One of Barack Obama’s greatest failures during these past eight years has been his inability to understand how badly he needed connections to and in the Senate. Apparently he believed that his own staff in the White House was all the army he needed to get his ambitious agenda passed, enacted, and on the road. He had no outside air inside his tight bubble, no one unattached to the White House who could say to him, “Mr. President, maybe we should enlist our troops in Congress before going full bore.”
The reality of several hundred important positions left unfilled – due primarily to Republican intransigence, including his most recent appointment to the Supreme Court – has been allowed to continue in some cases for years and in one case until the appointee herself died while waiting for confirmation.
Without warriors on his side – or because he was afraid of seeming too harsh and strident in his demands – he could do nothing but watch the machinery of government slow to a nearly complete halt into that state we now lovingly call “gridlock.”
There was also the little problem of Obama’s belief that men and women on the Hill cared more about the country than themselves. This naivete was in a way charming and old-fashioned but also partly constructed of misunderstanding that D.C. legislators were going to give a black man any help whatever during his two terms as leader of the nation. Prejudice, it is called. Racism.
We’ve all watched with mounting horror as this year has progressed to the point of no return (maybe, maybe not) with Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee for Mr. Obama’s office, and Hillary Clinton as his putative Democratic replacement.
And on Hillary’s biggest day yet – when Mr. Obama endorsed her heartily, when Mr. Biden and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren both savaged Donald Trump as members of his own party refused to do – we are stunned to find there really was a third candidate who might (the odds were long, the wait unbearable) have made a real, lasting, thrilling difference in the direction of our nation.
When Joe Biden declined to run for president – a decision we supported but regretfully – we were thrown into despair, having only the strident Mrs. Clinton and the bullying fear-monger Mr. Trump before us as possible chief executives.
But last night, finally, Elizabeth Warren unveiled her hardly hidden talents and stripped Trump from top to toe, leaving him naked in the glare of his own publicity.
Immediately pundits and commentators began to wonder whether Hillary would enlist Warren as her attack dog, as her vice-presidential nominee. Bloomberg split, John hopeful, Mark doubtful. Chuck on MSNBC intrigued. Mornin’ Joe’s round table couldn’t make up its mind, although Danny and Mike seemed inclined to pull for this pairing. And last night Rachel Maddow quoted Ed Rendell (ex-governor of Pennsylvania) directly to Warren’s face: she (in his opinion) was unqualified to be commander in chief. Could she do that job, too?
Warren gave the question a split-second’s thought and then replied, “Yes, I could.”
Although we don’t see ourselves in the same elevated league, we’re standing on our little flat feet and shouting “DON’T DO IT! DON’T DO IT!”
There are several reasons we refuse to be wooed by this extraordinary woman. Firstly, we don’t need to. We admire her already, and believe in her absolutely. We know she cares; we know she’s brave; we know she’s right.
Secondly, she is uniquely placed within the Senate to become a mole for a Clinton administration. More than a mole, a Senator who can distinguish between what’s good for the country and what’s not and is not afraid to say so.
Thirdly, as one woman Senator among many, she could develop into a ring-leader and cheer-leader for a new Democratic administration. She could provide not only fresh air into the White House bubble, but also fresh inspiration and fresh information. And there is a chance that her own strength and vigor not withstanding, she could learn to do all this diplomatically, gently, persuasively. We think of her as a siren, as Scheherazade, even better as a hard-nosed, hard-working but ultimately soft-hearted worker for social and economic justice. She would slice and dice Mitch blind-folded.
Would the country accept her as a vice-presidential candidate? Democrats might. Republicans never would. Trump’s legions would be horrified at having two women at the top of the governmental pyramid, and be twice as threatened by two as by one. To designate Senator Warren as a running mate would unite Trumpistas (Trumpistos?) throughout the nation as almost nothing else would.
We want Elizabeth Warren where she is. There are plenty of fine male Democratic candidates who would stand Hillary in good stead, who would calm the fears of the nervous, legitimize Hillary’s tenure, and who – on their own – bring to the ticket valuable experiences and talents.
If, later, Senator Warren wants the top spot for herself, God bless her. But not now. She’s too important as a mover and shaker, as a mole within the structure of the Old Boys Club, as a stinging gadfly to the majority of her male colleagues to become only another partisan pest.
Besides, she says she’s happy doing what she’s doing. We believe her. Being “outside” gives her freedom, which she needs to push for progressive and meaningful change. Which WE need.