Only halfway through 2015, Run Warren Run, a group formed by MoveOn.org to persuade Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016, has accepted that Warren isn’t listening and is closing up shop. In an editorial for Politico, Ilya Sheyman of MoveOn.org and Charles Chamberlain of Democracy for America, which helped set up the Run Warren Run effort, explained their decision. “There’s no sugar-coating it: We didn’t achieve our central goal,” they write, adding that while they “may not have sparked a candidacy, [they] ignited a movement” to fight income inequality.
Sheyman and Chamberlain are right about the groundswell of attention on income inequality and that Warren’s presence in the political landscape has helped keep the issue front and center. In fact, that’s one reason why it’s good Warren decided to ignore her own fan base and not to run for president. Warren understands what some of her biggest supporters don’t: that sometimes it’s best not to fix what isn’t broken.
A huge part of me would love to see Warren run for president, just to watch the squirming of all those bro-gressives who swear they’d support a female candidate so long as it wasn’t Hillary Clinton. However, a presidential run isn’t necessarily the best way to advocate for fixing our unfair, broken economic system. The office of presidency is a generalist one, meaning that to run a successful campaign, Warren would have to spread her energies much thinner, focusing on social issues and foreign policy and bureaucratic headaches like the running of the Department of Health and Human Services under Obamacare. I’m sure she would be great on all those fronts, but it would mean she couldn’t play the role that she’s best at: attack dog on income inequality and Wall Street corruption.
Being in Congress is perfect for a specialist. Let the rest of your caucus handle issues like reproductive rights and foreign policy; all you need to support them is show up and vote. The rest of your time can be spent hammering at this one major issue, by doing media appearances, drafting legislation, and building a coalition of support. In addition, Warren has shown that, as a senator, she is plenty powerful at fighting some of the more economically conservative impulses in her own party. While she wasn’t able to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership bill, her coalition-building skills made it a lot harder to push it through the Senate than its supporters, including President Obama, thought it would be.
We can also look forward to watching the fireworks as Warren goes after Hillary Clinton for her economic centrism. Warren doesn’t hold back from attacking Obama, and she won’t hold back from attacking Clinton. On the contrary, having her in Congress, ready and waiting to attack, is the left’s best hope for keeping Clinton honest.