On the last day of 2018, we and many others got an email from Elizabeth Warren:
“I never in a zillion years thought I was going to run for office,” she said, by way of saying she would launch an exploratory committee in order to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020.
“Today, America’s hard-working families are under attack from every direction. Health care. Social Security. Student loans. Child care. Flat wages. ... The problem isn’t caused by some indisputable law of physics, like gravity. The problem isn’t that people aren’t willing to work hard. The problem starts in Washington.
“Our government has been bought and paid for by a bunch of billionaires and giant corporations that think they get to dictate the rules that affect everyone. Tax loopholes. Prescription drug pricing. Financial rules. Environmental protection. These companies define policies that are great for their bottom line, while good, honest people who work hard get squeezed harder every year. It’s corruption, pure and simple. ...
“The American people deserve a real debate about how to level the playing field for working families and who is best to lead that fight.”
This is vintage Warren.
Welcome to the race, senator. We are glad (but not surprised) to see you here. We want to see that real debate, too.
From Warren’s time as a distinguished law professor and then into the Senate in 2012, she has made the case that the American middle class is fragile, even as the economy lately has added jobs and the unemployment rate has plunged.
The underlying phenomenon, she argues, is increasing economic inequality, something employment figures cannot measure.
In today’s Democratic Party, she has gone from an outlier – she castigated Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton as hypocrites who talked the talk but then voted to protect the interests of predatory banks and creditors, hurting working families – to almost old-fashioned beside the Instagram leftists and identity politicians who are getting much of the attention in her party just now.
Yet Warren is sounder and more precise about economic policy and constitutional law, two subjects that ought to stay near one another, than any other Democratic candidate who has been floated so far, and probably than any other candidate who will emerge, although some will be younger (Warren is 69) and at least one will be nonwhite, and one may be a socialist. (Warren says she is a capitalist “to my bones.”)
“She makes no gauzy promises of hope and change, and she wades into conflict rather than trying to rise above it,” Jeffery Toobin said of Warren in a 2012 New Yorker profile.
She has not changed, and the world has not changed so much in seven years to make these qualities obsolete.
Warren is fighting to save capitalism from itself, from its worst tendencies to compound inequality. She does not want to make markets much less free, but safer, with guardrails, such as the The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she virtually created and which the administration of Donald Trump is trying to neuter.
Now she is advancing the Accountable Capitalism Act, which would require large corporations to allow workers to choose 40 percent of their board seats. It is meant to encourage longer-term thinking by CEOs and other executives – and is just the sort of thing we want to see Democrats grapple with as they decide who will take on this troublesome president.