Five reasons Elizabeth Warren might run in 2016

I recently wrote about Hillary Clinton’s vulnerabilities as a 2016 White House candidate, referencing this piece by Guy Saperstein at Alternet. I also added some thoughts that Guy didn’t bring up.

You can read my piece here, or read Guy’s at the link.

I now want to write briefly about Elizabeth Warren and the possibility of her candidacy. Saperstein considers what might cause Warren to enter the 2016 race and says the following.

What would induce Elizabeth Warren to enter the 2016 race?

Warren has said she’s not a candidate, yet has not backed down on her issues, which has created tremendous interest among progressives for her candidacy. Here’s Saperstein on that possibility:

The name on people’s lips is Elizabeth Warren, who is the harshest critic of Wall Street excesses and who speaks to the populist zeitgeist. Would she run, despite having said she is not interested?

I think we should take her protestations of disinterest seriously. Running for President is a brutal task: Two years of living in motels; two years of banquets and bad food; two years of glad-handing people; two years of dialing for donor dollars; two years of facing attacks from Republicans. No rational person would do it. Unless they wanted to change the world.

Having said that, he then lists five scenarios under which he thinks Warren might consider a White House run, Hillary or no (my emphasis and paragraphing):

1. Elizabeth Warren ran for the U.S. Senate because she wanted to change the world, most immediately to break the stranglehold on American politics and the economy that Wall Street currently holds. If she sees Hillary Clinton continuing to suck up to the financial industry and offering the failed economics and deregulation beliefs of Bob Rubin, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, Warren might rethink what she can accomplish in the U.S. Senate.

elizabeth-warrenShe is a person of great principle; she has fought for her principles, often against brutal odds. In the end, principles could prove more compelling than the easier and more comfortable path of stepping back.

2. I have been told by friends of hers that Warren likes her job as senator and thinks she can make important contributions in that role. But if the Democrats lose the Senate in November 2014, she might need to rethink that, because as a member of the minority in a rigidly controlled Republican Senate, it is unlikely she could accomplish anything.

3. Warren might rethink the clock. She is 64 now and would be 67 on Election Day 2016. 2016 could be the only chance she has to run for President.

4. Clinton could choose not to run. In December 2012, she suffered dehydration and fatigue, fainted, fell and hit her head, suffering a concussion. She was rehospitalized two weeks later and her condition was described as a clot between her brain and skull. She previously had suffered a large blood clot in her leg. These medical issues could cause her to rethink undertaking the rigors of a presidential campaign, which are brutal.

5. Warren raised a record $42.5 million to run for the Senate and Democratic donors would come out in droves to fund her presidential campaign. A challenge to Clinton and Democratic Party orthodoxy by Warren would be like catnip to the media. So the minute Warren declared to run for President, she would have $100 million worth of free advertising from the media telling her story and playing up the differences between her and Clinton. …

As I said earlier, much to think about. Maybe someone will succeed in putting Clinton on the record, so the Democratic base can decide if they’re buying what she’s selling. As of this moment, she’s only selling carbon — and that in a low-key way.

Of course, we have much to learn about Elizabeth Warren on other issues, especially in the international arena. Still, what I do know about Ms. Clinton trumps (in a bad way) what I don’t know about Ms. Warren. So far. As I see it anyway.

And now for some context on the last few posts.

Who is Guy Saperstein?

I’ve been quoting Guy Saperstein liberally lately, and there’s a reason for that. As an observer of the Democratic scene, he’s unusually well placed. From his bio at Huffington Post (again, my emphasis):

Guy T. Saperstein graduated law school (UC Berkeley) in 1969, received a poverty law fellowship and represented migrant farmworkers in Colorado; in 1972, he founded a law firm in Oakland which became the largest plaintiffs civil rights law firm in America, in the process successfully prosecuting the largest race, sex and age discrimination class actions in American history. … From 1994-2000, Guy was included in the National Law Journal’s list of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.”

Guy was President of The Sierra Club Foundation 2004-6 and currently sits on the board of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. …

In 2006, Guy helped write the “Real Security” plank of the Democratic Party’s New Directions for America, and in 2007, helped found the National Security/Foreign Policy New Ideas Fund, with funding from the Democracy Alliance. He also has been Co-Chair of the Democracy Alliance’s Strategy Group and was active in its National Security/Foreign Policy Group.

Not someone speculating in an armchair on another continent. But there’s more; the following story may amuse you. It involves a public “encounter” between Saperstein and Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton, progressive Democrats and party loyalty

Saperstein is member of the Democratic Alliance (DA), a group of major funders and fund-raisers for Democratic candidates. At the time of this story, DA “partners” were generally to the left of most party leaders, and wanted to move the party to the left, partly through investing in progressive infrastructure.

