For the past few months, Elizabeth Warren has acted as a Hillary Clinton surrogate of sorts. The Massachusetts senator appears to be performing through her own accord, but the effect has been that of an ally. Warren has repeatedly criticized Donald Trump for his divisive rhetoric and failed businesses (which she sees as emblematic of both his inability to lead and his truth-telling skills). In response, Trump casually questions her Indian heritage because he cannot form off-the-cuff policy attacks. Meanwhile, Warren has yet to formally endorse Clinton, but she’s persisted with pointed policy criticisms of the presumptive Republican nominee while he simply replies with name-calling antics. That’s the Trump way, and it has served him well.
For a general election, however, the hope is that Trump will start acting “presidential,” although that hasn’t happened. Instead, Trump’s pulling out old-school attacks on the Clintons, including 1990s conspiracy theories and past scandals like they haven’t gone out of style. Perhaps he’ll miraculously shift to a policy-based campaign, but for now, he’s running the insult platform. Meanwhile, there have been whispers that Clinton isn’t keen to match Trump’s approach — though his past is certainly fruitful — but Warren has no problem going there. Is she simply criticizing Trump in an altruistic way, or does she hope for a payoff in the form of a VP nomination?
When prompted, Warren hasn’t denied such aspirations, and she’s certainly investing a considerable amount of effort. Most of her attacks arrive on Twitter, but on Tuesday, she stepped up with a 10-minute anti Trump speech at the annual Center for Popular Democracy gala. Warren delivered a blistering rant about the “small, insecure money-grubber” folks know as Trump. She ripped him to shreds for expressing delight during the 2008 financial crisis, which included a burst housing bubble that left people homeless. Clinton previously expressed similar sentiments while highlighting Trump’s love of scooping up cheap property in such instances, which he later defended by saying, “I’m a businessman, that’s what I’m supposed to do. I feel badly for everybody. What am I going to do? I’m in business.”
This speech went further than Clinton’s efforts, however. Warren tore down Trump’s often hypocritical financial stances, which includes his pledge of being “tough” on Wall Street while simultaneously expressing sympathy for the Dodd-Frank regulations’ effects on bankers. She then moved onto Trump’s top-secret tax returns and brought the goods with this quote:
“For all we know he could be paying zero taxes today. And he is proud of it. Two weeks ago he was more than happy to dodge taxes because he doesn’t want to throw his money, quote, ‘down the drain.’ Donald Trump likes being a billionaire but he doesn’t think that the rules that apply to everyone else, should apply to him. But let’s be clear Donald Trump didn’t get rich on his own.
“His businesses rely on roads and bridges paid for by the rest of us. His businesses rely on workers that are educated by the rest of us. They rely on police and firefighters who protect the rest of us and are supported by the rest of us. Donald Trump and his businesses are protected by a world-class military that defends us abroad and keeps us safe at home and the rest of us pay to support.”
Warren proposed that the country send Trump “down the drain,” as well, although, as Mitt Romney discovered, such calls for action aren’t taken seriously enough by voters. Yet Romney’s efforts have been inconsistent and often seem like last-ditch efforts, while Warren’s tactics see no signs of slowing. She has advanced her march from denouncing Trump’s behavior to taking on his hypocritical business dealings. All of this is fair game and should be a topic of discussion. Because Trump has no public service record, his business practices are the only method by which voters can accurately judge his performance. And if Warren can reach voters by continuing to hammer home these points, she will be a very valuable asset to Clinton, who — let’s face it — has enough on her plate while running her own campaign and fending off Trump conspiracy-theory attacks.
Now, is Warren truly maneuvering to become a VP nominee? There may be something there, but even if she doesn’t have open designs on the position, she has increased her public profile through her Trump attacks, which have been well received by Democrats. She’s certainly positioning herself as a surrogate, so she could help unite the Democratic party after Bernie Sanders contests the convention as promised. Yet Warren may not be interested in the VP position and, instead, could be aiming to simply raise her own profile in the Senate. Only time will tell whether Clinton solicits Warren as a ticket companion and whether Warren accepts. They currently don’t hold close professional ties, but that doesn’t preclude Clinton plucking her VP candidate out of obscurity. Then again, Warren has ensured that her media presence is anything but obscure in this latest Trump take down.