I wrote recently that I thought Elizabeth Warren would be a great Veep pick but it wouldn’t happen because it would add to the burden of retaking the Senate. Massachusetts has a Republican governor. That would mean at least 6 months or so of an additional Republican senator in 2017 – assuming Clinton wins.
But I’m reconsidering that. In fact, I’m past reconsidering: Hillary should put Warren on the ticket.
The modern vice presidency – as a political device – is seldom about ideological balance or bringing a critical state into play. As it happens, Warren would be a helpful political balancing both in general and coming off the bruising Clinton v Sanders fight. But the most effective modern Veep picks have been ones that helpfully frame and reinforce the message the person at the top of the ticket embodies.
For Bill Clinton in 1992, picking Al Gore for his second was crazy by conventional standards which were generally regional and ideological. Gore was by traditional measures almost a carbon copy of Clinton. But his pick reinforced the image of youth, newness and a different kind of Democratic party. He also added some ballast to offset Clinton’s lack of DC experience and personal impulsiveness. Fundamentally, Gore didn’t balance Clinton; he intensified the positives about him and offset the negatives.
Joe Biden did something similar for Barack Obama. Obama certainly wasn’t angling for Delaware. For all the cultural and generational differences, their politics were indistinguishable.
Warren is off-the-cuff, free-wheeling and direct in all the ways Clinton is cautious and rehearsed. But it is a reinforcing rather than an invidious contrast and likely helps bring to the surface Hillary’s progressive background that has been buried by decades at the pinnacle of Democratic party politics and years as the punching bag of the left of the party which feels excluded by the seemingly endless Clinton ascendency.
It may sound crazy to attach so much to her recent Twitter contretemps with Donald Trump. But the tone, rhythm and style are exactly what the Democrats need to knock Trump down and bring out his toxic mix of personal insecurity and emotional instability. It’s not over-earnest or off-key or droning (traditional Democratic tonalities – let’s be honest). She’s mocking, substantive and constantly on target.
Indeed, Trump’s responses to Warren, his attacks on her, make it clear to me he’ll have a hard time handling her.
I’ve made clear that I think Trump just being Trump will make it very hard for him to win a national election, almost regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of his opponent. There are only so many white men in the country and fewer and fewer of us. My one concern, though I wouldn’t say it is a major one, is what I talked about almost a year ago, which is the fact that he moves so quickly, is so protean that he can just rapidly get in the spokes of a conventional campaign. And any Hillary Clinton campaign is highly, highly conventional. Even though Warren is so different from Trump’s mix of hatred, bombast and lurking violence, I think Warren can match Trump on this ability to cut free from the media vectors and planning supply lines of the modern presidential campaign and strike hard and fast in real time. That’s a big deal.
I’ve been a Warren fan for a long time. Not many people remember now but a decade ago I set her and her Harvard students up with a featured blog at the original version of TPMCafe to discuss progressive policy issues. My initial impulse was not to risk a Senate seat. I still feel like it would be a loss to not have her in the Senate, even if she were Vice President. It’s a totally pragmatic question to me. But she lines up on every front. Hillary should put her on the ticket.