A year or so ago, I sat across a dinner table from an optimistic young woman (in her 30s, a millennial) and sternly explained to her why Hillary Clinton, were she to become the Democratic presidential nominee, would never pick Elizabeth Warren for a running mate. I deployed several reasons from my arsenal, the most pressing being that picking Warren would be an inherently risky move and Clinton had never been a risk taker. It would be out of character and therefore jarring to the public.
I told my friend that I would be delighted to see a Clinton-Warren ticket, but it was simply never going to happen.
“You may have grown up in the era of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, well, Hillary Clinton,” I said, “but there are still a lot of Neanderthals out there who think a woman can’t be trusted with the security of the free world because she’s too hormonal (regardless of her age) and erratic. Put two women in that position and the resulting misogyny would be so inflamed that it could impede the important work of government.”
Despite the “you go, girl” veneer of a two-woman ticket, I added, it would simply be too much, too soon.
My friend told me I was wrong. She said I needed to have a little more faith in the American voter and in Clinton. She told me I was operating with an outdated mindset.
Today, as the Democratic National Convention approaches and Clinton’s decision grows imminent, I still suspect I’m right that Clinton will never choose Warren. And more than ever, I would love to be wrong.
The reasons that diehard progressives want to see Warren as the vice presidential nominee are obvious. She would bring some much-needed electricity to Clinton’s campaign. Her reputation as a populist crusader might offset Clinton’s as a member of the establishment elite. She might even get some of the more intransigent Bernie Sanders voters to quit stomping their feet and start working for the Democratic candidate already.
Best of all, choosing Warren would be — pardon the metaphor — downright ballsy.
There’s no question in anyone’s mind — even, and maybe especially, in the minds of her enemies — that Clinton is tough. She is weathering the harsh assessment that FBI Director James Comey delivered about her self-proclaimed email “mistake.” She has both won and lost grueling political campaigns. She has shown almost superhuman resilience in the face of decades of scrutiny and attacks. She has navigated a complicated marriage. As secretary of State, she demonstrated a willingness to deploy military force that, fairly or not, got her labeled a hawk.
Toughness is not necessarily the same thing as gutsiness, though, and Clinton’s reputation for being calculated and strategic can too often feed the impression that her political passions take a backseat to her personal ambitions. That’s why the smart money for her VP pick remains on the safe choice, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, whose white male centrism promises to make Clinton seem less scary for those inclined to be scared.
But for those inclined to be bored by Clinton, a little scariness could translate into excitement. The thrill would come not just because of Warren's undeniable appeal for a certain segment of voters but, crucially, because choosing her would offer us a glimpse of a wilder, more fervent Clinton than the one usually on view.
It’s no accident that the story of Clinton delivering a blazing 1969 Wellesley commencement address about, among other things, “the art of making what appears to be impossible possible,” retains an almost mythic quality among her devotees. She ditched her notes briefly to challenge the previous speaker, Sen. Edward Brooke, whom she perceived was defending President Nixon. In that younger Clinton, we can see a fearlessness that’s gone by the wayside. That Clinton didn’t hold her finger up and test the wind. Listen to the audio and hear her taking charge, consequences be damned.
If Clinton chooses Warren as her running mate, it would be the ultimate throw down. It would be unabashedly bold, which is why I still think it’s unlikely. If it happens, I’ll apologize to my millennial friend. And coming from a Gen Xer, that’s its own kind of throw down.
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