That in itself is impressive, and Guy is apparently to the left of most other DA partners.

elizabeth-warrenTo the end of discussing and creating the progressive infrastructure mentioned above, the DA met in Austin in 2006, and near the end of those meetings, Bill Clinton made a surprise (quickly scheduled) on-stage appearance before a roomful of DA members. After some remarks, Clinton took questions and Saperstein took the opportunity to ask him about his wife’s support for the war in Iraq.

To everyone’s surprise, Clinton exploded. This retelling comes from a 2007 interview with Matt Bai, who wrote up the event at the time. The interviewer is Tom Ashbrook. Later in the interview, Saperstein adds his own comments (my emphasis and paragraphing):

[Matt Bai]:  Liberals donors who were not necessarily involved in the Clinton years, who rejected the centrist ethos of Clinton, started to band together soon after Howard Dean’s campaign and around the 2004 election. […]

And they formed something that ultimately came to be known as the Democracy Alliance … which includes about 100 very wealthy donors.  They’ve pulled collectively close to $100 million at this point and will soon exceed that. They are very secretive.  They’ve not identified their membership list publicly. They do not allow people into their meetings. …

[Interviewer Tom Ashbrook]:  But not every meeting has been closed.  I believe you were there in Austin in the spring of last year [2006] when this crowd took on Bill Clinton himself.

MB:  I got to some of that meeting.  I actually reconstructed the piece pertaining to President Clinton from probably a dozen interviews with people in the room.  But I did attend part of that conference before I was summarily ejected!

TA:  Really an extraordinary interaction where Bill Clinton, after some sort of canned remarks, came under very tough questioning from one of those in attendance in particular – Guy Saperstein out of California, very high-profile civil rights lawyer who’s become one of these big donors – with a scathing critique of the Clinton years and where things were going.

Bill Clinton turned to him, as you report, and said, “You’re just wrong.  Everything you just said is totally wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!  Let’s get real here.” Right on down in a silent ballroom.

Again, the issue was Hillary’s stand on Iraq, which she continued to stand behind. Saperstein noted to Clinton that other Democrats had apologized for enabling or supporting the war. Bill Clinton wanted a “we don’t look back” policy among Dems. (Sound familiar?)

Saperstein joined Ashbrook later in the same interview and responded to questions about the event:

TA:  …Clinton turned on you, Guy Saperstein, as quoted by Matt Bai, and said, “This isn’t productive. You’re asking people to flagellate themselves. Only in this party do we eat our own! Is that [what the proposed DA-created] infrastructure is up to?  Is it going to be self-destructive? […]

[Guy Saperstein]:  The [proposed] infrastructure is not necessarily “up to” that, but the infrastructure and people with brains are going to be willing to challenge anyone like [Hillary] Clinton who wants to defend a disastrous war.  

In his case he [Bill Clinton] was defending his wife and suggesting that it was just not possible to foresee the problems of invading Iraq.  And I tried to make the point that it [the Iraq War disaster] was quite foreseeable. This was actually one of the most predictable fiascos in American history. […]  

So for Bill Clinton to come along and say that this was not foreseeable and we’ve just got to give Hillary a pass on it and not test her leadership by the fact that she got this one wrong is simply not credible. 

There are two takeaways here. The first is about the Clintons and the “don’t look back” stand being taken even then (2006) by their part of the party. I’ll have more on that in a bit. The second is this — these are not meetings just anyone can get into. Saperstein’s view of the political arena isn’t from the Peanut Gallery alone. His peanuts have pretty good seats.

We don’t need another Carbon Candidate

Warren’s bottom line seems to be addressing wealth inequality. Great news, since that touches directly and centrally on the carbon and climate issue. As Naomi Klein points out, Big Money and the greedy rich are the perps killing carbon solutions. Addressing the power of the rich opens the door for climate solutions as well.

My bottom line is this — the next Big Carbon candidate will kill us, and Clinton is apparently carbon to the core:

Late into the lecture portion of [Hillary] Clinton’s [2013] Oneida County appearance, she referenced a report that the U.S. in on track to surpass Russia in domestic oil-and-gas production.

That’s good news, Clinton said.

Is Joe Biden another? This might indicate yes, though sins of the son may not be the father’s.

Oil is carbon, and “natural gas” is methane and fracking. Any more is already too much, so no more, please; we’ve had quite enough already. By which I mean — maybe let David Koch carry his own water, and let the next presidential candidate, whoever she is, carry ours.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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