One of the results that pleased me the most on Tuesday was Elizabeth Warren’s win in Massachusetts. Not because Scott Brown is so horrible, but because of the poetry of her taking her place in the same senate that Republicans would have prevented from confirming her as director of the CFPB that she invented. On Tuesday, I tweeted,
“#GOP I guess you should've let Elizabeth Warren run the CFPB. You're never getting that seat back. Never.”
That was when I was just thinking in terms of her holding that seat for the long term, and becoming the grand old lady of the senate; a liberal lion in the Kennedy tradition. And as much as I hate to cash in that idea, it wasn’t long before I started to think, living well is the best revenge, but what’s even better than living in the senate?
I know we just got done with this shit, and it seems like there’s no peace, but we’re going to have a decision to make. Democrats are going to need another candidate in 2016. We’re going to have to do a good job selecting that candidate and then the hard work of making sure he or she wins.
Besides, we all know the process has already begun. A few inevitable columns have already started to trickle out, mainly speculating about the usual suspects. And then there’s this: No sitting vice president who sought it has ever been denied his party’s nomination for president. And on election day, Joe Biden seemed to suggest that the fact that he would be 73 will not be an impediment to his throwing his hat in the ring in 2016.
He’s run twice before. He may think it’s his turn; he’s been a loyal soldier in a successful administration. He may think he is the natural choice to build upon Obama’s success. There may be an element of truth in each of these thoughts, but it can’t be Biden.
Did I mention he’d be 73? He’d be 74 by the inauguration; older than Reagan was at his second inauguration, and Reagan was already the record-holder as oldest president at his first inauguration. (McCain would have broken the record. He… umm… did not win.)
Maybe that alone is not disqualifying. Maybe he’s got an “opponent’s youth and inexperience” style quip in him that can take the teeth out of that issue. But he won’t be a popular president running for re-election. He will be an incumbent vice president following a two-term president, and there will be a certain amount of “Obama-Biden Fatigue” no matter how the next few years go. People just don’t tend to like more of the same, over and over again, especially when the distinguishing mood and aesthetic of that thing has been newness, change, and forward progress. History’s oldest president who’s already been part of the administration for eight years will be poorly positioned to tap into any enthusiasm for freshness and progress.
Not only that, but perhaps it hasn’t escaped your notice that he hasn’t done himself a lot of favors in the “image” department. I have already opined in this space on different perceptions of the performances in the vice presidential debate. You and I might have a certain affection for beaming, bawdy, feisty Grampa Joe, especially on a personal level. But you have to understand that he’s like the AJ Pierzynski of politics: he’s the kind of guy you love if he’s on your team, and hate if he’s in another uniform. To people who don’t already have a locker-room-buddy soft spot for him, he’s a stupid, toothy gaffe-meister. He’s a jerk and a fool. They don’t hate him like we hated Cheney (vicious asshole). They hate him like we hated Bush: he’s incompetent, ignorant, unjustifiably arrogant, and his jokes aren’t funny. He does not appeal to a lot of centrists and independents, who tend to see themselves as sober, calm, and mature.
Who, instead, checks all the boxes?
Elizabeth Warren, that’s who.
She would be 67 but comes across a little younger. She is uniquely positioned to carry forward the Obama legacy and tradition while still having appeal as fresh, new, and exemplifying progress. What better for Democrats, just eight years after breaking down one barrier, than to break down another? She will have the same senate experience Obama had, but will not have been around Washington forever.
In contrast to Biden’s jocular good-enough-ness, she is simply warm, and personable, and stone-cold competent. A Harvard Law vet like President Obama, she is as thoroughgoing an expert in economics, law, and public policy as anyone in the Democratic Party. She, as much as Obama, will be able to lay claim to having guided America out of economic catastrophe, having served on the Congressional Oversight Panel of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and then helped establish her brainchild, the CFPB. She’s been tested in the fires of a much more competitive, and much more widely and closely watched, senatorial election than was Obama in Illinois.
She has the background, experience, and expertise to articulate a progressive message, make it persuasive to centrists, and politically successful. She’d been doing it for years in relative obscurity, as "that lady who's always on Frontline." Over the last few years, her public profile has increased dramatically, and she has handled it with aplomb.
Four years is a long time, and a lot of things could happen. You can never be sure about who might have a face-crushing scandal lurking in the closet (You bet I am still upset about Spitzer). Moreover, I’m not that guy. I don’t like putting out substantially speculative commentary that is highly susceptible to change based on future events. Mostly, I prefer to comment on things about which I am highly confident. But based on what is known and knowable right now, I think we’d all be well-served to start envisioning the Warren-for-President literature, and trying to persuade her to go for it.And failing that, we've at least got to talk Biden down.