Dear Elizabeth Warren:
When we heard the news last Thursday morning, even though we knew this was coming, we felt a little gutted, not for your presidential candidacy falling so short but because your ideas and their ethical clarity have been turned away. But as you and we know, it is only for the moment. One does not have to be a Calvinist to see fighting corruption never goes unneeded or out of fashion.
We’ve followed you since the battle to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your brain child, which continues before the U.S. Supreme Court as we write, coming under withering fire from the Court’s conservative majority in oral arguments last week. We are not writing your obituary today, but someday, when someone does, the CFPB will have to figure high no matter what else comes.
The word “progressive” got bent out of shape in 2016 when supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders argued about which candidate was more progressive, when neither was. A progressive does not promise to be anyone else’s third term, not even in desperation. That is a reactionary. And a progressive does not disdain incremental change; that is a radical. The progressive, Elizabeth, is you.
You also said you were a capitalist, and never wavered from it, even under mounting pressure – which says as much about where we are in 2020 as it does about your ample principles. A year ago, CBS’s Ed O’Keefe asked you at the South by Southwest festival if “capitalist” was the right word for you.
“I believe in markets,” you said. “Markets that work. Markets that have a cop on the beat and have real rules and everybody follows them. I believe in a level playing field. And as long as we’ve got that, then we will get the best out of markets, because it means the people who come up with great ideas, who work hard, are the ones who will prosper, not simply those who were born into wealth.”
And if you get labeled as a socialist? O’Keefe persisted.
“Well,” you said, “it’s just wrong.”
It was a sterling defense. It must have been maddening after that to face the slings and arrows of the Sanders crowd, who had a blind term for you and any other woman who got in their way. It began with corporate and ended with whore. Once we had thought some of them would be your natural constituency. They never were.
You know as well as anyone that you cannot campaign just on plans. Fighting corruption, walking the beat, those were your service. But you found a way to connect it to the judgment in Matthew so that you served not just the prosperous but the hungry, the sick, the stranger; the least among your brothers and sisters. Little wonder that way back in June, the heterodox New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo said they wanted to live in your America.
In the last days of 2018, when we welcomed you to this race, we said you were 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 had been floated so far. And that remained true to the end. You fought to save capitalism from its worst tendency, compounding inequality, which must sooner or later give way to chaos.
And the way you took the fight to Michael Bloomberg in Las Vegas? On a debate stage with Donald Trump, you would have been a contender.
Until next time ...