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
Good blog Susanna. I have not been able to understand the drafting of Elizabeth Warren for President at all. I’m somewhat mad about it actually. Typical, a woman says no ( she has said she doesn’t want tp run all along) and they don’t listen to her, they raise a million dollars to try to run her anyway. It’s insane. Anyway I love everything you said and the reasoning behind her not running. I hope she reads this too.
Me too: I’m more than a little angry about it. Elizabeth Warren is at least as smart as anyone in public life today. I’m almost certain that she understands her importance in the Senate and what she could or couldn’t do in the White House. But the power of a million twitterers is considerable, especially when they’re raising money.
The other day, I got yet another fundraising email from MoveOn.org. They’ve got a “Draft Warren” campaign going. Imagine a world without MoveOn.org, they asked, in an attempt to part me from my money. Well, I imagined such a world: a world without liberal and progressive twitterers trying to reduce politics to Donate money! Sign this petition! Draft Elizabeth Warren for president! I rather like the idea. I didn’t give them any money.
I did send the URL for this blog post to the senator’s office. Even if she never sees it, maybe it’ll give aid and comfort to whichever of her staff members don’t want her to run for president either.
I would have voted for her too! Great post, Susanna.
When the 2012 election rolled around, many of my friends in other states were very jealous of me. 🙂 Thanks!
Susanna – very good essay and I hope Elizabeth Warren reads it. Kind of like when a person is a really good teacher and then is rewarded by becoming a principal or a superintendent – thus a talented teacher is lost as the skills required for both are very different……
Good comparison! I think Warren knows all this stuff already. Her supporters are the ones I’m worried about. I am going to send a link to her office(s), however. 🙂
Well said (of course), Susanna, but your reasons for not wanting Senator Warren to run for president are particularly well-articulated. I think, as you do, that for the next term Elizabeth Warren is way more effective as a senator, but perhaps after Hillary paves her way and the shock of having a woman president is somewhat lessened, then it’s time for Senator Warren. Then again, I also think that Secretary Clinton should have been president for these last two terms, with President Obama to follow. Wrong order, IMO.
But meanwhile it’s time for people to take back their government. The current unhappiness and dissatisfaction ‘mongst the folks who feel disfranchised need to be channeled into positive energy, perhaps starting with local stuff, where people can feel more immediately effective. (It took years before we realized that our marches on Washington had a hand – or a foot – in stopping the war in Vietnam.) As we’re turning the new year, town elections are coming up. Time to truly think about it.
I agree — though it’s fine with me if Elizabeth Warren never runs for president. Maybe by 2020 we’ll have some better options than we’re looking at now.
Understanding how things work (and don’t work) on the local level really does give one an understanding about how things work (and don’t) on the regional, national, and even international level. So many people these days seem to think that politics is all about Donate! Sign! Tweet! Vote! This is not how the great changes of the last century came about, no way.