Elizabeth Warren is officially running for the Senate seat held by Scott Brown.
There are several reasons to cheer this. For starters, she is the most compelling new progressive leader to come along in many a year. At a time with few genuine public figures who command admiration, Warren is one.
She knows how to play inside politics brilliantly, but is also a figure of rare integrity on rallying the spirits of a grass roots progressive base.
As chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, Warren was the de facto leader of the loyal opposition to the Treasury and White House team advising Barack Obama on the financial crisis. Their view: do whatever it took to prop up the big banks, however rotten. Her view: do an honest assessment of their balance sheets, use bankruptcies where necessary, and come out the other side with strong, independent institutions.
Their view has prolonged the recession. Hers would have jump-started a recovery.
Despite crossing swords with Geithner for two years, such was Warren’s presence and public appeal that President Obama nonetheless gave her a White House appointment to set up the new consumer bureau. In the end, the president decided not to risk a Pyrrhic confirmation battle to try getting her the job on a permanent basis.
But I’ve long felt that she and this republic are better served by Warren making the senate run. If elected, she will join a distressingly small group of Senate progressives who are both resolute and effective.
It is universally agreed by Massachusetts political observers that she is the only Democratic candidate with a decent shot at beating Scott Brown, a man who won in a fluke. Don’t forget, he based his entire candidacy on a pledge to destroy Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a law with an uncanny similarity to Massachusetts’ own, highly popular universal health law. Think that will play well in the commonwealth? Or his social conservatism in one of the most socially liberal of states?
There are a lot of naysayers who point out that Warren has never done retail politics, and that Massachsetts voters very seldom elect women statewide. But as these skeptics begin meeting Warren, they become believers.
I will go one step further. She is very likely to run well ahead of President Obama. All of the volunteer enthusiasm of the progressive community that attached to Obama in 2008 will go to Warren in 2012. Those Massachusetts activists so disappointed by Obama will have Warren to work their hearts out for.
She will be the one with coattails, and President Obama should be grateful for that. Maybe he will even listen harder to her sage advice on the economy.