A Progressive's Plea to Elizabeth Warren: Please Don't Be Anyone's Token VP

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A Progressive's Plea to Elizabeth Warren: Please Don't Be Anyone's Token VP

The revelation that Joe Biden wanted Elizabeth Warren as his running mate in the event of a presidential run—a possibility that was nixed in late October—is a nice juicy story, but not a huge surprise. Per Politico:

Biden, a stalwart Democrat who has veered leftward in recent years — but, as a centrist senator, voted to scuttle the Glass-Steagall prohibitions on banks engaging in speculative investments — favored Warren because he needed a partner to capture the wave of anti-bank, anti-establishment anger raging to his left.

Of course he did! You know why? Because there’s a burgeoning progressive movement in this country, with a lot of support behind it, and Biden knew he had absolutely no claim on them. Even in his earliest strategy sessions, he knew Warren was his perfect token—someone he could add to the ticket that would resonate with progressives, but who would have essentially no power and would allow him to maintain his centrist position.

The two met, Warren was “noncommittal but not displeased,” but then told him that he was screwed because he was even more of a moderate than Hillary Clinton. Just like Clinton, Biden voted to crush Glass-Steagall, and supported the same bankruptcy bill that Warren nailed Clinton on in her 2003 book. Those are the big highlights, but they’re also representative of a lifetime of moderate stances from the current Vice President. So when he asked her whether Clinton would face a tougher-than-imagined battle because of those progressives, she told him yes, but that he wasn’t well positioned to benefit.

Now, months later, everybody is talking about Warren as Hillary Clinton’s VP pick. Again, the idea is that it would “heal” the schism between the two sides of the Democratic party, and bring all those ornery Sanders supporters on board the Democratic express. Even Biden has encouraged this move, and he’s clearly no fan of Hillary Clinton. For her part, Warren has kept the door open by not outright endorsing Bernie Sanders—a move that is probably politically wise but which infuriated some Sanders voters, especially around the Massachusetts primary—and when anyone asks her directly whether she’d accept the job, she gives evasive non-answers.

You could make the case that there is “influence” to be had as VP—Politico suggests she might have the power to “influence” Treasury Department and financial oversight staff—and of course she’d only be a heartbeat away from the oval office. But really, does anyone trust Clinton’s overtures to the left? Do we believe she opposes the TPP after she supported it on record dozens of times? Do we believe she’s going to do a full 180 on her war hawk act of the past decade? Do we believe she’s actually going to crack down on the banks that have treated her so well over the years, when she’s too afraid to release the text of speeches she made to them?

I won’t go on—you’ve heard it all before, and you either agree or you don’t. Some people trust Clinton to accomplish “incremental change” and move our country to the left. Others (read: me) see more “compromise” that actually just pre-emptively concedes any goal worth achieving. For that second group, watching a real fighter like Warren getting subsumed into the Clinton bubble would be a living nightmare.

So: As a progressive, my hope would be that Warren rejects a VP offer and holds her seat in the Senate. It’s already tough enough for this movement to make real change in America, and it’s only going to get tougher if one of our brightest leaders gets co-opted, and then ignored, by the center. So please, Senator Warren—stay strong. Don’t be anybody’s token.

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