Given her strong criticism of big banks, Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton shocked progressive voters. Many of Warren’s supporters, as well as Bernie Sanders’, feel betrayed and angered by her decision. They believe that she has abandoned the progressive cause. But perhaps these judgements are premature and shortsighted. Before we jump to any conclusions, I would like to propose the idea that Senator Warren has not changed her political tune, but is instead playing the long game. She is driven in her crusade to break up the big banks, initiate campaign finance reform, and most visibly, keep Donald Trump out of office. By endorsing Hillary Clinton, she gets closer at achieving all three of these goals.
For most of the primary process, Senator Warren remained publicly neutral. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders announced their presidential candidacies on April 12th and April 30th of 2015, respectively. Yet it took Elizabeth Warren until June 9th of 2016 to announce her endorsement. In fact, she endorsed Hillary Clinton after President Obama himself. She was one of few hold-outs in the senate—why? Because at this point, it is obvious that although Bernie Sanders remains in the race, Hillary Clinton will more than likely be the Democratic presidential candidate. At this point, it’s difficult for even the most optimistic Sanders supporter to imagine that he will be able to clinch the nomination.
This does not mean that Elizabeth Warren does not believe in Bernie Sanders and his policies—banking and campaign finance reform are still of monumental importance to them both. In fact, the reality that Elizabeth Warren held out on endorsing the “favorite” candidate of the DNC for so long actually demonstrates the belief that she had in Bernie Sanders. But when it became obvious that Clinton would likely be the nominee, Warren of course had to prioritize the achievement of her goals, instead of the endorsement of a candidate that likely wouldn’t win. This is a pragmatic, long-term, goal-oriented approach, not the abandonment of long-held beliefs.
It does seem counterintuitive for Elizabeth Warren, as the champion of banking and campaign finance reform, to endorse Clinton—especially given her ties to Wall Street. But what better option is there? If Warren criticizes Clinton, her chances of achieving any type of reform is minuscule given the polarization of Congress. By staying close to Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren has a much better chance of pushing her progressive agenda than if she were to lambaste the likely presidential nominee.
It’s important to recognize that, especially due to Senator Sanders’ campaign, Clinton has frequently addressed the issues of campaign finance and banking reform. It’s possible that Warren’s progressive agenda might be the extra push that Clinton will need to actually achieve these reforms. Moreover, with Clinton’s support, Warren could potentially look into a presidential run for herself sometime after Clinton’s time in office is over. It’s easy to criticize Warren in the moment for her decision, but she is likely thinking much longer-term than most of us realize.
Another important factor in Elizabeth Warren’s decision to endorse Hillary Clinton is her opponent, Donald Trump. Keeping a candidate so misogynistic, racist, and hateful out of office must be a top priority among all progressive legislators. Senator Warren has taken to this task personally, as seen in her recent Twitter feud with Donald Trump, as well as her frequent and harsh criticisms of the Republican presidential nominee. By endorsing Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren gets closer to achieving her goal of keeping Donald Trump from obtaining control of the country.
So to the passionate progressives of the United States, I say this: Calm down and wait it out. Delay your criticisms until we see what actually unfolds if Warren and Clinton do end up in office together. Warren’s endorsement of Clinton is not indication of her throwing away the issues that matter to her the most. Elizabeth Warren is playing the long game; let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and hope she wins.