As the primaries wind down and the vice presidential guessing game begins, some Democrats are hoping that Hillary Clinton will choose a fire-breathing liberal as her running mate. No, not Bernie Sanders — the other fire-breathing liberal, Elizabeth Warren. While there is a half-decent argument for this, don't be fooled: Making Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton's vice president is a bad idea, and would be a complete and utter waste of Elizabeth Warren.
On the surface, it makes sense, because first and foremost, Warren is one of the very few politicians in America who is as highly revered by the left as is Sanders. Putting her on the ticket would go a long way to convincing Sanders supporters that Clinton is serious about tackling income inequality, which could bring more of them out to the polls in November. Warren can also give a hell of a speech, and her fundraising prowess is near-legendary in the Democratic party.
But don't take the bait. There's no question that Warren is one of the strongest liberal voices in the Democratic Party — and precisely because of this, liberals should keep her as far away from the vice presidency as humanly possible. The bottom line is that Warren is exponentially more powerful as a U.S. Senator than she ever would be as vice president, and that fact really can't be overstated enough.
The office of the vice presidency is certainly important, but its importance is almost comedically exaggerated during presidential elections. It's understandable: Guessing who will win the "veepstakes" is a fun pastime for political observers, and everyone loves the idea of two reformers storming into Washington as a team to shake things up.
In actuality, the vice presidency is one of the least powerful positions in American government. The vice president has two, and only two, official duties: Assume the presidency if something happens to the president, and cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate if some manner of Senate business results in a tie. Other than that, the vice president is officially powerless. They're not even guaranteed a meeting with the president, though it would admittedly be unusual if a president refused to meet with their VP.
As vice president, Warren wouldn't be breaking up the banks, or fighting back against predatory lenders, or banning credit default swaps. She would be handing out awards to community leaders, delivering prepared remarks at White House ceremonies, greeting foreign dignitaries on Clinton's behalf, and so on. She'd be doing what most vice presidents do: Symbolic, toothless things that have no effect on national policy.
In the Senate Warren actually gets to write policy — not even presidents can do that. Moreover, when the Senate convenes in 2017 for its new term, Democrats will have a vacuum in their leadership: The longtime Democratic leader, Harry Reid, is retiring. While Warren isn't in line to replace Reid, there's a strong possibility that she could find herself in some leadership position or another: She's wildly popular on the left, as is her economic policy message, and just as importantly, she's a spectacular fundraiser for the party.
It's also possible — and likely, in my opinion — that Democrats will take back control of the Senate in November. In combination with the aforementioned leadership vacuum, this creates a situation where, if the stars align, Warren could become one of the most powerful people in the country by next year.
If she stays in the Senate, that is. The prospect of putting Warren on Clinton's ticket is appealing, especially to economic liberals. But if economic liberals truly want to empower Warren to move American economic and financial policy in leftward direction, they should actively oppose the notion of putting her on the Democratic ticket — unless it's 2020, and she's running for president.