I think Elizabeth Warren cemented herself as one of the canniest politicians working right now when, last week, she came out swinging against superdelegates, calling them unfair, and voting to “‘thoroughly, objectively and transparently’ study the superdelegate system before the 2020 presidential election.” This puts her on the side of angels, of course, (sort of) but it also was a smart and polite way but unmistakeable way to tell Bernie Sanders, whose whole campaign was counting on flipping supers against the will of the voters, to back off. It was brilliant.
Refusing to endorse either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton during the primary season might have been the smartest and savviest move of any politician this season (admittedly, the fumbling flat-footed jackassery of every single Republican trying to figure out what to do about the monster they helped birth makes this a small field). I know that, anecdotally, there was some grumbling from the left about Warren’s refusal to get behind Bernie, the Only True Progressive, and from their perspective, that’s fair. Warren was acting like a typical politician, keeping her powder dry.
But that’s because Warren is, in many ways, a typical politician, in the sense that she is an absolute professional, who understands exactly how politics works. She knows how to get things done, and seems to have an unerring instinct for when to attack and when to lay back. Her endorsement of Clinton got nearly as big of headlines as Obama’s, even though both were inevitable, and now not only does she get to be the bridge between the activist left and Hillary’s relative center, but she gets to be seen as such.
This isn’t just smart positioning, personally. It helps the party achieve its goals of destroying Donald Trump so badly that it creates a whirlpool-level drag on the downticket, flipping the Senate and, in the best (nearly impossible, but what is June but for dreaming) case, taking back the House. The media will probably stop paying attention to Sanders altogether somewhere around the convention, unless he decides to burn down the house, which he won’t. That leaves Warren, whom the media already loves, as the fearless voice of progressive activism, but this one steeped in an understanding, borne from experience, of how things really work. Bernie, of course, knows how politics works, but he ran an explicitly anti-political campaign. It’s really hard to start talking about how to play politics after doing so. Warren can now adopt that coalition, working closely with Sanders, and try to lead it into actual change.
The media’s fascination with her also allows her to be the main point, after Obama (who clearly can’t wait), and Clinton, of course, to attack Trump. And she’s going to be great. She already is. She’s a smart, brilliant, witty-as-hell woman who has zero respect for Trump. She isn’t one of those “he’s a bully but what a man!” types. She sees him as a fraud and a showman, a lucky dope who is emblematic of everything gross and iniquitous about this country, and isn’t afraid to say it. That’s the kind of person (emphasis on woman) who makes him the angriest, and least able to respond, reducing him even more to a pile of spluttering non-sequiturs.
I hope she doesn’t take the VP position, as much as I’d like to see her with a higher profile. She can do battle in the Senate, which she’s quickly mastering. A true activist, with the ear of President Clinton, who knows how to play politics as well as she does the media, and who is fearless in standing up to the real enemy, can help make the Senate reclaim its role as half a co-equal branch. We don’t need all the talent in the White House. A Clinton Presidency and a Warren leadership role is the best chance for real progress.