Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has been ripping into the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president with the precision and focused fury of a great prosecutor.
“Donald Trump says they ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Warren explained Thursday night, in an American Constitution Society address that condemned the billionaire’s bigoted claim that Federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel should not oversee a case involving Trump because of Curiel’s Hispanic heritage. “No, Donald, what you are doing is a total disgrace. Race-baiting a judge who spent years defending America from the terror of murderers and drug traffickers simply because long ago his family came to America from somewhere else. You, Donald Trump, are a total disgrace.”
No Democrat does a better job of prosecuting Trump’s political wrongdoing than Warren. As Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin told The New York Times, “What she is doing right now, focusing on the outrageousness of Donald Trump is really important. In the universal sense I am always saying, ‘Go, Elizabeth, go!’”
How far can Warren go? When she endorsed Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Rachel Maddow’s show Thursday evening, the host asked if the senator felt she could handle the greatest responsibility of a vice president: that of assuming the presidency if required. “Yes,” replied Warren, “I do.”
Warren resisted a draft movement that sought to get her to run for the presidency in 2016. She now says she is focused on raising the profile of economic-inequality issues that Bernie Sanders put on the table in the primary campaign, and that have been so central to the 2016 race. And, Warren says, she is determined to make sure that Trump’s “toxic stew of hatred and insecurity never reaches the White House.”
Of course, elevating vital issues and taking down the other party’s ticket is pretty much the job description for a vice-presidential nominee. And, after Warren and Clinton met for more than an hour Friday morning, the buzz in Washington and beyond was about whether the senator might be under serious consideration for a place on the Democratic ticket. It really is just buzz at this point. But this buzz is accompanied by a good deal of enthusiasm on the part of some prominent progressives.
“She’d be a terrific vice president,” says Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who had backed Sanders over Clinton in the race for the party’s nomination. “She’d be a great vice president and would be terrific in terms of having a spokesperson for the very powerful ideas that have mobilized the grass roots.”
The selection of Warren as the party’s vice-presidential nominee would, undoubtedly, make a ticket led by Clinton more appealing to the millions of Sanders voters who backed his candidacy over that of the front-runner in the primaries and caucuses—and to progressive independents and working-class voters who are ready to respond to economic-populist appeals.
But could that happen? Yes.
This does not mean it will happen. But it is certainly possible.
Some Warren enthusiasts suggest that she should stay in the Senate and fight from there. That’s a fair argument, as Warren has illustrated what one senator can do to frame the debate—and sometimes to move it in the right direction. But it’s worth noting that senators with bully pulpits and in some cases with great power (Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Al Gore, Joe Biden) have recognized and embraced the potential of the vice presidency.
There are also those who fear Warren’s Senate seat could be lost. It is true that Massachusetts has a Republican governor, but he can only make a brief “interim” appointment to fill a Senate vacancy. The state requires that a special election be held in short order, and Democrats have a very strong bench that includes members of Congress—Seth Moulton, Katherine Clark, Mike Capuano, Jim McGovern, and Joseph Kennedy III, among them—and statewide elected officials like Attorney General Maura Healey.
There are even those who fret about the response of voters to a ticket led by two women. But that’s silly; voters who are unsettled by two women are likely to be unsettled by one woman. On the other hand, a great many Americans could be inspired by the prospect, and by the logic that was expressed by Senate minority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, when he said last week, “We’ve had two men representing the president and vice president for centuries. My personal feeling is I don’t see why you couldn’t have two women, whoever they might be. I think they’d be as good as two men”
Warren may not want to run, and she might not be asked. But if the stars align, there’s no reason to doubt that she could make the race—and that she could play a pivotal role in keeping a certain “thin-skinned, racist bully” out of the White House.