Why drafting Elizabeth Warren is a plus

Story highlights

  • Van Jones: A Warren candidacy would be good for democracy -- and Democrats
  • He says the party needs a contested primary, debates and a full airing of ideas

Van Jones is president of the Dream Corps/Rebuild The Dream, which promote innovative solutions for America's economy. He was President Barack Obama's green jobs advisor in 2009. A bestselling author, Van is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy. Follow him on Twitter @VanJones68. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.

(CNN)In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Americans have joined a growing chorus urging Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president.

I am not endorsing her as a candidate, at this point. But I am excited about the movement that is pushing her candidacy, unlike a whole bunch of Beltway types who have lined up to say how silly the whole notion is.
Warren will not run, they cry -- though a draft movement has convinced her before. And even if she did, she would not win -- though no one gave President Obama a chance, either.
    Still, even if all of the naysayers are somehow on to something, the folks supporting "Run Warren Run" -- MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, and the Working Families Party -- and "Ready for Warren" have it right. Here is why:

    It elevates Elizabeth Warren's issues

    Even Democrats who support other candidates acknowledge that big banks and other special interests have rigged the game in Washington. Our whole party understands that inequality is worse than it has been since the 1920s, and we need to build an economy where everyone has a fighting chance.
    In fact, it is not just Democratic voters who are emboldened by Warren's fight for working families; her ideas ring true in red states and blue states, in rural parts of America and in big cities like Boston and Chicago.
    "I came out of a hardworking, middle-class family," Warren often says, in some variation. "I came from an America that created opportunities for people like me, and I now see an America where the government works for people who already have money and power." It is, in her own words, "time to remind politicians that they don't work for the big banks -- they work for us."
    That is a voice that would add real value to any party's primary, but especially a party that purports to stand up for working people.

    Debates are good for everyone

    Contested primaries feature robust discussions on the most pressing issues facing our nation -- and the best ideas for making America stronger. Now, more than ever, we need those discussions.
    Many Democrats are voting with Wall Street, while Republicans shout about flat wages. Our country and the Democratic Party deserve a real debate over what we stand for.
    And there is a great place to have these debates: in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, where voters are ready to ask candidates tough questions and hear their platforms.

    A primary would strengthen the nominee

    In the absence of a competitive primary, some have even speculated that there may not be any Democratic debates before the general election. Call me old-fashioned, but I want to nominate a presidential candidate who has answered tough questions on the crucial issues facing hardworking Americans today.
    Some argue that a vigorously contested primary would actually hurt the Democratic Party, that a competitive primary could split the Democratic base or force the eventual nominee to spend too much time and money too early. In other words, exactly what happened in 2008.
    Remember how that worked out?
    Primaries leave candidates fit, tested, experienced and prepared for the grueling general election campaign. And as we saw in 2008, all that organizing leaves the party energized and ready to get to work.

    Republicans will be ready to fight

    The Republican primary will unquestionably be highly competitive. Some analysts are predicting that more than a dozen GOP candidates will mount serious bids for the party's nomination.
    The eventual Republican nominee will enter the general election in fighting shape, with months of experience winning debates and votes over his or her party allies.
    If the Republican contest features a spirited debate and the Democratic primary generates no news, the result will be two years of free publicity for right-wing talking points and conservative attacks on President Obama's record, with a battle-ready Republican candidate.

    A contested primary would fire up our voters

    I have tremendous respect for Hillary Clinton. And so does most of the Democratic Party.
    But whether you love Clinton, or would cast your ballot for Warren or someone else, your voice will not truly be heard unless the primary offers a choice.
    In 2014, Democrats played it safe, avoided offering big ideas and failed to motivate the voters who drove them to victory in 2008 and 2012. To win in 2016, we need to have the progressive base fired up, with progressive causes at the forefront of the political debate.
    If we rely on those Democratic diehards to win, they deserve an opportunity to make their voices heard during the primaries and caucuses. They deserve a choice.
    We are at a critical point in our nation's history. Millions of Americans are fighting for justice in their communities. Millions of Americans are calling for economic policies that work for everyone, not just the wealthy few. Millions of Americans are ready to tackle climate change, solve our student debt crisis and ensure women get equal pay for equal work.
    It is time to fire up the Democratic base, have a robust discussion of the critical issues facing our nation and hear the best ideas from our best candidates.