Hillary Clinton, if she runs, will most likely be the Democratic nominee for the 2016 Presidential Elections. The chatter in the media and blogosphere, not to mention the Ready For Hillary campaign, has created a pre-campaign before the pre-campaign. It’s astonishing; there is two years until the next federal election in the U.S. and yet speculation and campaigning is already in full swing. The left is quietly aligning itself to Clinton while the right scrambles to find a leader. Whether Hillary likes it or not, she is being drafted for office, and the left could definitely do worse.
With that in mind, Hillary will need to formulate her campaign in such a way that presents her as a valid choice for the entire left-wing and a swinging vote for the moderates and independents. You may as well dismiss the entire right-wing vote, however moderate, since the Clintons have been made the bogeymen of the conservative political sphere. Unlike other former candidates, she will need to reinvent herself. Hillary has been in politics for as long as anybody can remember, and that’s a serious drawback, given the political mud-slinging that goes on these days. The longer a person is in the public eye, the more mistakes and scandals they endure, and Hills is no stranger to scandals, real or imagined (Whitewater and the Arkansas Project, the Monica Lewinsky disaster, and Benghazi, to name but a few). The media has tons of ammunition ready to fire at the Hillary campaign dating all the way back to the 1970’s, and you can guarantee every single controversy, bad vote or personal affliction will be dredged up, examined to death and given around-the-clock coverage on Fox News. Unjustified as it may be, Hillary will no doubt also be blamed for every indiscretion and failure of the Clinton administration, regardless of the fact that she was only First Lady.
That was the beauty of the 2008 Obama campaign. He was a fresh face, he was new and he hadn’t been around long enough to get caught up in bad deals, bad votes and mistakes that anger the voters and follow him around like a shadow. A fresh face runs the risk of being unrecognised (candidates need some level of fame to succeed nationally, of course) but also has the virtue of looking like a pure virgin. The Obama campaign took that fresh face look and ran with it. Hillary’s campaign, if she chooses to accept it, absolutely cannot run on her innocence. She’s been around too long.
Instead, Hillary can run on the progressive strength of her voting record, and her long-standing support of women’s rights, among other things. The upside to being around forever is that you were there for the votes that counted. The downside that really matters however, is that Hillary is not the left’s wet dream, and has sadly positioned herself as a moderate or even conservative on some issues. For all the virtues of the Obama presidency, it has not been a truly liberal and progressive front. In fact many have taken Obama to be a so-called ‘Rockerfeller Republican’, and Hillary can be made to fit that label too. As satisfied as most liberals are with the Obama campaign, the voters and the country needs a more staunchly progressive choice, and the demand is certainly there.
Hillary is not without those positions that make her an uncomfortable choice for the left-wing. Although idolized by the feminist and (recently) gay movements, other aspects of Hillary’s positions make for difficult reading.
Take crime for example, where Hillary’s positions seem to come entirely out of the Clinton administration’s policy. She supports the building of more prisons and the 3 Strikes law, but she does wish to see an end to unusually harsh (and let’s face it, racist) drug sentencing laws, and hopes to divert non-violent offenders away from prisons. When it comes to crime, Hillary is a mixed bag for progressive liberals who favour more rehabilitation and prevention over lock-and-key solutions.
Or take foreign policy. Hillary has supported some of the most bloody and dangerous parts of American foreign policy throughout her life in the political sphere. She has threatened Iran with nuclear annihilation, supported and voted for the Iraq war (and refused to apologize for it right up until her recent memoir), proposed a better border fence for Israel, and wished to arm Syrian rebels (because that worked out so well before right?). For the anti-war Democrats and the peace liberals, Hillary is an especially tricky choice.
That’s where Elizabeth Warren comes in.
(Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton)
Warren is a relatively fresh faced Senator from Massachusetts who hasn’t endured the kind of scandals that Hillary has faced. Warren has aligned herself with the most progressive in Congress but isn’t afraid to reach across the aisle to get things done. She’s even managed to work with John McCain for God’s sake. It’s no secret that Warren would be my first choice for the Democratic nominee, but I’m a realist. The media would never go for it, the voters would never go for it, and the Republican spin machine would have her looking like a Communist before she even got to her first town hall speech. Warren would have to pull out all of the stops and campaign like no candidate before her, in order to establish herself as a viable choice. But all this doesn’t matter – Warren has time and time again insisted that she has no intention to run in 2016.
Thankfully, that frees her up for the Vice Presidential pick. Warren has taken on the big banks, the greedy corporations, Wall St. and just about every establishment that takes more out of the system than it puts in. Warren isn’t one to wait for the party’s permission to speak on the issues that matter, and there have been times where she has been a total lone wolf. Warren’s approach to crime, to citizen rights, to healthcare, is as progressive as they come, which makes her the perfect influence for a Hillary Clinton presidency (provided Warren would be an active Vice President). When Hillary runs the risk of being too moderate or too right-wing, Warren would be there to pull her back into the liberal sphere. She’s charismatic and a defender of the middle class, she avoids mistakes and party politics, and has a knack for taking on the obnoxious or shady elements of Washington. She is the Democratic answer to the Tea Party, and she kicks ass.
Most importantly, Warren would provide great balance for the often meddling and overly-patriotic foreign policy of Clinton. In her new memoir ‘Hard Choices’, Hillary expresses annoyance and confusion as to why so many people in the Middle East are sick of American politicians. The answer is so obvious and simple that I’m quite astounded that Hillary can’t see it. That’s where Warren comes in. Now it is absolutely not the job of a VP to dictate foreign policy or get involved in the affairs of the State Department (which is why I’d settle to see her as a Secretary of State), but Warren is certainly no meddler and is a pragmatist when it comes to foreign policy. Warren has never expressed a desire to engage in that propagandistic misnomer “nation building”, she has never been an advocate or war, and I often wonder if she is more of a pacifist than she lets on.
For those on the left of the left-wing, for the true liberals and the 21st century progressives, a Clinton ticket does not yet have all the non-negotiable goodies. Hillary has made too many mistakes and aligned herself to too many uncomfortable positions for many liberals to stomach. This doesn’t mean she’ll lose votes with the liberals, it just means we’ll be faced with another Obama situation where the left-wing is only relatively comfortable. It’s tough breaks supporting a candidate when it comes to healthcare, gun restrictions and LGBT rights, but hating them for foreign policy decisions and education policies. For liberals, the age of moderate candidates must come to an end, and Hillary risks being part of the extinct species unless she brings progressive balance to her presidential ticket. Elizabeth Warren is that balance. The best way to unite the left-wing under Hillary is to introduce and espouse the populist philosophy of Warren.