Elizabeth Warren Massachusetts Senate: Why Warren is a True Progressive


The Massachusetts Senate race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown was one of the most heavily contentious and expensive contests in 2012. Brown, the incumbent who had filled Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat in a special 2010 election, ran on a moderate Republican platform, while Warren ran on the political know-how of her skills acquired working as a financial regulator as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The differences between the candidates were clear in their campaign styles, and they manifested in the promises they made to voters.

Fast-forward to election night: Brown’s bravado-laced concession speech and Warren’s triumphant victory speech shed further light on the stark choice Massachusetts voters made.

Never one to shy away from his man-of-the-people media persona, former Senator Brown called attention to both his truck and his fitness regime. He promised to be out on his morning run the very next day, showing resilience in the face of a hard fought battle with his opponent. He also carefully positioned himself in front of the podium with his camera-ready daughter immediately to his right, and his less TV-friendly wife and dowdier daughter off to the side.

The Twitterverse was aghast wondering if Brown might have been a bit over-served at the party prior to his speech. As he spoke of his readiness to work within the Senate right up until the transition in January, he seemed almost jubilant to be stepping down. While he may have run as the only moderate Republican and independent in the Senate. he showed very little moderation in his self-adulation.

Warren’s acceptance speech was a picture of a woman who had given everything to her campaign as an ambassador for the middle class electorate she fought so hard for. As a testament to these people, she immediately gave credit to them in her acceptance speech, citing their hard work and determination in getting her elected in the first place. Running on middle and working class rights and families, she was able to give both her nomination and her legislation back to the people who she ran for. In such a pivotal race, Warren represented a watershed moment for the Democratic Party. The party needs an ambassador like Warren in the Senate to fight for the progressive rights that so many incumbent Republicans had been able to ignore or blatantly vote against.

As the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren's background in financial regulation serves as the broad basis for her platform of bank regulation and government oversight. Her speech at the Democratic National Convention may very well have pushed her over the edge in the Senate race. Her fiery rhetoric combined with her ability to cut right to the heart of the matter, she called out not only Mitt Romney, but the very institutions he represented.

"No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don't run this country for corporations. We run it for people," she said.

She then went on to address the role government plays in regulating Wall Street, sharply rebuking both the CEOs who dictate the rules and the legislators who get steam-rolled in the process: “Wall Street CEOs — the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs — still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them."

Warren's first big coup was her successful investigation of Capital One. Capital One was found guilty for fleecing consumers of millions of dollars and forced to pay back each cent. Even in the face of Washington lobbyists obfuscating her every move, Warren prevailed in a $250 million settlement. Looking ahead to a Senate that will need the support of their Democratic majority in order to push legislature through the Republican controlled house, Warren can look to the mandate she has received in Massachusetts to push a regulatory agenda that will mean more bank oversight paired with consumer protection.  

As a self-proclaimed 'true progressive,' Warren seeks to combat the economic elitism of both Congressional and presidential predecessors. Warren opposes the Republican economic elitism embodied in a comment George W. Bush made at an $800-a-plate fundraiser during his presidency. “What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base," the former president quipped.

Since Warren was appointed to her position as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and had virtually no political ties previously, her ascent to the Massachusetts Senate is truly progressive. She sought nothing but the approval of the consumers and tax payers she hoped to represent. Defined as "the party for the people," progressives have evolved since their patriarch Teddy Roosevelt assumed office, becoming the progressive political authority of the early twentieth century.

While there is a tendency to portray Republicans as conservative elitists and Democrats as progressive liberals, the truth is more nuanced. Warren revives a movement which was somewhat dormant in the latter half of the twentieth century, when progressives feared being too far left of the Democratic Party center to get nominated.

Now, with the nominations of Chris Murphy (Conn.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio)  Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) to the Senate,  progressives are taking center stage in 2012. 

Warren has already cast herself as a willing and able leader. The first female senator from Massachusetts, Warren serves as a beacon to women in politics, who now make up almost 20% of the Senate. She has firmly campaigned for "women's issues" such as upholding Roe vs. Wade. By surpassing Hillary Clinton in Senate campaign fundraising, Warren has become a great exemplar of successful Senate campaigns. Her campaign succeeded with both the grass-roots financial backing and on-point messages that get progressives elected.