Elections are about narratives.
Yeah, sure, we want to believe that they are about competing political visions for the future of the nation, but we are the ones who actually know something about those political issues. Most Americans neither know, nor care, that it has been the Republican's historic obstructionism that has led to a jobless recovery. They just know that it is harder for them to make ends meet. That while the government has found hundreds of billions to bail out Wall Street, the streets in front of their houses are filled with potholes.
Elections are about narratives. Elizabeth Warren has managed to craft one in A Fighting Chance that is absolutely compelling. It inevitably leads to speculation of the 2016 Presidential race.
If a relative newcomer to electoral politics wanted to make a run for the White House, there are certain boxes that need to be ticked off.
One is the book, published a couple of years in advance of the election to introduce herself to the American public. A Fighting Chance has to get an A+ in this area. Eminently readable, she tells a very human story, and keeps all of the policy data that would drag down the narrative in the footnotes. It is currently the number two best seller at Amazon, right behind Thomas Piketty's Capital In The Twenty-First Century. Clearly, her populist message is resonating with the American people.
The next thing a newcomer would need to do is to make friends with people. Powerful people.
Warren has already raised $1.2 million this election season for 22 Senate candidates, including Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), according to Warren's political operation. That's a lot of dough. "Most members of Congress are not capable of raising that much for their colleagues…She's a rock star," says Viveca Novak, the editorial director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money on politics. And in late March, the Massachusetts senator expanded her 2014 efforts even further, joining up with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), a liberal PAC, to endorse two lucky Senate candidates: Rick Weiland, who is running to replace outgoing Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Rep. Bruce Braley, who is vying to take the place of retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).She has campaigned for Al Franken's re-election in Minnesota, appearing at the 2014 Humphrey Mondale dinner and giving a lesson on how Democrats should campaign not just for the midterm, but for the 2016 election as well.
April 8, 2014
Listen to her discuss Paul Ryan:
Paul Ryan looks around, sees three unemployed workers for every job opening in American, and blames people who can’t find a job.And then she takes on Ted Cruz:
In 2008 this economy crashed, wiping out millions of jobs. Paul Ryan says don’t blame Wall Street: the guys who made billions of dollars cheating American families. Don’t blame decades of deregulation that took the cops off the beat while the big banks looted the American economy. Don’t blame the Republican Secretary of the Treasury, and the Republican president who set in motion a no-strings-attached bailout for the biggest banks—nope. Paul Ryan says keep the monies flowing to the powerful corporations, keep their huge tax breaks, keep the special deals for the too-big-to-fail banks and put the blame on hardworking, play-to-the-rules Americans who lost their jobs.
Let me tell you: That may be Paul Ryan’s vision of how America works, but that is not our vision of this great country.
This whole thing is mindless. Cruz said there's no point in even looking at a major new proposal or piece of legislation that has been put forward by Democrats. So if a proposal has President Obama's name on it, or Chris Dodd or Barney Frank's name on it, he votes "no." If the proposal actually gets passed into law, Cruz will be there to lead the tea party chant: "Repeal. Repeal. Repeal. Repeal."
I sometimes think that if Ted Cruz had been around for the Declaration of Independence, he would have tried to repeal it, because Jefferson was a Democrat. If he'd been around for the Federalist Papers, he would have tried to toss those out too, because Madison spent too much time talking to Jefferson. And don't even get Ted Cruz started on the Humphrey-Mondale Dinner. As we speak, he's off somewhere strategizing on how to repeal the salad course!
Maybe if Paul Ryan wants to instill a culture of hard work, he should start with Ted Cruz and his fellow Republicans and get them to actually look at our proposals. Who knows? Maybe if they weren't determined to say, "No, no, no," we could build a bridge... and I mean that literally. Maybe we could build some of the things we need to build in this country.
If davej was right in his diary last night, Democrats Who Move Right Lose Elections – There Is No “Center”, and I happen to think he is, then Elizabeth Warren is working that game plan. She is not moving to the Center, but appealing to us, the progressive base. She is also appealing to the far right. To those members of the Tea Party who are also tired of bankers getting bonuses while the taxpayer doesn't even get a thank you, much less an opportunity to share the wealth that the bankers made on our dime.
And that leads to the final box that needs to be ticked. She has shown that she can grab the media spotlight to highlight her efforts to pass a populist agenda and to show that she can work with Republicans:
- In July, 2013, working with John McCain (R-AZ) and other Senators from both sides of the aisle, she introduced a new Glass-Steagall Act that would force the banks to protect standard banking deposits from risky investment schemes.
- In October 2013, she "called on the Fed, the SEC, and the OCC to provide records on the number of people the agencies have charged criminally and civilly, the number of convictions and prison sentences they have obtained, the number of people banned or suspended from working in the industry, and the total amount of fines leveled against Wall Street ne'er-do-wells."
- In January she followed that up by introducing a bill with Sen Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would force greater transparency in the settlements that the government makes with corporations. Many of the settlements are tax-deductible, so the taxpayers in effect absorb much of the fines and the agreements are reached in secrecy.
