Less than three years into her Senate term, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has established herself as the country’s leading advocate for working and middle-class families. The Democrat has proven equally adept behind the scenes and in the media spotlight, and has stood up to Wall Street banks and other powerful interests to win changes that are improving millions of Americans’ lives. Already, more than one observer has compared her to Massachusetts’ first “liberal lion” in the US Senate, Ted Kennedy.
Some leading Democrats say that’s a great argument for Senator Warren to stay put — and not run for president.
I’d argue they’re wrong. Warren should run. Our country will be better off if she does. She would be a strong candidate — one who injects valuable ideas into the conversation and ensures the kind of debate our country needs. And she could win.
Put simply, this moment was made for Elizabeth Warren. With income inequality at its highest level on record, and corporations and lobbyists wielding enormous power in Washington and state capitals around the country, we need a president who is firmly grounded in making government work for regular people. Senator Warren has spent her career taking on corporate interests and winning historic financial protections for workers and small businesses. She’s not only been critical of lobbyists and powerful financial firms, but has even taken on President Obama on occasion.
And Senator Warren hasn’t just studied the struggles of America’s working families — she has lived them, having been born and raised in a family she describes as being “on the ragged edge of the middle class.” Elizabeth Warren’s life experiences have defined her trajectory and are powerfully compelling to Americans who feel left out and let down by politics as usual. We know she’s fighting for us.
Regardless of which candidate they favor, most Americans agree that it’s important to have a vigorous contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The New York Times’s David Leonhardt recently wrote that without a slate of strong candidates, Democrats “may conduct one of the least competitive nominating contests in modern political history.”
It would be unprecedented for a candidate — Hillary Clinton — to march to the nomination largely unopposed, as many observers predict could happen if Warren doesn’t run. Such a scenario would be bad for both the party and for our country. A strong competitive primary campaign gives candidates a running start in the general election by giving them experience in articulating a clear vision and responding to crucial issues. Winning a competitive primary prepares the eventual nominee to face a battle-tested Republican candidate. It’s the same process that worked for Barack Obama — he was a better candidate in the 2008 general election because he had been tested by Hillary Clinton in the primaries. A contested primary could also fire up young and progressive Americans, exciting them about politics in a way that many haven’t been since 2008.
Beyond next year’s primaries and the Democratic convention, Senator Warren has what it takes to get elected in November 2016. Poll after poll has shown that her message of economic justice and standing up to Wall Street resonates not just with liberal Democrats, but across the spectrum of potential voters. In fact, large majorities of likely voters who identify as independent and Republican in battleground states support Warren’s agenda, according to a recent poll commissioned by Run Warren Run. Remember — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were all once seen as long shots. You can’t win if you don’t run.
Some continue to argue that Senator Warren would be more effective in the Senate than in the Oval Office. That’s just not true. President Warren could move her agenda more effectively than Senator Warren can, using tools like appointments to the Treasury and Federal Reserve as well as executive orders.
And those calling for her to stay in the Senate would do well to remember that she doesn’t have to make the choice between running for president and being a senator — she can run for higher office while remaining in the Senate, as candidates from Barack Obama to John McCain to John F. Kennedy did. If Senator Warren does run, she’ll either become President Warren or continue being Massachusetts’ senior senator. It’s a win-win.
To be clear: Senator Warren has said she’s not running for president, and we take her for her word. But we also believe she’s open to persuasion. We recall that not long ago, Warren wasn’t running for Senate in Massachusetts — until she was persuaded to do so by a draft campaign.
That’s why MoveOn.org members voted in December to launch Run Warren Run, a major effort to highlight the immense grass-roots support that exists for Senator Warren’s vision, and to show her that if she runs, she’ll have the support she needs. We’ve been joined by other major progressive groups like Democracy for America and, most recently, the Working Families Party. Together, we’ve opened field offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, and held hundreds of rallies and house parties. More than 300,000 people have signed on to our effort so far — and more are doing so every day. Recently, in Springfield, a Run Warren Run supporter gave Senator Warren 9,030 signatures from her Massachusetts constituents urging her to become a candidate for president. We’re working overtime to convince her that they’re right.
Massachusetts, we know Elizabeth Warren has made you proud. Now she can make many more Americans proud — and give them a fighting chance — if she chooses to run for president.
Senator Warren, we hope you’re reading this. Our country needs you. Please run.
Anna Galland is executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action.