In presidential elections, deciding on a future commander-in-chief is no longer the sole primary concern; money and publicity are right there as well. Why else did all of the major television networks host a combined 20 Republican presidential debates in 2012?
Another, less emphasized side effect of the marathon for the Oval Office is the ability to shape the nature of political discourse in the United States. And that’s where Elizabeth Warren can be a game-changer in 2016. Historically, presidential elections have provided an avenue for unadulterated, authentic voices, and America needs sincere politicians like Warren, regardless of political ideology, more than ever.
“It’s the economy, stupid” helped vault a little-known governor from the backwoods of Arkansas to an upset of George H.W. Bush and his absurdly-high 89 percent post-Gulf War approval rating in 1992. In that same 1992 election, Ross Perot of the Reform Party managed to do the impossible in our rigged two-party system and earn a seat at the presidential debates alongside Bush and Clinton. Although he didn’t win (though he might have tilted things in favor of Clinton), Perot’s stance on NAFTA seriously impacted the type of conversations in that election — a legacy that lives on to this day.
Ultimately, even those candidates who do not win the White House (or even their party’s nomination) have a chance to seriously shape political conversations in this country and shake up the monotony of our current “two-party” system, which amplifies minute ideological differences for the purposes of putting on a good show. Congressman Ron Paul, for example, did not earn the Republican nomination in 2012, but his voice undoubtedly stirred a libertarian, non-interventionist movement that will play a role in future elections.
And that’s why Elizabeth Warren should consider entering the fray in 2016, even as it looks like she is deciding against running. Truth be told, I disagree with Senator Warren on almost every conceivable issue; I’m just not a big supporter of the muck inevitably created by the bloated government that many of her policies would likely add. Besides, it would probably be imprudent for Warren to jump into a presidential campaign after just getting her feet wet in the Senate.
Nevertheless, I admire Elizabeth Warren for being one of the few take-no-prisoners, spew-no-bullshit politicians that I have ever seen. If she did run for president, she would likely be the the most left-leaning candidate since George McGovern and would potentially struggle in a general election. Nevertheless, if Warren entered the 2016 race, she would bring some serious attention to questions that are often glossed over or downright ignored. Since joining Congress after a career as a bankruptcy lawyer, Warren has become very outspoken about the deterioration of the middle class in America, an issue which sets her apart from almost all of her colleagues in both parties, including President Obama.
Senator Warren seems to speak from the heart on issues of regulating the financial industry and preserving the country’s economic future. As our current political climate continues to rot away in a rut where the leaders of both major parties seem to converge to the same policies, we could use a fresh voice and an authentic concern for the future of the country.
As mentioned earlier, Warren would likely not win if she did run: her ideologies would probably make her less appealing to the general populace. She would also be massively outgunned fundraising-wise by the likes of Hillary Clinton, who has essentially been laying the foundation of her campaign since 2008. But make no mistake, Warren would have a much larger impact on 2016 than Perot, for example, ever did. She also has a massive following in California and among young people nationwide. She would undoubtedly force frank, serious conversations about the future of the middle class and institutional accountability.
At the end of the day, the female candidate with the most promise in promoting authentic, vital discourse in 2016 is not Hillary Clinton but a relatively new voice who needs to be heard. In all likelihood, Senator Warren would not win in 2016, and I probably would not vote for her. Winning is just a slice of the large, complex pie that is presidential politics. We need new voices to shake up our political discourse, and there’s no better place to start than Elizabeth Warren.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.