With yesterday’s dead-heat contest in Iowa between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the moment has arrived when Elizabeth Warren’s commitment to fixing our democracy and our economy is being put to the test.
A person can have great judgment and intellect, but if their timing is off, ultimately even those strengths are proven flawed and inadequate. We must have real results if this person is going to be a real leader. Often this person is going to have to take real risks to get real results.
Warren’s timing, judgment and courage are all now being challenged. It’s not enough to be independent, articulate, and passionate from the bully pulpit. Achieving leadership’s full capacity inevitably involves taking a stand that is by nature risky, but all the more necessary because one’s deepest convictions will not allow any other course of action. One feels compelled within to seize the moment. Whatever the risks of taking a stand, the risks of letting the moment pass are greater. However, unconventional the action required is, that action remains the most obviously impactful.
"Achieving leadership’s full capacity inevitably involves taking a stand that is by nature risky, but all the more necessary because one’s deepest convictions will not allow any other course of action."
If destiny offers someone like Warren the opportunity to swing the tide of the nation toward a more honest and just governance and they hesitate, well then ultimately they weren’t the leader we hoped for. Warren has had this opportunity served up to her by Bernie Sanders in the most admirable way. There is no room for her to pretend the moment of decision is not upon her.
These sentiments won’t sit kindly with Warren’s many well-deserved admirers. But ultimately, these sentiments are a very high form of praise. Warren is not being tested by the opinion of the writer or by the opinions of so many countless progressive Americans, but by her own principles and standards and by history and by the outcomes that will flow from the way she conducts herself in this pivotal moment. She has already made herself worthy enough to be judged by history and her own principles. That in itself makes her a contender. But let’s not pretend she’s more than that while our country is still so dysfunctional, while she has an opportunity to make a powerfully positive difference beyond her current contributions and yet has not done so.
We need to treat these leaders, not as idols it is sacrilege to challenge, but as our brothers and sisters it is fair to demand an explanation from and helpful to their own process to challenge.
No matter how the contest between Sanders and Clinton turns out, we will look back at Warren’s statements and record of advocacy with puzzlement over any decision to remain on the sidelines out of deference to Clinton. No future glory will obscure the record concerning whether or not she chose to take her rightful place in the leadership of the movement widely populated by her own supporters. Warren, herself, if she stops to test her heart, may well find remorse already seeping up for having waited this long to do what her own record makes clear is the right thing to do.
The difference between Sanders and Clinton is night and day. Clinton belongs to an old order and an old day now dead. Progressives, and particularly the younger among us, are changing the political culture of our country and the result is we are entering a new day in American democracy. Regardless of the outcome of this contest, this dramatic shift heralding hope for a planet under siege is being telegraphed by the passionate movement supporting the Sanders campaign. This movement will not give Elizabeth Warren a “pass” while millions look to her to join with Sanders based on her own record of advocacy and statements of principle.
The progressive movement widely and justly recognizes that Elizabeth Warren can be a great president. Her own judgment has left that prospect to the future. In the present moment, however, she is called to recognize she can be a great leader now in a moment in our history that may not come again for a planet imperiled by climate change and an accelerating concentration of wealth. She can be a great leader now, in this unique moment in time, by partnering with Sanders as his vice presidential nominee and collaborator in a broadly inclusive, sophisticated, and principled campaign to uplift society through the quality of our governance. This partnership between Sanders and Warren is an obvious step so easily available to bringing exponentially increased momentum to a movement that is on the cusp of making history. With the South Carolina primary fast approaching, now is the time for the Sanders campaign to announce its February surprise: Elizabeth Warren is joining Bernie Sander’s ticket as his nominee for the vice presidency.
Carpe diem, Senator Warren. All eyes are on you.