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