I have already made what I consider a reasonable progressive case against a Clinton-Warren ticket, but there are some unreasonable progressive cases out there.
Even if Warren cut a deal to endorse Clinton and serve in her administration, it’s not clear whether all of her backers — or Sanders’ steadfast supporters — would automatically jump aboard the Hillary bandwagon.
“I find it highly improbable that a leading voice in the progressive movement, whether it be Elizabeth Warren or someone else, would want to be sitting in the vice president’s office or in the Cabinet,” said Jonathan Tasini, a New York-based Sanders supporter who isn’t ready to give up the fight for Bernie. “Would Warren or any true progressive be willing to make the obvious compromises that a moderate corporate Democrat Hillary would demand? I don’t think so.”
Politico might have mentioned that Jonathan Tasini ran in a Democratic primary against Clinton’s 2006 Senate reelection bid, but they didn’t. He got a whopping seventeen percent of New York state Democrats’ votes. Then he threatened to run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010 before deciding to wage a doomed House campaign against Charlie Rangel instead. I don’t begrudge the guy’s desire to challenge the Establishment in New York, but he’s lucky if he speaks for 17% of the people there.
Progressives like Tasini are so anti-establishmentarian, and so reflexively suspicious of power, that they don’t actually want any for themselves. Not really. If you want to argue that Warren is more valuable as a senator than she could be as a vice-president, or that Sanders could get more done as the Chairman of the Budget Committee than he could cooling his heels in the Naval Observatory, I think those are entirely defensible arguments. But this dismissal of the value of having progressive champions chosen to be first-in-line to the presidency is something to behold.
It wasn’t too long ago that there were no Progressive Caucus members in the Senate. The Iraq War and its aftermath has certainly changed that. Former House progressives Ed Markey, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono and Bernie Sanders are all serving in the Senate today, along with folks like Brian Schatz, Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Al Franken, and Jeff Merkley who are pretty progressive in their own right. When Elizabeth Warren looks around, she doesn’t feel like she’s all alone.
But, still, nothing says you’ve arrived like getting put on a presidential ticket. That’s the opposite of the pariah status progressives have suffered under since the Reagan Revolution kicked into full swing. From a progressive point of view, Warren isn’t necessarily a better pick ideologically than any of the others on the above list, but she’s more famous and a more gifted politician (at this point) than the others. She’s also a proven success at the inside bureaucratic game, which she proved when getting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set up in the face of withering opposition.
The idea that a “true” progressive wouldn’t sully themselves by association with a Clinton presidency is a rejection of the advances progressives have made, and it’s a recipe for continued marginalization and irrelevancy. What I object to is not the rational assessment that a particular progressive (whether Sanders, Warren or someone else) might be more influential in a role other than the vice-presidency. What I find galling is the idea that no good progressive should be willing to serve “in the vice president’s office or in the Cabinet” of a Clinton administration because it would involve making compromises.
As George W. Bush said, the president is the decider, and anyone who serves the president must accept that they sometimes have to salute decisions they didn’t recommend. This all-power-or-no-power no compromise attitude is Tea Party stuff.