale politics of old was driving away young voters - before morphing into a highly paid influence peddler). The worry is Barney Frank & Barack Obama – folks who sounded like genuine progressives, but wound up disappointing, either for monetary interests or for political expediency.
Another is Mario Cuomo & Chris Christie – folks who likely would’ve become president had they seized their respective moments. Elizabeth Warren has been seen as Bernie Sanders minus the schlubbery and the label of socialist. The people are sick of the establishment. Hillary is a weak candidate. Donald Trump is a fascist nightmare. Elizabeth Warren would've ran away with the election.
Since it became obvious she wasn’t running in 2016, she's been the presumptive running-mate to the would-be nominee. She is a strong and obvious choice. Though little more than a platitude to Sanders' supporters when paired with Hillary. And besides, there are tangible down-sides for both progressives and the democratic party establishment.
If Warren leaves the senate and becomes vice president (veep is technically the president of the senate), the republican governor of Massachusetts will appoint her replacement. That’s one less vote for Harry Reid.
Republicans swept into power on the red wave that was the tea party revolution in 2010. As such, more republicans are up for reelection in 2016, giving democrats a good chance at flipping the senate. Elizabeth Warren is essentially assured her seat in perpetuity, but her replacement could easily be another Scott Brown-style republican, leaving Chuck Schumer with worse odds of becoming majority leader in 2017.
Vice presidents don’t really do anything. Dick Cheney was an outlier. Joe Biden is mostly known for saying stupid stuff and being touchy-feely (he “got out over his skis” on gay marriage, and glad-handed Mitch McConnell on occasion - that’s about all he's done as veep).
If Elizabeth Warren becomes vice president, she surrenders her senate seat to someone likely to be far less progressive, perhaps even a republican. Her progressive voice – the best progressive voice this side of Bernie Sanders - would be neutered, forced to saddle up with the establishment and to defend compromises Hillary Clinton will inevitably make with like-minded Republicans.
After four-to-eight years of soiling herself while carrying water for the establishment, if Elizabeth Warren still wants to run for president, she would be running as the successor to Hillary. Who is running as the successor to Obama. Three successive presidents from the one political party represents a big ask of the American people - unprecedented.
It hurt to take down my Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker, and replace it with a Feel the Bern 2016 model. It hurt when she failed to endorse the progressive candidate when it mattered most. It hurt when she eventually endorsed the establishment. (It hurt to see her immediately go on Maddow and talk about how good Hillary is on Social Security, yet curiously omit expansion, which Warren had just recently called for.)
I hope Trump is humiliated. I hope Hillary can be steered to the left. I hope not to vomit when Elizabeth Warren is inevitably forced to defend slaps on the wrist for Wall Street financiers & trickle-down tax policy & interventionist foreign policy & fracking & the TPP and...