Warren: Onto the National Stage

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Elizabeth Warren instantly becomes the national leader of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party (Disclosure: Warren's daughter serves on The American Prospect's governing board).

She has plenty of company among newly elected Senate Democrats. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and Chris Murphy in Connecticut are well to the left of the people they succeeded. Conservatives who pulled the Democrats to the right on budget issues—Kent Conrad in North Dakota and Joe Lieberman in Connecticut—are mercifully in retirement.

But taking nothing away from the other newcomers, it is Warren who is combination master strategist, principled progressive, and rock star.  Not to mention a thoroughly authentic and delightful person.

Massachusetts is a state that had never before elected a woman to the Senate and where Democrats have a very thin bench. Nobody else here could have beaten Scott Brown. But after a race that had Warren’s strategists biting their nails right up until the last few days hoping to win by a couple of points on Obama’s coattails, she beat Brown by a commanding eight points.

And Warren did this as a complete newcomer to electoral politics. She raised more money than had ever been raised in a Massachusetts Senate race. As former Governor Michael Dukakis noted when he took the microphone last night as supporters were waiting for Warren to claim victory, she had the best grassroots operation ever seen in Massachusetts.

You don’t do that with political handlers. You do it with a candidate who attracts passionate supporters.

The more Brown lit into Warren with vicious ads and snarky one-liners, the more she responded with grace and wit, and the more the electorate decided that of the two, she was the class act. That included class as in working class, not just professional class. Brown’s famous truck and overpriced barn jacket proved to be empty props.

What makes Warren so special? I had the privilege of watching her and working with her at close range when she chaired the Congressional Oversight Panel. I’ve been at this for a long time, and not since Bobby Kennedy have I seen someone who is such a natural as a progressive leader, combining intellect, principle, an intuitive feel for how to do politics, and charisma.

William F. Buckley once said that he’d rather be governed by the first hundred people in the Cambridge phone book than by the Harvard faculty. Well, Bill, one of those elitist professors just proved to be a master of the common touch.

Beyond having a steel-trap mind, the lady is a strategic genius. Warren, let’s recall, was able to pull off one of the trickiest balancing acts in Obama-era politics.

She was relentless in interrogating Tim Geithner in her role as chair of the Oversight Panel. The panel’s hearings stand as the definitive record of the flaws in the Geithner Treasury’s plan for levitating the banks. But all the while, she retained a good working relationship with President Obama personally.

She dearly wanted to chair the new consumer bureau that she thought up. She had her supporters mount a campaign to get her the job. Obama gave it to her on an acting basis, also making her a special adviser to the president. But then it dawned on Warren that she had a bigger stage to play on.

Two of her many passions, as she made clear both in the campaign and in the victory speech last night, are completing the half-finished job of making over the financial system and ensuring that Social Security and Medicare are not thrown onto the pyre of a grand bargain. On both counts, she immediately becomes part of Obama’s loyal opposition in the Democratic Party.

I recall, about a decade ago, saying to another longtime Senate-watcher that when Ted Kennedy goes, people will not know what a strategically masterful progressive senator looks like. Now we have another one. It’s entirely fitting that Elizabeth Warren takes back Ted Kennedy’s seat.

Comments

"...But then it dawned on Warren that she had a bigger stage to play on...."

Would that have happened, but for the Republican Party's promise to filibuster any effort to nominate her to head the CFPB?

Sweet irony.

Had the GOP not opposed her at the budget office, Brown would probably have been re-elected, the Tea Party has become the fire-in-the-belly for moderate voters of all political ideologies.

Obama, by discouraging his base allowed the Tea Party to take over the GOP. The critical mistake made by the GOP is that they believed that the midterm victory was due to a strong right wing electorate - it was not - rather it was caused by the dispirited Dem base staying away from the polls.

Now the GOP's leadership can plainly see the disaster, their Party stands as wrecked as the Jersey shore after Sandy's barrage - yet they still cannot come to grips with what happened - they are still in denial saying that Romney lost because he was not "conservative enough". Good, GOP please keep thinking that way please.

Truth is, the only refuge of racists, bigots, know-nothings and kooks is today's GOP. We should not take this last refuge from them - moderate Republicans and independents are just not wanted in their vitriolic tent but they are welcome under a progressive tent.

As folks realize the end of the "Reagan boost" and the utter failure of "Supply side - trickle down economics" the rush towards the progressive side of American politics will suck the air out of the room - we are indeed headed towards a united nation with values of community, shared opportunity and shared sacrifice.

This will not happen without work, the same people who brought this election to Obama must now keep up the pressure for change in the WH and in congress. We must help Obama not to repeat the failures of his first term. He does not need recalcitrant white voters, he should not try to placate them as they only see such actions as weakness.

Today Obama spoke to the people and he reiterated his progressive agenda, he must not waver - if he asks the people to put pressure on Congress to break the deadlock he will receive it - if congress does not abide by the peoples' will they will know it at the next election.

Obama must be kept on his toes, and the GOP must be kept on theirs - this will happen if Obama does not disappear from the public airwaves, he must elicit the help from his supporters against those who would thwart the peoples' wishes - FDR took his fight to the people, he took names and kicked a$$ - Obama would be well advised to do likewise.

poor Scott Brown, it's not his fault, he's just a Republican..

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