Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton‘s staff has made it known that at least three people are being vetted for the vice presidential designation: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), House and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). It doesn’t mean those are the only ones, but they seem to comprise the likely short list about which everyone is currently speculating. The smart move for Clinton is to pick Kaine since she already has the Latino vote, the women’s vote and the African-American vote but lacks white males and lots of independents. Kaine is a moderate white male who can easily work with Congress. But should it happen that Warren is offered the position, it would be a poor political decision to accept.
It isn’t so much that the vice president’s principal role is to be available in the event of the demise. There is little else for the VP to do other than preside over the Senate. The substantive elements of the VP role are assignments by the president. Despite public posturing, Clinton doesn’t share Warren’s passion for regulation, especially when it is focused on Clinton’s donor class. Warren may be a big media draw, but she has little following within the Senate chamber other than her Democratic counterparts, who don’t want to cross her. So she is not going to be particularly useful as a legislative liaison pressing the president’s agenda and working deals to get things done.
Warren needs to recognize, if she hasn’t already, that the most important contribution she can make to constructive change within the Beltway is to collaborate with the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) to form a progressive caucus. It should be clear to her that Clinton, like President Obama, has two tendencies that are far too reminiscent of the Democrats of her husband’s era. First, she will cozy up to her Wall Street donors once the election dust has settled and work with them to lighten the regulations associated with the Dodd-Frank legislation. Second, her energy policy will rapidly resemble the “all of the above” supports that Obama has pressed, which favor the fossil fuel industry.
There is a pressing need for the Senate to exercise a counterbalance to the “moderate” (read that to mean elitist) inclinations President Hillary Clinton will exhibit. There are good reasons why Clinton’s unfavorable polling numbers are so high. Her predilection for “compromise” (read that as getting to a deal which might from the outside appear to be a sellout) will undoubtedly do damage to the interests of the middle-class hoi polloi.
Clinton has assured Sanders that her platform will continue to press for a $15 minimum wage, tax reform, campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, early childhood education, infrastructure spending, immigration reform, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and support of unions and manufacturing in the U.S., but she won’t be there for free higher education, single-payer health insurance, reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, disengagement with the perpetual war machine, increasing Social Security and Medicare, or a robust support for climate change issues.
There will be a very strong element of regression in the Clinton presidency, given she has to work with a gerrymandered House of Representatives, where it is highly unlikely that Republicans will lose control. There will be the obvious need for accommodation in order to work with the likes of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the conservative element he heads. Clinton will be more than willing to compromise.
Partisan politics being what it is, there is an important need for a countervailing force to move the pendulum of outcomes away from the right-of-center, where it has been for the past thirty five years. To do so, Warren’s greatest strength and enduring contribution to this country will be her ability to articulate a progressive agenda, her willingness to confront the opposition with forceful argument and, if she chooses to do so, to align herself with a block of similarly minded senators to have enough votes to block legislation and thereby force the outcomes toward the left. The unfortunate fact of current political life is that the measure of comity that was envisioned by the Founding Fathers is nowhere present. Democrats haven’t quite figured out that they need to think in terms of combat. A progressive caucus that becomes a veto, just like the Tea Party conservatives in the House of Representatives, is a powerful tool.
It is appalling to think that it is a “progressive” thought that issues like taxation, campaign funding, the undue influence of money in politics, gun safety, healthcare, financial safety networks or climate change are considered to be “left of center.” But the next four years will be spent keeping the Democratic Party’s nominee honest. That is where Elizabeth Warren is needed.
(via: The Hill)