Dear Senator Warren:
A lot of people I know want you to run for president. I don’t. I really hope you won’t.
The bottom-line reason is that you’re too valuable a U.S. senator to be wasted on the White House.
I live in the 9th Massachusetts Congressional District, in the town of West Tisbury, on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, in the County of Dukes County. (That really is its official name.) When it was the 10th Congressional District, we were represented in the House by the late Gerry Studds. He came as close to the ideal representative as I could imagine. I contributed my bit to his campaigns. His bumper sticker was on my pickup.
He eventually left office. That pickup died. I swore I’d never put another candidate’s sticker on my vehicle until someone came along that I could support at least as wholeheartedly as I supported Gerry Studds. Someone that I could be genuinely for.
And I didn’t. Not until you threw your hat in the ring. And then — oh dear. Not only did I put your sticker on my car, I signed up to make a monthly contribution to your campaign. I went to a fundraiser for you at the Old Whaling Church. I heard you speak at a rally behind the West Tisbury library. I even have the T-shirt.
I voted for you, of course, and you won. That was exhilarating, but it’s not why I’m writing this letter. I’m writing this letter because I still have your bumper sticker on my car. Your bumper sticker is still on my car because I have no regrets about supporting you. This is unusual. (I had no regrets about supporting Gerry Studds either, but he was a several-term incumbent when I moved into his district, so I knew what to expect.)
I’ve followed your progress since you took office. I’ve watched videos of several committee hearings in which you asked questions of various officials. You’re wonderfully articulate, well prepared, and courageous. What strikes me hardest about those hearings, though, is how poorly prepared and flustered so many of those witnesses have been. You know what this says to me? It says they didn’t expect tough questions — because in the past those questions weren’t asked.
You’re turning out to be a better senator than I ever dreamed possible. You’ve exceeded all my expectations, but truth to tell, my expectations weren’t all that high.
That’s one reason I want you to stay in the Senate. We the People need to raise our expectations of our elected officials. We expect too little. When those low expectations aren’t met, do we hold the culprits’ feet to the fire? No. Usually we just grumble and bitch and lower our expectations further — and maybe fall for the next fresh-faced candidate who promises to clean up the mess.
The Senate has 100 members. The House of Representatives has 435 (plus 6 who can’t vote). As in every other conglomeration of humans, those people are continually watching each other for cues on how to behave: What’s possible? What isn’t? What can I get by with? What can I get away with? And so on and on and on.
In her brilliant “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying,” the feminist poet-essayist Adrienne Rich wrote: “When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.” This is true for men as well as women. It’s true for senators and representatives and all of us humans in our various conglomerations.
The reverse is also true: When we lie, evade, obfuscate, and get by with as little work as possible, we make it easier for those around us to do likewise.
By asking hard questions and remaining true to the promise of your campaign, you are making it possible for other legislators to do likewise. It’s happening already, and you haven’t been in the Senate two years yet. But this is a long-term project, and one for which senators, with their six-year terms, might be particularly well suited.
You’ve proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’re well suited to it. The pool of those similarly suited is growing, but it’s still small. To me it’s a no-brainer: You belong in the U.S. Senate, doing the work that only you can do.
And yet the voices calling for you to run for president are loud and getting louder, and the people those voices belong to aren’t stupid. I’m trying to make sense of it, but I’m having a hard time.
Do these people think the White House is just a prize for outstanding legislators?
Do they not realize that the skills required of a legislator and the skills required of an executive are not the same — and that your superb skills would be largely wasted in the White House?
Have they not noticed the unbelievable crap that President Obama has had to put up with in order to accomplish anything? Are they seriously wishing all that crap on you?
I honor these “Draft Warren” people for recognizing your importance on the national scene, but at the same time I believe that the “Draft Warren” movement is a symptom of the deep malaise that’s affecting the country north and south, east and west, right, left, and center. These people are looking for a savior. People look for saviors when they’ve lost hope that they can bring about the changes they long for.
But saviors have a short shelf life. No surprise there: no savior can possibly live up to the expectations of those who cast him or her in the role. When this becomes apparent, as it inevitably does before much time has passed, the trashing begins — and, of course, the search for a new savior.
Please don’t run for president, Senator Warren. Massachusetts and the rest of the country need you in the Senate.
Your supporter and constituent,
Susanna J. Sturgis