by Keaton Weiss
RootsAction.org and Progressive Democrats for America are urging Joe Biden to select Elizabeth Warren as his running mate, as per an open letter they published just this week addressed to his campaign. Their reasoning is consistent with what we’ve heard from many progressives sympathetic to the idea: Warren can unite the party by healing the rift between centrists and progressives, thereby bolstering Biden’s chances in the general election, and she will advance the cause of the progressive movement by pushing a potential Biden administration to the left.
To their first point, Elizabeth Warren would not improve Biden’s chances against Donald Trump in November. Polling indicated during the primaries that among Democratic voters, Warren supporters were the most likely to support the eventual nominee no matter who it turned to be. So there is no contingent of Warren voters who will sit out the election if she isn’t on the ticket. She has also fallen sharply out of favor with Bernie Sanders’ most devout supporters, especially after implying that their online “harassment” may have been why she declined to endorse Sanders after exiting the race herself. So there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that any Bernie-or-Busters would have a change of heart if Warren were chosen to be Biden’s running mate.
If anything, tapping Warren for VP is likely the single biggest move the Democrats could make at this point to undermine their chances in the general election. True, Trump’s poll numbers are tanking right now, but given these uncertain times and the precariousness of Biden’s own viability, this race is still far from over.
Despite the prevailing media narrative that Biden is polling better against Trump than Hillary Clinton ever did, Hillary showed dominance in the polls well into the 2016 cycle. A Reuters/Ipsos poll had her up by 12 points in mid-August. An ABC News tracking poll had her up by that same margin on October 23. So Biden’s current lead of about 9 points nationally should be cause for no more than cautious optimism among Democrats.
It’s been argued, quite convincingly in my opinion, that one factor making Biden’s lead safer than Clinton’s is the lack of negative partisanship felt towards him. In 2016, voters who disliked both candidates broke convincingly for Trump because, as disgusting as he was, those voters were more invested in hating Hillary. But this time around, Biden has a dominant 32 point advantage over Trump among that same group. This is because Republicans and conservative independents simply don’t love to hate Biden as much as they did Clinton.
This is evidenced by the fact that Trump himself lately has been tinkering with his nickname for Joe Biden. At first, it was “Sleepy Joe,” but in recent days, he’s been calling him “Corrupt Joe” on Twitter. So while Trump is known for exploiting his opponents’ shortcomings to great effect, he clearly hasn’t quite zeroed in on Biden’s weaknesses just yet in a way that’s politically potent. In 2016, he had Hillary pegged from the start: crooked. The reason that stuck to her like glue is because it animated an already widespread perception among the electorate that Hillary is corrupt (which she is). In Warren’s case, his “Pocahontas” nickname has been equally enduring, because it invokes in people their gut-level assessment of her, which is that she’s a phony and shameless opportunist (and, once again, she is).
And so if Democrats want to lock in that all-important “We Hate Both Of These Assholes” vote, they must avoid hamstringing their ticket with someone who the Right takes such immense glee in despising. Putting Warren in the VP slot would surely jeopardize their negative partisanship advantage by creating the same climate of mutual hatred that defined the 2016 campaign.
Now I suppose all of this is none of my business, since I myself am not a Democrat and will not be urging anyone to support their ticket either way. But beyond offering free advice to a party that doesn’t deserve it, there’s another important reason why all progressives, whether they’re voting blue, Green, or not at all, should vehemently oppose Warren for Vice President.
Elizabeth Warren, despite having lost the 2020 primary, was actually quite successful in triangulating her position within the party such that she garnered measurable support from both the Sanders-style populist progressives and the woke, identity-obsessed Clintonistas. And despite alienating much of Bernie’s base with her slimy, dare I say, snakelike, behavior in the final weeks of her campaign, it’s likely that with a third Sanders run out of the question, many of Bernie’s more casual supporters will default to her as the best available option in a future nominating contest should she decide to run again. Such a primary will likely take place in 2024, as even if Biden wins, he’s unlikely to seek a second term. If Warren enters that primary as the sitting Vice President, her nomination is a virtual lock.
Therefore, before insisting that she be the Vice Presidential nominee, progressives must ask themselves if they’re prepared to make Elizabeth Warren their standard bearer for the foreseeable future. Remember, this is someone who falsely identified herself as an American Indian in order to advance her career prospects at elite institutions like Harvard Law School, which named her their first hired woman of color. A white Harvard professor who lied about her race in order to exploit the same affirmative action policies she supports is literally the worst imaginable representative for the Left. I honestly couldn’t create a worse one from scratch if I tried. Not only will Elizabeth Warren lose the 2024 election by a historic landslide, but in doing so she’ll tank progressive politics for a generation. We couldn’t get Bernie Sanders through a primary without the centrists invoking George McGovern’s 1972 defeat. Try running a progressive within twenty years of Elizabeth Warren losing forty states to Josh Hawley or Nikki Haley.
To play devil’s advocate for a quick second, if Warren’s personal baggage could be weighed against an unrelenting commitment to keystone progressive policy goals, then there might be reason to take a chance on her. But she has demonstrated no such thing. In fact, she’s proven especially untrustworthy in this respect. She was MIA during the 2016 primary and the showdown at Standing Rock. She refused to attack Joe Biden on his bankruptcy bill, despite its awfulness being the very reason she entered politics to begin with. She backtracked her support for Medicare For All at the first sign of resistance from the Democratic establishment. She then leaked a blatantly dishonest smear against the only candidate in the field who still supported M4A in a desperate and cynical attempt to revitalize her failing campaign. She then extended her hopeless bid for the nomination through Super Tuesday, which siphoned critical support from the only viable progressive left standing. She then withheld her endorsement from him afterwards because of her own hurt feelings. And finally, just this past week, she endorsed corporatist fracker John Hickenlooper over Green New Deal candidate Andrew Romanoff in a crucial Colorado Senate primary.
Is this the warrior for justice that groups like RootsAction and Progressive Democrats for America are eager to fight alongside for years to come? If so, why? Especially at a time when real progressives with real vision and real integrity (AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, and others) are blossoming into bona fide superstars, why clog up the works with this unelectable fair-weather two-faced hack who has already proven her willingness to sell out the progressive movement in a heartbeat if the deal is right for her?
The case against Elizabeth Warren for VP is open-and-shut, from every angle. Whether your number one goal is to defeat Donald Trump in November, or to build a viable, sustainable Left movement in the long term, there’s no good argument for Elizabeth Warren to be part of either game plan. It just makes no sense. It’s unwise and shortsighted. And to be frank, it’s highly unnerving that so-called “progressive” groups would even consider making such a strategic blunder in service of such an unscrupulous character and unreliable partner. They should withdraw their letter of support immediately, not just for their own sake, but for the future of the progressive movement.
Photo: John Minchillo, AP