Rethinking Elizabeth Warren as Hillary’s Running Mate: Is This the Sacrifice that Democracy Demands?Posted: May 31, 2016
In a recent Facebook post, I stated my belief that Elizabeth Warren should not seek the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination. I illustrated my case with the 17th century French poet Jean La Fontaine’s version of Aesop’s fable of the Wolf and the Dog. The moral of the fable is that the dog, while enjoying the comforts and security of life among humans, has traded his freedom – which the wolf cherishes – for the chain by which his human master restrains him every night. Learning this, “So ran Sir Wolf, and runneth yet.”
My argument is that Sen. Warren enjoys the freedom to take a firmly progressive stand on public policy issues. She already occupies a leadership position among liberals/progressives – in the Congress and among Democratic voters. I can envision her becoming Senate Majority Leader at some time when the Democrats regain the majority in the Senate. As Hillary Clinton’s Vice-President, however, like the dog in the fable, she is bound to the policies and priorities of the President.
She would, of course, have some area designated by the President over which she would have special responsibility. She would have some say over that assignment. But ultimately she would be the President’s second-in-command for things in general with no authority in particular. She would have to delicately maneuver to have her voice heard over those of influential cabinet secretaries and advisors with responsibility for foreign policy, intelligence, military affairs, economics, and other important functions of government.
Why then have I become more open to a Warren Vice Presidency? There are only two reasons: to stop Donald Trump and to get Hillary Clinton elected President. For whatever reasons, and despite her commanding lead over both Sen. Sanders and Mr. Trump in the popular vote, the dominant meme is that Ms. Clinton is “uninspiring” and that she seems “inauthentic.” She and Trump share the misfortune of high “unfavorables” among potential voters. In her political rallies, Ms. Clinton has turned her attention from Sen. Sanders to Donald Trump. Still she gets less media coverage than Trump gets for anything he says.
On the other hand, Sen. Warren’s attacks on Trump have lit up the internet. After a recent speech by Warren, Slate writer Jim Newell wrote a telling critique of Clinton and her team. The headline of the article reads “Elizabeth Warren Knows How to Attack Trump. Why Doesn’t Hillary?” He states that, among other problems,
“It could be that the Clintonistas’ inability to settle on an overarching story about Trump is a reflection of their inability to settle on an overarching story about themselves.”
He insightfully states,
“Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton are very different politicians. Warren specializes in financial reform and corporate abuse, while Clinton, by nature of the job she seeks, has to represent the various constituencies that make up the Democratic coalition, and thus doesn’t have the luxury of being narrow in her attacks. Or something like that. What’s motivating Clinton to run for president beyond her belief that she has the appropriate skillset and experience to manage the federal government? If there is something else, it really hasn’t been communicated well.”
Meanwhile, Trump has sown up the Republican nomination and the corporate media continue to cater to him and promote the idea that he is on his way to the presidency. Comics joke about the Trump presidency in a tone that suggests a kind of graveyard humor. Progressives are understandably worried. Democrats are used to being outsmarted by the Republicans and their ability to distort facts and mislead the public. But Trump has run his con on the whole of the Republican Party and has the sycophant media treating him like he is already President. Stiff-upper-lipped Democrats are secretly quaking in their wingtips and Doc Martens.
What Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and progressives/liberals in general need is a boost. A boost in morale, a boost in energy, and a boost in public perception. Enough of a boost to gain quality time in the mediasphere. Enough of a boost to reclaim the electoral landscape from Donald Trump. Perhaps that boost can be propelled by the announcement of Elizabeth Warren’s nomination as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.
Accepting the nomination would be a great sacrifice for Sen. Warren. But it may be the sacrifice we need in order to save our democracy.