Elizabeth Warren is the favorite potential 2016 presidential candidate for many progressives.
Elizabeth Warren has done nothing to fuel the talk of a presidential run in 2016. She has repeatedly stated, when asked, that she has no intention of running for president. She signed a letter from a group of female Democratic Senators encouraging Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016. Clinton is widely believed to be running, and is the early frontrunner, both for the Democratic nomination and for the presidency itself. And yet, the Warren for president drum won't stop beating. Here's why:
1. Warren has huge outsider cred, Hillary has none
Elizabeth Warren is a believer in government and she designed a government agency (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) in response to the financial crisis, so she's not an outsider in that sense. Rather, Warren is someone who truly challenges the status quo in Washington: she takes on the big banks. The biggest donors have the biggest impact in American politics, and no one has more sway than the banks. That's how we got decades worth of financial deregulation leading up to the Great Recession, and the bank bailouts. Hillary Clinton is as friendly to the banks as any centrist politician (read: very).
2. The progressive movement never warmed up to Hillary
It's not just banking issues where the left wishes Hillary Clinton was more edgy. She voted for the Iraq War and came out in favor of gay marriage when it was becoming very fashionable for every Democrat Senate holdout on gay marriage to declare their support. She does occasionally make controversial statements, but they have a tendency to seem calculated and ill-timed (i.e. "shame on you Barack Obama," when Obama was beating her in 2008). The progressive movement wants deep-cut reforms like single-payer healthcare and marijuana legalization. Hillary is unlikely to deliver those.
3. Elizabeth Warren is homey and charismatic, Clinton not so much
We select politicians on their charisma. Not just their charisma, but it's a big factor. Bill Clinton is one charming dude. George W. Bush was warm and cuddly to about half the country. Barack Obama leaves people in thrall with his oratory. Hillary Clinton isn't a bad speaker, but she doesn't quite wow people. She does alright in interviews, but she too frequently projects her biggest weakness as a politician: the sense that everything she does is calculated. That's not a fair characterization, but there's enough truth to it for it to stick to her. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, had some initial stumbles in her run for Senate in Massachusetts, but she's come into her own, and her Senate Banking Committee hearings regularly go viral. (Apologies if the words Senate Banking Committee made you immediately fall asleep.)
4. Elizabeth Warren is a true populist
Every politician wants to come off as a populist, but for Warren, it's not an act. Take this quote from one of her famed Senate Banking Committee hearings:
"If we started in 1960 and we said that as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same. And if that were the case then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour. So my question is Mr. Dube, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn't go to the worker."
Very few politicians just naturally make the step from increased to productivity to increased worker wages. We tend to think of getting a lot for a little as winning in America. Warren would rather see the collective win than their bosses get rich, and she is surprisingly unique in that regard.
5. The similarities to 2008 are a little eerie
In 2004, a blue-state senate candidate became nationally known when he gave a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention. Four years later, that man successfully labeled Hillary Clinton as a status quo politician, energized a young Democratic base, beat Hillary in the primary and won the nomination and the presidency. In 2012, Elizabeth Warren, a senate candidate in a blue state, gave a rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention. If she runs against Hillary, Obama's 2008 script is the basic blueprint. Whether or not she chooses to follow it, we shall see, but the calls for her to run won't die down until decision time.