Joe Biden’s stated commitment to pick a woman as his Vice-Presidential running mate is not only a bright spot amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic. It is a hook thrown into the future. Elizabeth Warren, I propose, is the woman best able to take that hook and run with it.
Biden’s announcement during Sunday’s Democratic debate with Bernie Sanders became the headline take-away. And with Biden again winning big in Tuesday’s primaries in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona, he now is the prohibitive favorite to be the Democratic nominee. As such, his commitment to a woman V.P. becomes real, operational. Let the naming games begin.
The names of Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, all U.S. senators, head many lists. Biden reportedly leans toward someone experienced in campaign politics, which of course includes these three before they were forced to bow out of the presidential race. Other names include Stacey Abrams, whom Biden calls “the woman who should have been the governor of Georgia”; U.S. senators Catherine Cortez-Masto, Jean Shaheen, and Maggie Hassan; Governor Gretchen Whitmer; and Sally Yates, acting Attorney General fired by Trump early in his term.
Of these highly qualified women, Elizabeth Warren stands out — on the most important grounds. They are:
ONE: Crucially, Warren has the financial-economic smarts to engineer our post-pandemic recovery.
When this pandemic ends, there will be vast financial and economic damage to redress. To reconstruct the system, perhaps from the ground up, we need, not an ideology-driven politician, but an actual expert in things financial and economic. And since this pandemic with its almost complete public lockdown will no doubt produce massive bankruptcies, both business and personal, who better to have in the №2 role than an expert on bankruptcy?
Warren made bankruptcy her specialization as an academic (also here), coming to it first as a Republican who believed bankruptcy was the result of moral failure, then as a Democrat who understands how capitalism can destroy if not properly managed and regulated. (Biden and Warren have talked twice recently about bankruptcy.) Recall also Warren is the founding mother of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which, before it was defanged by the Trump administration, clawed back $12 billion in monies lost by Main Street to Wall Street. As for Wall Street, Warren is said to scare the “talent” there — a very good thing. Plus, the articulate Warren makes finance and economics understandable.
The Vice-Presidency was described by John Nance Garner, Franklin Roosevelt’s V.P., as “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” Vice-President Warren would make the office work: An avowed capitalist who is also a progressive, Warren could be the architect of capitalism’s New Day, give it at long last a human face, as progressives have long advocated, addressing not only bankruptcy but the yawning income inequality. Has History found its woman?
TWO: To win, Warren can unify progressive and moderate Democrats.
To get to the White House, of course, it first must be won. To do that, the moderate-progressive divide among Democrats, which remains stark, must be bridged. For the danger is that when Bernie Sanders does leave the race, some critical number of his supporters will sit out the general election, as they did in 2016. Warren is the bridge: She was the candidate who, in my opinion, grew the most in depth and humanity over the campaign and thus is the one whose departure hurt the most (also here). As such, she could appeal in a persuasive and feeling way to Sanders supporters, themselves hurting. Ideally, she’d team up with her old friend Bernie in a joint appeal for unity.
Is this too great an ideological leap for Warren, moving from progressive to moderate? In all presidential campaigns past, tacking to the center — where most Americans are and where campaigns are won — is The Way. Warren would execute.
THREE: As V.P., Warren would be the most valiant champion of women.
Who can forget Warren taking on Michael Bloomberg in the Las Vegas Democratic debate? Incensed that a billionaire would buy his way midpoint into the campaign, but even more incensed at his record with women in the workplace as it became known, Warren put it to him — point-blank and from three feet away: “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against — a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg” (video here).
As a life-long feminist, I cannot think of a more stirring defense of women in my lifetime than Warren’s, which no doubt was rehearsed but also bravely delivered — to devastating effect. The next day a friend who is not an avowed feminist (but really is one) sent me an email with the subject line, “Wow, Elizabeth.” And recall also Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell whining about Warren not shutting up and uttering the unforgettable line (and bumper-sticker): “Nevertheless she persisted.”
Despite several generations of feminism’s second wave, women in the U.S. remain underrepresented in positions of power and women’s issues remain undervalued. Can anybody imagine Elizabeth Warren backing down on the issues that matter to women — or on anything? And fair-minded men will be with her on this (the unfair-minded men, not so much). As for women who still can’t countenance their sisters as leaders (the ladies-against-women syndrome), Warren might persuade them too — “Wow, Elizabeth.”
For all these reasons and more — the biggest one being that as Vice-President, she would be perfectly poised to run for President — Elizabeth Warren, crucially on her expertise in things financial-economic and on the strength of her character, and also her Democratic bona fides and productive record in the Senate, makes her own case.
But will History call? Will our next President, Joe Biden, call? Whomever he calls, I will support, whole-heartedly, be it Warren, Klobuchar, Harris, Ms. X. While some women fret that, once again, a woman stands by for a call, rather than making it, I say: Take the call. Power is power, whether captured or bestowed. Take the power and run with it — hard — and save the Republic.