On the last day of 2018, the Democratic nomination contest for president in 2020 has definitively begun, with the first truly “top-tier” candidate announcement: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s video (see below), released this morning. According to Sen. Warren (bolding added by me for emphasis):
For a few thoughts by yours truly on this announcement, see below the video.
First off, I admire Sen. Warren greatly and think she’d make an excellent president. I was strongly considering supporting her if she ran in 2016, was disappointed she didn’t run then, and have written favorably about her many times (e.g., see Video: Elizabeth Warren Lays out 11 Core Progressive Values We Are Willing to Fight For and Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Calling the Republicans’ Bluff, for instance).
However (you knew a “however” was coming?)…my gut tells me that her best shot was in 2016, but she decided not to run in that election, basically stepping aside for Hillary Clinton (and also opening the door to Bernie Sanders, whose support base overlapped heavily with Warren’s). This time around, after the Sanders phenomenon and near-upset win in 2016, I feel like a lot of Warren’s natural, most enthusiastic supporters have moved on, and that she simply might have missed her moment. It will be even worse for her if Sanders runs, because again, their natural bases – and messages (e.g., in her announcement video, she talks about “billionaires and big corporations”), in many ways – overlap heavily.
My other concern with Warren is that she might not be our most electable candidate in 2020. And to be blunt, about the ONLY thing I care about in the 2020 presidential race is taking back the White House; whoever I think is best able to do that is likely who I’ll end up supporting. Why do I say that, and not mention ideology or specific positions on the issues or whatever, as I normally would have in the past? Because, unlike in many past elections, this time we can’t afford to lose – it’s existential, basically, unless you think we can survive (our democracy? the environment?) another term of “President Trump,” assuming we even make it through the next two years intact. And as this Vanity Fair article a few days ago argued:
“Republicans are happy to run against any progressive who tries to compete with Trump at the game he perfected. But they desperately fear another Barack Obama…Without naming names, I asked several senior Republican insiders which Democrat, or Democrats, at the top of the opposition ticket would most reassure them about 2020. Without exception, Elizabeth Warren, the 69-year-old progressive senator from Massachusetts, topped every wish list. ‘There’s a lot of Hillary Clinton in her,’ said a veteran Republican operative in D.C. who hails from the Midwest and keeps a close eye on the heartland. ‘She’s elitist and doesn’t appear very nimble. It would be hard for her to expand her base or reach directly into Trump’s base.'”
Now personally, I wouldn’t call her “elitist” at all (as @TopherSpiro of the Center for American Progress tweeted a few minutes ago, “Among all the progressives who will be running, Elizabeth Warren has perhaps the best personal story of rising from the lower class to fight for the people”). Nor am I even sure what “a lot of Hillary Clinton in her” means, except that coming from Republicans/right wingnuts, any mention of “Hillary” can be assumed to be intended as an insult. But I *do* tend to agree that it might be hard for Warren to “expand her base or reach directly into Trump’s base,” and I’m also concerned — particularly watching the ridiculous, obnoxious back-and-forth on “Pocahontas”/the DNA test — that Warren would try, and fail, to beat Trump at his own crazy/nasty game.
Just to be clear: I’m not arguing, as Michelle Obama famously advised, that Dems should follow the “when they go low, we go high” maxim. But I *do* think that to “go low” with Trump and actually beat him at that vicious game, a Democratic 2020 nominee would have to be very, very talented at said game. And I’m not sure, for all her many, many strengths, I see that in Sen. Warren. Still, let me conclude by stating clearly my great admiration for Sen. Warren, and by wishing her good luck on the campaign trail.