Elizabeth Warren Should Be the Democratic Nominee for Vice President
After serving many years as a widely praised Harvard Law professor, Elizabeth Warren won her U.S. Senate seat in 2012 by defeating Republican Senator Scott Brown. She was buoyed in her election by her past work as the Troubled Asset Relief Program watchdog following the 2008 financial crisis, by her integral role in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and by her long history advocating for the middle class. During her time as a senator, her prosecutorial questioning of financial executives and regulators has brought her viral attention, and has angered many entrenched interests in the private sector and government. She was reelected to the Senate from Massachussetts by a large margin in 2018, and now returns to her work after a policy-focused, but unsuccessful, run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Her recent proposals to manage the COVID-19 crisis and restructure the economy have highlighted her unparalleled interest and ability to govern, and have earned her well deserved plaudits from prominent Democrats like former President Barack Obama. Joe Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, should choose Warren as his running mate, and rekindle Americans’ faith in the governing institutions derided and degraded under the Trump Administration.
Elizabeth Warren outlasted many of her rivals in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, but wasn’t able to overcome Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) committed supporters or the goodwill many Democrats still have for former Vice President Joe Biden. Regardless, her tireless campaigning, inspiring personal story, and raptor-like debate skills were put on display many times over. Her evisceration of billionaire Mike Bloomberg during a primary debate has become legendary and she proved she can swoop in for the kill. $500 million in advertising could not overcome her blistering takedown of the former New York mayor. That Biden, Sanders, and others managed to escape a public shaming like Bloomberg’s on-stage was an act of mercy on her part. Mike Pence be warned — Elizabeth Warren is an expert filleter of powerful men. Her skill articulating a vision, executing a political hit, and deftly crafting complete sentences would benefit the aging Biden on the campaign trail, who is well known for verbal stumbles.
Biden may be hesitant to select a notoriously pugnacious senator for an understudy role in his administration. The two of them have a history of sparring over corporate-friendly legislation when Warren was a professor and consumer advocate, and she effectively used her perch in the Senate to bend Obama-Biden administration policies and appointments to her will. It’s not Ms Warren’s style to wait on the bench when the game is competitive, or to play loyal soldier for a cause with which she disagrees. But Biden has seen the value of a vice president willing to challenge a president’s decisions in his own time serving Barack Obama, and should welcome such a competent woman serving in that role. Her argumentation abilities and aptitude for bluntly explaining complex issues would also inspire fear in Biden’s Republican opponents.
Joe Biden needs to unify the Democratic party in order to beat Donald Trump. To do that, he will need strong support from Bernie Sanders’ energized coalition of young people, working-class people, and hispanic voters. Elizabeth Warren can bridge the divide between the Sanders‘ camp and the moderate wing now championed by VP Biden. While she and the socialist senator from Vermont engaged in pointed, but mild, sniping throughout the campaign, her policies and ideology compliment his agenda, and they are known to be personal friends. She’s not regarded as a stand-in for Mr Sanders among those constituencies, but her presence on the ticket would help mollify his fierce supporters, who remain angry and dejected after a divisive primary season. With Warren elevated as the candidate for vice president, they can rest easy knowing a progressive who prioritizes the interests of working people will be in the White House.
With roots in Oklahoma and Texas, Warren has some regional appeal to valuable constituencies in the midwest. Although that appeal did not help her win any primaries, and she even lost her home state Massachusetts to Biden, it can make a difference in a contested presidential election against a candidate as out-of-touch as Donald Trump. Biden, however, may already have those constituencies engaged if he can maintain levels of support among similar voters that won him major victories on Super Tuesday and other primaries, and in that case, Warren, who taught law at Harvard, can bring affluent coastal liberals just as well. The primary results also showed her weak performance among hispanic voters, who have largely supported Bernie Sanders, and who would be crucial for flipping states like Texas and Arizona in the general election against Trump. But other potential VP nominees, like Sens. Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, exhibit the same deficit. More work will have to be done on Biden’s part to earn these votes, regardless of his choice for vice president. But Trump’s long history of disparaging, demonizing, and exploiting communities of color may do more for the Democratic ticket than any one appointment or policy position.
Many have urged Biden to select a woman of color, like California Senator Kamala Harris or former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams. A choice of either would be well-deserved and historic, but Warren’s expertise in financial markets and well-defined governing vision put her ahead in the race to meet the moment; the country is in the midst of a bureaucratic collapse and looming economic catastrophe. Biden would be well off having any of these excellent public servants beside him in office, but the government needs the penetrating wonkiness of Warren.
Elizabeth Warren is a woman, and ran for president as a woman. Thus, she fulfills Biden’s promise to elevate a woman to the ticket. Warren has high favorables among female Democratic Party voters, and has never shied away from the historical significance of her campaign to the women’s equality movement. The vision of a President Biden flanked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Elizabeth Warren at his first joint address to Congress might be enough to move Democrats and women eager for equal representation to the polls in droves. Comparisons to Hillary Clinton, reviled in many circles for her long and sordid history in politics, breakdown beyond the superficial. Elizabeth Warren is not Hillary Clinton, and leads with an air of empathy and authenticity that has long escaped Clinton at her best.
Joe Biden is 77 and would be the oldest president elected in U.S. history. Elizabeth Warren is 70, and would have been the oldest president elected to a first term in history had she been the nominee and defeated Trump. Her selection as vice president would mean that the three highest ranking constitutional officers in the government are in their seventies or older (Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 80). While not inherently a problem, as Warren and Pelosi show no signs of mental decline (Warren’s age in particular is often misjudged due to her energy and work ethic), people born after the creation of the interstate highway system wouldn’t have representation at the highest levels of American government. The next generation of leaders would have to wait a little while longer for pomp, prestige, and power. But in a time of great crisis and tumult, having young people in charge may not be as important as having the right people in charge.
Should Biden be unable to serve the duration of his term, there are few who would challenge Ms Warren’s ability to do the job of president. A long career as a teacher, academic lawyer, advocate, bureaucrat, and politician have more than prepared her for the hard work of running the country. To correct course after these four years of Donald Trump’s hyper-incompetence, the country needs hyper-competence. A Vice President Warren would bring a sharp, detail-oriented approach to the hard work of righting a country on the brink. Should she need to become President, she would be able to do the job on day one.
Though Massachusetts is a reliably liberal state, the voters there have a soft spot for moderate Republican patricians serving as governor. Republican Governor Charlie Baker is now in his second term, enjoying the glow associated with widespread popularity, especially during his management of the state’s pandemic response. He won his 2018 reelection campaign sharing the ballot with Elizabeth Warren, and even managed to get more votes. Should Ms Warren become Vice President, her senate seat would become vacant, and Baker would be able to appoint a Republican successor, per the Constitution’s 17th amendment, until a special election takes place during the midterms of 2022. If Baker appoints a Republican, and if the Senate is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans after the 2020 election, that seat might be the difference between a friendly Democratic majority and a hostile Republican majority helmed by the wily Mitch McConnell. Baker is not well regarded by allies of President Trump though, and even called for his impeachment, so he could conceivably appoint a moderate Republican who would work with a President Biden and reject the destructive politics of obstruction that have defined McConnell’s tenure as majority leader. A senate seat held by a moderate Republican for two years might be worth a Warren Vice Presidency.
It was reported that Biden asked Warren if she would be his running mate if he sought the presidency in 2016, but he ultimately deferred to Hillary Clinton’s historic losing campaign. That, in combination with her stature within the Democratic Party, her skills as a campaigner and bureaucrat, and her historic potential, means that he should ask her again. Joe Biden won’t find a candidate better suited for the moment.