It has been over a week since Senator Elizabeth Warren endorsed Secretary/Senator/First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States. The Warren endorsement was a much-desired feather-in-the-cap for Clinton, and one of the few Washington heavy hitters whose endorsement her Democratic Primary rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, had openly coveted as well. Sen. Warren’s endorsement, coming the same week as President Obama’s, was of a decidedly different character. It has been long rumored (and leaked) that the President preferred his former Secretary of State as the Democratic nominee to succeed him and protect his legacy, but chose to wait until she had the nomination mathematically assured to endorse her out of a sense of decorum.
Senator Warren, conversely, or so it seemed on paper, aligned much more naturally with a fiscally leftist, anti-hyper-capitalist platform, such as that championed by Senator Sanders. Indeed, Warren was the only female Democratic U.S. Senator who did not endorse Secretary Clinton early on in the primary season, and her endorsement was seen as the acceptance by the Progressive Left of Clinton as their nominee. It should be noted that Sanders himself has yet to fully endorse Clinton, or even suspend his campaign, although he has recently stated he would work with her campaign to defeat GOP presumptive-nominee Donald Trump. He did so in a live-streamed address to his supporters—one which none of the major cable news networks chose to cover contemporaneously. In many real ways, Warren’s endorsement of Clinton effectively ended the 2016 Democratic Primary. All that is left of it now is the disbelieving and disgruntled yelling of some die-hard, evidence-averse “Bernie Bros.”
And they are yelling. Warren, both unsurprisingly and sadly, is now the target of some of the same gendered vitriol from the so-called Bernie Bros that she had previously been [largely] spared. Had she merely placed her hand on the scales in favor of Senator Sanders from the outset, ‘things could be different,’ and ‘Bernie might be the nominee,’ these die-hard Sanders supporters lament. ‘How could she?’ they rail, feeling she has betrayed ‘the cause.’ For some insight into how she could, and indeed did opt to endorse HRC, the substance of her actual endorsement may shed light. As Warren enumerated to Rachel Maddow:
“Hillary Clinton won. And she won because she’s a fighter, she’s out there, she’s tough. And I think this is what we need. Look at who she is. For 25 years, she’s been taking the incomings, right? The right wing has thrown everything they possibly can at her. And what does she do? A lot of people would just hang up their spurs. They’d say, you know, I’ve had enough of this. And she doesn’t. What she’s done is she gets back up and she gets back in the fight.”
While Sen. Warren also praised Sen. Sanders for bringing income inequality and fiscal sector corruption to the forefront as 2016 issues and, more, for running a campaign “from the heart,” her words about HRC show a belief in and support for a pragmatic, incremental approach to politics and to progress that, I daresay, aligns at least as much with Clinton’s expressed worldview as it does Sanders’. Warren likes to get things done. And, yes, in politics that does mean winning—winning the election, the majority, the requisite number of votes in order to get one’s agenda enacted into policy. And she believes that if at first you don’t succeed, you get back up, and come back to the table, and you try something else. “The Fight,” to Warren, it seems, is NOT one fight for one [more] grand revolution, but a constant, continuing, consistent fight to keep the pendulum of our national politics swung towards the left, for the benefit of working families and the middle class.
And Elizabeth Warren gets things done. In only four years in the Senate, she is credited with far more tangible successes in the area of financial reform and consumer protection than most of her colleagues, including Sen. Sanders. Former Rep. Barney Frank, half of the namesake of Dodd-Frank financial reform, has praised her repeatedly to that effect. Unlike Sen. Sanders, her colleagues do not describe Sen. Warren as the kind of person who would let the perfect be the enemy of the good in terms of policy implementation. Her 2012 Senate campaign could easily be described as the post-2010 Tea Party election spark that ignited the wave of the awakened populist Left in 2016. A brilliant, and highly-relatable orator, her living-room stump speeches attacking greed & corruption, and defending unions ,became the stuff of nightly news. What’s more, her 2012 Democratic Convention speech is likely the true nexus of the oft-repeated 2016 Sanders’ campaign line that the current system is rigged against ordinary Americans.
“People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: They’re right. The system is rigged.”
Sounds familiar, huh?
More, her 2012 Senatorial campaign raised more money, about $40 million, than any other Senate campaign did that year. For context, Massachusetts has just under 7 million people, making it the 14th most-populated state. That Warren could raise such disproportionately large sums of money is flatly impressive. She was using social media to organize her supporters and get her message out, and well, long before the Sanders campaign existed. Does it take anything away from the impressive sums of money Senator Sanders was able to amass from small donors and online organizing in 2016? No, of course not. But once viewed through a multi-election cycle lens, Warren’s 2012 success was, at a bare minimum, a harbinger of the awakened progressive, anti-corporate left we see today. And more likely, she was indeed one if its prime catalysts.
Once viewed through such a lens, why would Warren need to see herself as anything other than the natural (and decade-younger than Sanders), leader of a progressive movement that coincides more with her ascension to the national stage than that of Sanders, who for all his idealism, has for decades been an ancillary member of the Congress, content to bring home the pork for his small, rural home-state of Vermont, while otherwise creating his decades-long reputation more on his stated principles than upon his legislative accomplishments. To have endorsed Sanders would have been to voluntarily crown him leader of a progressive movement she helped to engender and to swell, and more, to limit her own influence within the Democratic party, where unlike Sen. Sanders currently, she is also still incredibly popular. On the facts of her own record, particularly when compared to his, Sen. Warren has every right to see herself as better equipped to lead the Progressive Left into 2018, 2020, and beyond, than Sen. Sanders.
And it appears she will. Already on the short list for Clinton’s Vice President precisely because she can bring the Progressive Left with her, Sen. Warren will wield a massive amount of power should she remain in the Senate as well. She suffers from none of the eroded good will among her fellow Democrats that Senator Sanders does, and unlike presumptive nominee Clinton, as of yet she carries very little political baggage with her courtesy of the right wing. Warren–who herself opted not to challenge a female frontrunner this year, and has remained both publicly supportive of and supported by women’s rights and LGBTQ-equality advocacy groups as well—likely also knows that while millennials don’t yet make up enough of the voting population to carry the day politically on their own, their influence will only continue to grow. This week, she vociferously participated with her Democratic colleagues in a filibuster for a vote on gun reform legislation—a central piece of the 2016 Democratic Party platform—a filibuster from which Sen. Sanders, and his spotty-gun control record, were noticeably absent. She is by all accounts extremely intelligent, and quite politically savvy. Unlike Sanders, she is not viewed as thin-skinned or short tempered. Unlike Clinton, she has a mostly easy, open relationship with the press. More, she is a brilliant strategist, public speaker, and politician, despite (or maybe because of) her unassuming tone of voice and down-home delivery.
Throughout the primary, Bernie Sanders’s supporters repeatedly pushed back on accusations of latent sexism towards HRC by using Warren as an example of a woman they would indeed vote for, for executive office. Hillary Clinton—now running against unabashed misogynist and nativist racist Donald Trump—may just use a political tactic made famous by her husband, and call their bluff, by nominating Warren to be her running mate and Vice President of the United States. I, for one, hope she does, and that Senator Warren accepts. Warren has certainly not ruled it out, and the two have met since her endorsement. An all-female, Clinton-Warren ticket would be historically revolutionary, indeed. If the two women’s histories are any guide, it would also be highly effective in advancing and implementing the progressive policies America needs in order to get back to being the true home of the American dream and nurturing the middle class that built it. But make no mistake, no matter who Secretary/Senator/First Lady’s Clinton’s VP nominee is, the leftward flank of the Democratic party now belongs to Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Picture: By United States Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons