One glass ceiling separates Hillary Clinton from returning to her former place of residence on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But to get there, she’ll have to confront serious voter skepticism about her credibility and commitment to reducing economic inequality — the same issues that fueled insurgent campaigns to her right and left during the presidential primaries.
The presumptive nominee could address both of those concerns in part by shattering another glass ceiling — and naming progressive firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as her vice-presidential running mate, creating the first all-female presidential ticket.
With two-thirds of white women — and more than 90 percent of women of color — viewing Donald Trump unfavorably, a Clinton-Warren ticket could be an appealing antidote to Trump’s well-documented misogyny. Women are the largest voting bloc in America, and they were a big part of Clinton’s successful primary campaign.
Yet it would be unwise for Clinton to rest on the assumption that women voters will flock to her banner solely due to Trump’s boorishness. Her “unfavorable” ratings in opinion polls run considerably higher among younger women and white women, especially compared to women of color and older women — her most ardent supporters.
Part of the reason may come down to the former secretary of state’s centrist policy record, which has often been out of step with the progressive priorities that are more likely to be held by women.
For example, a Pew Research study found that more women than men preferred greater government intervention in daily life. Women described improving education and assisting the poor as “top priorities” at rates of 72 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Less than half of men described helping the poor as such.
Women are not a political monolith — there are conservative, centrist and liberal women of all ages and races. But all women face sexism inside and outside the workplace.
Women earn 79 percent of what men make, and they’re disproportionately represented in low-wage fields that lack job security and benefits. They’re “pink lined” with discriminatory lending standards and disproportionately targeted with subprime mortgages, especially black women. The corporate glass ceiling has left women out of leadership roles, to the point that only 4 percent of the largest companies have female CEOs.
Ultimately, women are more likely than men to be impoverished because of sexism. So progressive policies addressing employment, compensation and opportunity disparities could appeal to a broad swath of them.
Yet Clinton’s ties to Wall Street banks, her back-peddling on universal healthcare, and her past support for free-trade agreements have contributed to the perception that she would govern as a centrist rather than a progressive if elected.
Selecting a populist running mate, especially one with the political clout to hold Clinton accountable to the progressive base, would be one way for Clinton to signal her support for a progressive economic agenda — including support for a living wage, opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership and greater scrutiny of financial institutions.
For her many supporters on the left, Warren would be such a candidate.
The Massachusetts senator was instrumental in the creation of President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her influence — and national popularity — has helped move the Democratic Party, and our national conversations, leftward on banking reform and financial regulation.
In fact, Warren’s willingness to take on abusive banks has even led to a shadow campaign by Democratic donors linked to the finance industry to block her VP selection — another feather in her progressive cap.
Warren also possesses an uncanny ability to disrupt the haughty swagger of Trump, ferociously ridiculing the GOP candidate in speeches and on social media.
Her addition to the presidential ticket could galvanize supporters and help lock Clinton into a progressive posture for the remainder of the election (and beyond). It would be far more difficult for Clinton to backpedal on any progressive campaign commitments, at least on economic issues, with Warren pressuring her behind closed doors and in the public eye.
During the primary, Clinton claimed to be “a progressive who gets things done.” Warren’s gadfly presence in the Oval Office could help keep Clinton accountable to both parts of that claim.