With a string of crucial primary victories positioning Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee, pundits and casual politicos alike have shifted their attention to possible selections for the role of vice president. Several names are being thrown around — Sherrod Brown, Julian Castro, even Bernie Sanders — but one candidate has excited the party base more than any other: Elizabeth Warren.
Long a darling of the progressive wing, Warren’s well-documented stances against corporate greed and excess assuage the very voters that Clinton’s cozy relationships with the financial sector aggravated. Also, her experience as a special advisor to the secretary of treasury, as well as her tenure in the Senate, preempt the “lack of executive experience” arguments that would plague other possible candidates. However, the most exciting option is not always the best one for the party. Elizabeth Warren is an influential, galvanizing politician who has the proper combination of policy expertise and personal charisma to spearhead national political movements. That power would languish if confined to the vice presidency.
Vice presidents do not shape legislation as much as advise presidents and conduct backdoor political bargaining. This is not to say that vice presidents cannot be powerful — vice presidents such as Dan Quayle and Dick Cheney were infamous for how much influence they exerted on federal policy. Rather, their influence doesn’t extend beyond closed-door activities. This would waste Warren’s exceptional ability to generate headlines about her pet political causes — google “Elizabeth Warren Wall Street” if you have doubts — and her ability to champion progressive legislation.
As Senator, she can both shape political narratives and actively craft congressional bills — actions that could result in more tangible progress than the somewhat empty back and forth that characterizes most vice presidential roles. Vice presidents can only advise those who shape political narratives, and are largely removed from directly impacting legislation — they can neither author nor vote on bills. Simply put, the vice presidency would seriously curtail Warren’s power.
Lastly, the argument that Warren would appease Bernie supporters, and thus boost Clinton’s electoral odds, misunderstands the impact of a vice president. It is unprecedented for a vice president to increase the electability of the president who nominated them — their role is to be largely inoffensive, and have enough executive experience to make voters feel comfortable with them serving as president in an emergency. Warren meets these criteria, but so do other candidates who are much less vital to the Democrats’ congressional power. Tim Kaine, for example, is about as risk-free as a potential vice president could be. Warren would not increase Clinton’s likelihood of being elected, but would certainly diminish the power of the Democratic Party to implement their policy goals via Congress.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 2 print edition. Email Matthew Perry at [email protected]