Why Elizabeth Warren should not necessarily be the main focus of progressives right now

Elizabeth WarrenBruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” Anthemic. I once heard it on the tape deck of a taxi freewheeling down a mountain outside Athens after visiting a monastery where they served muddy sweet coffee. In that careening and slip-sliding moment, the song spoke to me.

The Boss wrote a few lines that I want to recall as the Elizabeth Warren wagon gets rolling: “. . .waste your summer praying in vain, For a savior to rise from these streets.” It’s this coming summer I’m thinking about, here in the first days of winter.

My email, like yours, is throbbing with appeals from all kinds of factions, candidates, movements, campaigns. This one invites me to sign the petition urging Senator Warren to run for President. Warren is clearly the answer to someone’s prayers, a candidate who is not Hillary Clinton, an academic-turned-economic warrior.

I like what I know about Elizabeth Warren, but I have three major concerns about this boomlet for her Presidential candidacy. They are, in order: her one-note policy passion; her lack of preparedness; and the boomlet’s power to distract us from the actual hard work we need to do to make some changes.

Quick, without looking it up: what’s Warren’s position on containing radical Islamic terrorism? How does she envision meeting the demand for energy? Where’s Warren on the care and treatment of veterans? On rape in the military? On a revamped China policy?

Hard to say. Here are the current topics of Warren’s website press releases: trans-Pacific issues and preventing a financial crisis, corporate transparency, overuse of antibiotics in food animals, retirement savings by Federal employees, Wall Street bailout provisions, Citigroup bailout, affordable rental housing funds, bailout provision, Dodd-Frank, student loans, fishery disaster money, housing finance infrastructure, consumer data breaches in the financial sector, non-bank mortgage services industry, the New York Fed, Federal heating aid, job training, etc…

It’s a deep portfolio of financial and consumer concerns. It doesn’t begin to speak to the complexity and diversity of interests and actions that a Presidential candidate should exhibit.

My second concern is the relatively thin resume she brings to the table. If she runs for the Presidency in the 2016 election, she will have served four years in the U.S. Senate. (Hillary Clinton served from 2000 to 2009) Prior to her Senate service, Elizabeth Warren held a variety of teaching assignments at law schools and was appointed to several advisory and oversight committees, commissions, boards and such.

Her law career focused on finance and real estate closings. Her most-saluted accomplishment was proposing and establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, a Bureau she never had the chance to serve on thanks to Republican obstructionism. She then entered the Senate race in September 2011. She has one campaign under her belt and has never sought elective office at any other level.

Finally, I think it’s unwise to pin all our hopes on the Presidential candidate, whether it’s Warren or Clinton or anyone else we might imagine. Simply sending a progressive to the White House (as if that was a simple matter!) is no substitute for disciplined, organized, targeted local and regional trench warfare when it comes to the next election. It won’t matter much if a progressive President (or even a centrist Democrat) has a right-leaning, obstructionist Congress to contend with.

I’d hate to see us spend all our energy, resources and invest all our excitement in electing a President. We did that with Barack Obama and the results have been mixed, to say the least. It is time for political progressives to gather and share a roster of Congressional districts that should be targeted for change in 2016. Until and unless we are able to upset some entrenched local REgressives, the head of the ticket won’t matter, no matter how many times she rails against corrupt capitalists or how many times she vows to take on the fat cats. She will not be able to rise from these streets.


  1. Elizabeth Warren has given no indication she is even considering running for the presidency. None. And has, at virtually every turn, tried to turn the volume down on such conversation. I personally think she is exactly where she wants to be at the moment—in the Senate, advocating for the American consumer and the American middle- and working-classes. I simply don’t think she is interested in dealing with the glut of issues that shows up on a president’s desk every morning and would rather focus on the various economic issues about which she seems quite passionate.

    While there is little doubt but that Democrats must re-focus the intensity of their efforts at the local level, that can’t be done at the expense of a presidential election.

    To not elect a Democratic president with the Republicans in control of both chambers would be to set the country back at every level for two decades or, thinking further about it, three or four or five. They would undo much of what Democrats have been able to accomplish since Kennedy was elected and the thought of what the federal judiciary would look like after just four years of complete Republican control is almost frightening—it would not be available for any real readjustment for a full generation.

    Finally, my hope is that Democrats have learned from Republican mistakes and understand that, when nominating a presidential candidate, his/her ability to win a national election is fundamental. That almost always involves give-and-take and a measure of compromise. I’ll take that over a Republican in the White House.

  2. I think she would be up to the job. I don’t think she would be allowed to do it. If she couldn’t be bought off, she would be destroyed or even killed. Truth can be spoken, just so long as no one listens.

    • Where she can be 1 of 100 …AND… The Leader is GOP….As opposed to having a Branch of Government all to Herself. ..Sorry I cannot agree with that role for the only real Progressive Dem…Absolutely Must Find a Candidate that is not Hillary or the GOP Cabal….Obama afforded a 8 year breather but if Oligarchs Prevail. ..America is Doomed

  3. A well thought out article which uses the argument of unknown stands on issues pertaining to E Warren. …but does not address the too well known stands of the Clintons. …including the Outsourcing of decent jobs by the former President. .the close ties to Wall St which is a means to exploit working class Americans…Her willingness to send young Americans off to unending useless wars …Until another Democratic Politician speaks up…and it is late in the game .. Warren is the only alternative. And American Working Families are desperate for Something New and Better

    • Bernie Sanders is an excellent candidate. Everyone brings up the age factor and dismisses him, which I believe is a mistake. He has many years of experience; he is a true liberal/progressive; and he isn’t afraid of the fat cats OR congress. I will admit, however, that he will need an equally strong vice-president to appeal to younger liberals/progressives and I think Sherrod Brown of Ohio would be perfect.

      • I believe that Ohio is a Dino State. .the Bush 2nd election was due to Ohio ballot shenanigans. .GOP Convention in Ohio 2016 ….Prefer Warren/ Sanders/Biden any order

Leave a Comment