Whenever a popular and talented candidate is elected to the Senate, people almost always start chanting and editorializing that they should run for the White House, often as the vice-presidential candidate. Elizabeth Warren, the newly-elected senator from Massachusetts had not even been sworn in before the “Clinton – Warren 2016” memes began flying around the Internet.
However, what many fail to realize is that Elizabeth Warren is right where she needs to be and where she should stay. Not only does her talent lay in the nuts-and-bolts workings of financial policy, but also, she wields more influence as one of one-hundred rather than door-number-two. A look at history backs this up.
The vice-presidency is almost a constitutional after-thought. In order to force members of the electoral college to come together and cleanly elect a president, the rules mandated that the runner-up would become the veep. Think of the match-ups this would have created in the past decades. Clinton – Dole, Bush – Gore, and Obama – Romney. The founding fathers obviously didn’t put much stock in the office, hoping only that the number-two slot would be filled with someone of statesman character.
Consequently, the veep has two, and only two, legal duties. The first is to step forward if the president dies in office. The second it so cast the deciding vote in a senatorial tie. That’s it. Over the decades, two other roles has evolved. One is to be a force-multiplier for the president, occasionally acting as arm-twister-in-chief. The other is to be the president’s primary confidante. It is also a myth that the road to the White House is through the vice-presidency. The last veep to make it to the big dance was George Bush Sr., in 1988 and he was only there for one term. While not the “pitcher of warm spit,” opined by John Nance Garner, the vice-presidency is scarcely a bastion of power and influence.
Conversely, as a member of the Senate Banking Committee, Elizabeth Warren has the power to be an agent of influence and change. Already, financial and market advocates, such as Dennis M. Kelleher are saying, “Wall Street put hundreds of millions of dollars into defeating Warren, Obama, and financial reform. They went all in. Today they have a much bigger problem.”
The Senate is an elite and powerful legislative body. From the committee system to the filibuster, a single senator can exert a disproportionate amount of influence on legislation. The Senate also has exclusive jurisdiction over treaties and confirmation of officials. With its six-year terms, senators have a longer time to consolidate power and establish their position. Even though Warren represents Massachusetts, the fourteenth most populous state, she wields the same power as California, a state six times the size. Finally, without term limits, a senator can influence legislation for decades.
So, given the out-size advantage of senator, the question should actually be, “Why would anyone want to leave?”