- In November, 2013 she joined forces with Marco Rubio to propose the Veterans Care Financial Protection Act that would require the VA to crack down on scam artists who are taking advantage of veterans eligible for at home care. The providers, and predatory financial advisors, charge low income veterans a fee to enroll them in the assisted living program even though the program is free.
- In December, 2013 she joined with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to propose The Equal Employment for All Act. The act would bar employers from using credit checks in the hiring practice.
- In February she called on the financial industry to reveal their contributions to think tanks. Since so many legislators rely on reports from think tanks in proposing and writing legislation it is important to know how much influence the banks have in the think tanks providing the data.
- Also in February, from the Senate floor, Elizabeth Warren denounced GOP lawmakers for blocking an extension of federal unemployment insurance, which expired at the end of last year, and called on Congress to act immediately on behalf of the roughly 1.6 million Americans who depend on the benefits.
- In February,
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called on the heads of the Federal Reserve, the US central bank that sets monetary policy and helps regulate Wall Street, to take a more active role in bank oversight.
- She is still fighting to reduce the burden that college tuition loans place on students and their families.
Earlier this year, she proposed legislation that would allow individuals with existing student loans to refinance at the same lower rates that were set last summer for new loans. Warren’s plan would also enact the so-called “Buffett rule,” which would establish a minimum tax on income over $1 million and would allocate the projected $50 billion in revenue exclusively for refinancing student debt. “Do we invest in students or millionaires?” she asked in a speech at the Center for American Progress.
She has been very, very busy for a freshman Senator, even if, with the appointment of John Kerry to Secretary of State, she is the senior Senator from Massachusetts. She has repeatedly claimed that she is not running for President. Carefully using the words "I am not running for President" each time she is asked. Well, duh, the election is still two and a half years off. The fact that she is not running today does not mean she will not run in 2016.
Personally, I would much rather see her on the Supreme Court, where her influence and tenure would be much greater. John Roberts has altered our political landscape far more than President Obama or Hillary Clinton have been able to.
In order for that to happen, we would need a sitting Democratic President with a 60 vote majority in the Senate. Which is what makes it a pipe dream. And which explains why I stick with book reviews and avoid political prognostication.
Speaking of book reviews, there is one below the fold.
by Elizabeth Warren
Published by Metropolitan Books
April 22nd 2014
Hardcover, 384 pages
Elizabeth Warren is a terrific story teller as she proved the first time she appeared on the Daily Show, during her tenure as head of COP overseeing the TARP program, when she established the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and when she beat a popular, moderate Republican Senator to re-claim Ted Kenedy's seat for the progressive cause. And she has proved it once again in A Fighting Chance, her new memoir, political manifesto, that makes any reader question her insistence that she is not running for President.
The first section of the book relates growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, falling out of the middle class when her father's heart attack resulted in the need to take a lower paying job, costing the family its modest house and car. She tells of the day that her 50 year old mother squeezed herself into her only decent dress (black and far too tight), and marched down to Sears to apply for a minimum wage job. Which she got.
Elizabeth earned a debate scholarship to George Washington University but dropped out to marry her high school sweetheart during her sophomore year. She had two children in that marriage and managed to complete her college education and earn a law degree before the marriage finally failed and the couple divorced. Getting help from her Aunt Bee in order to manage the child care issues any single mother faces, she started teaching law students, specializing in bankruptcy law.
The second section covers her efforts to fight the industry approved bankruptcy law that Bush finally signed into law in 2005. In 1995 Congress created the National Bankruptcy Review Commission to investigate the nation's bankruptcy laws, and its head, Oklahoma Congressman, Mike Sylar, recruited her to act as the commission's senior advisor. Although the Commission report recommended modest changes that kept the safety net of bankruptcy intact, the banking industry had been busy writing and proposing their own bill.
Her biggest achievement was not simply enlisting the support of Ted Kennedy, but convincing him to lead the effort to defeat the bill. They failed, but at least it took 8 years to get the bill passed into law, and on a personal note, that was enough time for a family member of mine to file for bankruptcy under the old law that offered more protection for consumers.
Warren then relates the call from Harry Reid to return to DC to head up the Congressional Oversight Panel, whose function was to issue monthly reports on the operation of the Troubled Assets Relief Program. It was during this time that Larry Summers took her to dinner and warned her that she could either be an outsider or an insider. It was the insiders who actually wielded power in the Capital, but the number one rule of the club was that insiders never criticized other insiders. A warning that was ignored by the recipient.
She managed to get Barney Frank's support for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and it was included in the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill. Although President Obama did not nominate her to run it, she did set it up and her choice, Richard Cordray, former Ohio Attorney General and State Treasurer, was nominated as its first head.
Returning home to Massachusetts to teach at Harvard, she decided to run against Scot Brown for Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat. The remainder of the book focuses on that campaign and her victory.
A Fighting Chance presents all of this and much more in a highly readable narrative format that includes over 50 pages of footnotes with enough data and statistics to thrill the heart of any true policy nerd.