I’ve thought about it and thought about it.
Everyone is wondering whether Hillary Clinton, after that amazing appearance with Elizabeth Warren in Ohio on Monday, is able to throw her notorious caution to the wind and pick Warren as her running mate.
After dismissing the idea for months, I would now say there is a good chance she is ready. After Warren enthusiastically embraced Clinton—“I’m here today because I’m with her! Yes, her!”—the former First Lady’s speech, full of praise for Warren, contained a passage that, with Senator Warren standing just behind her, stood out to me:
I got into this race because I wanted to even the odds for people who have the odds stacked against them. And this is not a time for half-measures. To build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, we’ve got to go big and we’ve got to go bold.
One way to go bold would be to go Warren.
I have been trying to figure out whether Warren would help or hurt Democratic Party chances this fall. I’m still not sure, but I’m starting to think that, on balance, picking Warren may help us win. Before I get to the positives, though, let me list some of the negatives, some of them obvious:
- If Clinton/Warren wins in November, Democrats will, at least temporarily, lose a senate seat in Massachusetts.
- Her age—she’s 67. Hillary will be 69 by election day.
- Her almost total lack of foreign policy-national security credentials and experience (although Clinton has enough for two people).
- The whole woman-woman dynamic in a country that has yet to elect even its first female president. (And, yes, I know about the whole man-man dynamic since the 18th century.)
- Warren is relatively unknown among folks who don’t closely follow politics until about now, which means her record can be distorted and her political persona can be partly shaped by Republican propaganda (“She’s a socialist!”).
- Her presence on the ticket will certainly drive some anti-Trump Republicans away from possibly supporting Clinton and definitely fire up some lukewarm Trumpkins.
- She may tend to rhetorically and theatrically outshine Clinton at times, but, then, isn’t Clinton selling experience and steadiness and wonkiness?
The upside of a Warren pick would include the following:
- She is Bernie Sanders without, well, being Bernie Sanders. She would help consolidate and solidify support among skeptical progressives.
- Her Trump attacks. No one has done it better than she has, and she does seem, as Hillary Clinton mentioned on Monday, to get under Trump’s razor-thin skin.
- Although she is relatively unknown in the Midwest, her genuine Bernie-esque message should play well from Iowa to Ohio to Pennsylvania, as well as Wisconsin and Michigan.
- Her non-endorsement of Sanders shows she has a feel for the dynamics of American politics in general and Democratic Party politics in particular. She is progressive without being uncompromisingly dogmatic like Sanders. She seems to understand that establishment figures like Clinton and establishment-run parties tend to get more done because, hey, they tend to get elected.
- Unlike Sarah Palin, to whom lately she has been compared, she’s educated—can you imagine Palin teaching anything at any college, let alone Harvard?
- But she’s not a typical member of the so-called liberal elite. She’s from Oklahoma and was raised in a lower middle-class family and comes across as genuinely folksy. In a particularly poignant part of her pre-Clinton speech on Monday, she said:
So today I want to talk about values. My daddy sold fencing and carpeting, he ended up as a maintenance man. And after his heart attack, my mom answered phones at Sears to keep our family above water. And here are some of the values that I learned, up close and personal.
- Her three brothers served in the military. One, she says, was “career military” who was part of “288 combat missions in Vietnam.” Another, after leaving the Air Force, “got a good union job operating a crane.” And her youngest brother started a small business after some time in the Army and is now depending on Social Security.
- She worked her way up the ladder through determination and hard work. Her story is the “classic” American story.
- She was a Republican until late in her life. Some 20 years ago she saw the light, which means she can critique the Republican Party in a way Hillary Clinton can’t. And she can speak to folks who aren’t hard-core partisans, those famous “independents.”
- She’s been divorced and remarried—yes, that can be a plus in politics these days.
This collection of strengths and weaknesses isn’t exhaustive, of course. But it gives you an idea of just how hard the decision is. Warren or Senator Tim Kaine—a good pick, too, despite attacks from Bernie supporters—or someone else?
Normally, VP picks aren’t ultimately game-changers. But this year, as we all know, is very different. Crazy stuff has happened. There’s more crazy stuff to come. And, thus, the Libertarian Party ticket will capture some significant number of anti-Trump (and anti-Hillary) votes. Jill Stein, of the Green Party, is polling too high for my tastes. Every single vote of hers is a vote Hillary Clinton should but won’t get. Stein may end up being this cycle’s Ralph Nader.
And then there is Bernie Sanders. He hasn’t lifted a finger, as of yet, to help Hillary Clinton keep an arrogant and bigoted and dangerously dumb Trump from obtaining presidential power. For all we know, the finger he ends up lifting may be his middle one. Bernie is hard at work trying to force a carbon tax into the Democratic Party platform and thereby force Democratic candidates to defend it against vicious and potentially effective Republican attacks—a carbon tax, by the way, that may be helpful in the fight against climate change but will never pass Congress. So, who knows about him and his strange brand of politics.
In the mean time, there is Elizabeth Warren—again, the “go bold” choice. I, for one, never get tired of hearing her say what she said on Monday:
Now Donald Trump says he’ll make America great again. It’s right there, it’s stamped on the front of his goofy hat. You want to see goofy? Look at him in that hat.
But when Donald Trump says, ‘Great,’ I ask, ‘Great for who, exactly?’ For millions of kids struggling to pay for an education? For millions of seniors barely surviving on Social Security? For families that don’t fly to Scotland to play golf?
When Donald Trump says he’ll make America great, he means make it even greater for rich guys just like Donald Trump. Great for the guys who don’t care how much they’ve already squeezed from everyone else. Great for the guys who always want more.
Because that’s who Donald Trump is—the guy who wants it all for himself. And watch out, because he will crush you into the dirt to get whatever he wants. That’s who he is. Just look at the evidence.
Donald Trump cheered on Britain’s current crisis, which has sucked billions of dollars out of your retirement accounts, because he said, hey, it might bring more rich people to his new golf course.
He cheered on the 2008 housing crash because he could scoop up more real estate on the cheap.
And he cheered on students desperate enough to sign up for his fake university so he could bleed them dry and turn a profit for himself.
What kind of a man does that? What kind of a man roots for people to lose their jobs? To lose their homes? To lose their life savings? I’ll tell you what kind of man: a small, insecure money-grubber who fights for nobody but himself.
What kind of a man? A nasty man who will never become President of the United States!
Damn. “A nasty man”? No wonder she gets under Trump’s skin, thin or otherwise.
[photo cred: Clinton and Warren: Aaron Josefczyk, Reuters; Warren in Iowa: Steve Pope, Getty Images]