Elizabeth Warren: a more inspired choice than Hillary?
As Republicans dig for dirt on Hillary Clinton, have they got the wrong blonde in their sights?
AMERICA'S Republicans have unleashed the dogs of pre-emptive war against Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democrat candidate in a presidential election still two years away. There will be no Christmas truce this year.
The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Pliebus, boasted to the host of a political radio show that his “oppo-research” department was already digging for dirt on Clinton.
He was excited, for instance, to have found that when Clinton was long ago in charge of health care reform, she made the same promise that an American could always keep a health insurance policy if they liked it that landed President Obama in the smelly stuff when it proved to be false.
Is that the best they can do? The Republicans might be aiming their muck-spreaders in the wrong direction.
There is a new mood of economic populism coming into focus, and a new face to put on it. The face is that of a blonde female Democrat who is not Hillary Clinton.
Elizabeth Warren has been Senator for Massachusetts for less than a year since winning Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the 2012 elections. She is 64 years old, has two children, is on her second marriage, and is a career academic who was a professor at Harvard Law School when she decided to run for office.
So far, she says flatly that she has no intention of running for the presidency. (And, of course, Hillary is still refusing to commit.)
But there is a reason why the idea will not go away. Warren, the author of books titled The Two Income Trap: Why American Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke, and The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt, has become the most persistent, sharpest and best informed critic of the contemporary capitalist culture behind the crisis of America’s widening income gap.
Her academic specialty is bankruptcy, and she has long been after the banks and the profit-hungry corporations. In the Senate, her latest proposal is to increase social security.
Last week, New Republic magazine crystalised the new mood under the headline: 'Hillary’s Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realises Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren'.
“It’s hard to look at the Democratic Party these days and not feel as if all the energy is behind Warren,” wrote Noam Scheiber. “Before she was even elected, her fund-raising e-mails would net the party more cash than any Democrat’s besides Obama or Hillary Clinton."
Scheiber pointed readers towards a website called Upworthy, which packages online videos with clever headlines. Obama barely registers on the site; Warren’s videos go viral. A speech given by Warren during the recent budget stalemate in Congress - 'A SENATOR BLUNTLY SAYS WHAT WE'RE ALL THINKING ABOUT THE OBNOXIOUS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN' - got more than two million views.
Scheiber went on: “The poll numbers also suggest the Democratic Party is becoming Elizabeth Warren’s party. Gallup finds that the percentage of Democrats with 'very negative' views of the banking industry increased more than five-fold since 2007, while the percentage who have positive views fell from 51 to 31. Between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of Democrats who were dissatisfied with the 'size and influence of major corporations' rose from 51 to a remarkable 79."
Not every Democrat's soul lies with Warren however, which was why Business Insider suggested in an article yesterday that the Democratic Party is poised to slide into a “civil war” just like the Republicans as new “populists” battle the entrenched ‘Third Way’ Clintonites.
“It doesn't yet have the panache and organisation of the Republican Party's internal split,” wrote Brett LoGiurato, “but some liberal groups think that the divisions among the Democratic Party will embroil the party through the next two big election cycles in 2014 and 2016.
"The divisions have sprung up over a period of several months. In the Democratic Party, populism is on the rise. Warren's ideas and beliefs — frustration with Wall Street, stagnating middle-class wages, and rising income inequality, among others — are at the forefront of that ideology.”
For Salon, Alex Parene pointed out that “Warren, who has repeatedly said she isn’t running, would face tough odds in a campaign against the better-funded, more-famous Hillary Clinton.”
But, he went on, the new populist agenda is certain to challenge the Clinton ascendancy.
“Which brings us to the probable face of the insurgency,” he wrote. “In addition to being strongly identified with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets.
"The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren.”
Whatever her ambitions or reservations, Warren is the perfect candidate to usher in the end of the 'Obama era'. If it had not been for exactly the kind of weakness, backsliding and two-faced dealing that has disillusioned the majority of Obama’s once dedicated supporters, few would ever have heard of her.
Back in 2008 when Obama wore his own “populist” mantle and there were votes to be won in bashing the bankers who had precipitated the Great Recession, he appointed Warren to start-up a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with teeth.
She did too well. As Vanity Fair recorded in an admiring profile in 2011, the Chamber of Commerce and 850 other banks and business trade groups paid $1.3 billion to Washington lobbyists to fight the reforms and the agency she had been hired to devise.
Obama backed down. As he announced the launch of the new Bureau in a ceremony on the White House lawn, he effectively fired her by giving the job of running it to someone else. He then, as Vanity Fair observed, planted a “Judas kiss” on Warren’s check.
Warren made little fuss in public, but she did not give up the fight. She went back to Boston and launched her campaign for the Senate. From that moment on she has raised “evangelical passion” among a broadening array of supporters. The lady has class, not to mention balls.