(Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post on June 30, 2016 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-herbst/clinton-warren-and-the-de_b_10736152.html.)
Last week the New York Times opined on its news pages that Hillary Clinton would not put Elizabeth Warren on the ticket. Its primary reasons, among others: a lack of “personal chemistry” between them, the need for gender balance to appeal to the white males, and the risk that Warren, with dynamism, ambitions, a populist, progressive world-view and a national following of her own, might overshadow Clinton on the campaign trail.
On Monday, Warren and Clinton campaigned together for the first time, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The event was awash in personal chemistry. And since when has “gender balance” ever stopped a male Presidential candidate from choosing a male running mate – to appeal to women or otherwise? Wouldn’t it be ironic if Hillary Clinton, the first female Presidential candidate who has dedicated her life to advancing women’s rights, did not choose Elizabeth Warren because she is not a man?
In Cincinnati, after Warren demonstrated again that she is the best the Democrats have in both firing up the Democratic base and skewering Mr. Trump, Clinton told the pumped up crowd that “to even the odds for people who have the odds stacked against them . . . we have to go big and we have to go bold.”
The “big and bold” choice for Vice President is Elizabeth Warren, hands down. It would forever smash to smithereens the glass ceiling in politics and other parts of American life that has kept women disadvantaged, in pay as well as power. Never again would a Presidential nominee have to put “gender balance” before choosing the best candidate for the job. This is not the year for conventional political thinking – about balancing the ticket, or disqualifying a woman with strong populist, progressive views who can effectively communicate them. Naming Elizabeth Warren would not just unify the Democratic Party, it would electrify it. All those Bernie Sanders supporters would have a reason not just to vote for Clinton, but to come out and work their hearts out for her and Warren. That Warren is “more of an advocate [for the working and middle classes] than a [“consensus-oriented”] politician” speaking out “against the forces of concentrated wealth” is all the more reason to pick her in this election cycle.
What was clear for all to see in Cincinnati was how Warren brought out the best in Clinton – her own populist, progressive instincts which she has often felt inclined to bury in the service of more “consensus-oriented” politics and the financiers and moguls she represented in the United States Senate who contributed so heavily to her campaigns. After Warren finished pounding Trump for much of her 15 minutes, all without a teleprompter, Hillary called out “executives who give themselves big bonuses” while middle class wages “haven’t budged,” noting that “the richest Americans and the biggest corporations get away with manipulating the tax code so they pay lower rates than you do.”She railed against “weakened unions” and right to work laws, and called on employers to see their workers “as assets to invest in, not costs to cut.” She called for higher taxes on “Wall Street, big corporations, and the super-wealthy” so that we could invest in infrastructure and jobs.
Hillary Clinton has said much of this before, but with Warren there by her side, it really looked and sounded like she meant it. Warren not only pumped her up but gave her credibility and authenticity, and Hillary and the crowd seemed to sense the difference. Naming Warren to the ticket would be a clear sign that Clinton not only knows The Game Is Rigged, but that she really intends to do something about it. If voters of color continue to register and come out to vote in large numbers against Trump, a unified, excited Democratic Party will make a Clinton-Warren ticket a winner in November and regain control of the Senate, whether or not Trump continues to implode all by himself.
While Hillary Clinton did not anticipate that populism would be ascendant in both parties in the 2016 Presidential election cycle, she certainly understands it now. Both the Brexit vote and the Trump phenomenon make clear how widespread the hurt, fear and anger are among working people and families, and how dangerous it can be when those concerns remain unaddressed by their government officials. Bernie Sanders’s remarkable run, financed entirely by millions of small donations, has demonstrated the power of the progressive populist message espoused by Warren that appeals to the best rather than the basest instincts of the populace. Hillary Clinton is too smart – and too good a politician (in the best sense of that word) — to let Warren’s negative comments about her a decade ago affect her choice. Even after her husband’s impeachment, Sen. Clinton was able to make common cause with his tormentors in the Senate to get legislation passed. Warren gives Clinton what Sherrod Brown or Tim Kaine cannot – street cred as a real progressive, and the communication skills to take Trump’s scalp and those of any Republicans in the House or Senate who try to obstruct President Hillary Clinton – as they did both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — from governing effectively and putting in place the program Clinton laid out in Ohio yesterday.
The strongest argument against Warren is one that was not mentioned by the Times: that the Republican Governor of Massachusetts would appoint a Republican to her seat if Warren were elected VP, thereby reducing the chance that Democrats could win back control of the Senate. But Massachusetts law apparently requires a special election 145 to 160 days after a Senate vacancy occurs, and Warren could file a resignation letter shortly after her selection as VP nominee, thus foreclosing or radically shortening the period in which Gov. Baker could appoint a temporary Republican Senator.
So Hillary, go ahead and pick Elizabeth, and really make history!