I really underestimated Bernie Sanders when the Democratic primary kicked off. I mean, I honestly did not expect him to run again, if only because I felt he had just as much animosity towards him from an entire half of the Democratic Party as Hillary Clinton did. Simply put, I thought there wasn’t enough steam for him to get the nomination. But, I was wrong. Though Sanders didn’t end up becoming the nominee, his base of supporters still had the same amount of passion and determination as before.
February was Sanders’ month and, if the other moderates hadn’t dropped out, he most likely would have built an insurmountable lead. The pragmatism of Mayor Pete Buttigeg and Senator Amy Klobuchar won out, with perhaps a promise of a cabinet position, and Joe Biden swept Super Tuesday. But make no mistake, Biden has a lot of work to do if he is going to get more of Sanders’ supporters than Clinton did.
Besides suddenly becoming a proponent for Medicare For All, the VP slot is basically the only thing that realistically has a shot at influencing them. This choice is more powerful because, unfortunately, with Biden’s age, there are those who believe that the VP could become president sooner than usual. While that is a way of thinking that shouldn’t be there at all, it is a part of the conversation, which gives weight to the pick.
Hillary Clinton chose another moderate for her VP, deciding on Tim Kaine. This proved to be a detrimental action, as it made Clinton appear that she was not taking their concerns to heart. Like Biden, Clinton also veered left once Sanders was out of the picture, attempting to appease, but it just wasn’t enough. If Biden and his team are smart, which I believe they are, they will be looking to see if a progressive will work.
As of now, there are only two major female progressives who are serious possibilities: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
There were rumors that, when Biden was considering a 2012 presidential run, he met with Warren to offer her his VP slot. Whether this is true or not, Warren should certainly be a major consideration this time around. She has a group of passionate, loyal supporters, many of whom are young, which is a demographic Biden seriously lacks.
She is also very close to Bernie ideology wise, but still calls herself a capitalist. Warren represents the progressive movement, but doesn’t go the “my way or the high way” route. With seemingly endless energy, she could spark the passion that’s needed to get voters out to the polls in November.
The question is whether she and Biden would be able to come to an agreement on policy. Warren is firmly in the Medicare For All camp, putting it on record that private insurance should not exist. Biden, on the other hand, only goes so far as a public option, so it would be tricky for Warren to now make that concession. There is also a concern over whether they could be able to campaign together as a team. One fantastic example of their differences can be shown in a debate they had over bankruptcy law back in 2005, before Warren was even a Senator.
Still, a team of rivals is something that I feel really works in politics. Lincoln did the same and it worked wonders. Trump, meanwhile, has seemed to already be combatting this choice, stoking flames by tweeting “Bernie Sanders is OUT! Thank you to Elizabeth Warren. If not for her, Bernie would have won almost every state on Super Tuesday!” It’s a smart play, as many fervent Bernie supporters feel she should have left the race sooner to let Bernie soar, or simply endorsed him when she dropped. If Warren is looked at as a traitor, dealing in establishment politics, putting her on the ticket won’t do much.
And again, because Biden would be the oldest elected president, moderates and Republicans will look at Warren as a replacement that could very well happen. Thus, choosing Warren could lose as many people as it would gain. She’s a force to be reckoned with, but it’s a very big risk.
Baldwin is probably the safest progressive pick and historically the most logical. She is a two term senator from a key battleground state. Wisconsin went to Trump in 2016, but Baldwin kept her seat by 11 points in 2018. She’s also less of a firecracker than Warren, speaking quite softly about issues when debating and being able to win over voters with her progressive platform.
On paper, Baldwin makes a lot of sense, as she would be a progressive pick that hasn’t already drawn the ire of the majority of the Republican Party. However, there are a few challenges. The first is that Wisconsin is arguably moving more red than blue. Biden putting all his eggs in winning back the Rust Belt could be riskier than putting Warren on the ticket. Whatsmore, even if Biden won, Baldwin would have to give up her Senate seat in this increasingly Republican leaning state. The Senate will no doubt be very close after 2020 and the Democrat that is put forward to be her replacement won’t have the good will and track record of Baldwin.
Furthermore, a great weakness of Biden’s campaign is the lack of enthusiasm. Thus, picking a relatively obscure Senator, who is fairly soft-spoken, during a time when campaigns cannot hold massive rallies to spur support, poses a massive challenge. Picking someone with national recognition and a built in fan base would help negate this issue, making Warren a better choice in this respect.
However, despite Warren and Baldwin both being white women, Baldwin is a member of the LGBT community, which could be a catalyst to some excitement in voters. She would also be going up against current Vice President Mike Pence in a debate, meaning she would be able to really frame his previous homophobic policies in perspective.
Both women would hopefully bring a decent amount of support from Sanders supporters. Warren would juice up the campaign, but Baldwin would be less threatening tho moderates. Ultimately, if given the choice between the two, I would advise Warren. She has proven to be a shrewd competitor nationally and I would give more weight to her ability to bring in passion than Balwin’s ability to keep in moderates.
Time will tell if Biden even picks a progressive, but if he doesn’t, he has a lot more work to do to appease the rest of the Democratic Party.