Elizabeth Warren today announced her Senate candidacy to replace Scott Brown, and if she wins, the Democratic Party will gain an incorruptible voice for consumers and workers — much to the dismay of corporate America. Writing in The Nation, John Nichols explains what Warren’s candidacy could mean:
Warren wants to change the economic debate in a country where the poverty rate is rising, the middle-class is shrinking, the rich are getting dramatically richer and the corporations are writing the rules. In Warren’s words, working families have been “chipped at, hacked at, squeezed and hammered for a generation now, and I don’t think Washington gets it.”
“Washington is rigged for big corporations that hire armies of lobbyists,” she continued. “A big company like GE pays nothing in taxes and we’re asking college students to take on even more debt to get an education, we’re telling seniors they may have to learn to live on less. It isn’t right, and it’s the reason I’m running for the U.S. Senate.”
…She started Wednesday morning not in the halls of academies but at a Boston commuter station, where she greeted working men–in a campaign start that provided evidence that this, like all of Warren’s endeavors, will be a high-energy and people-powered project. And the nation’s most identifiable battler against the big banks and the Wall Street speculators was driving the message home. “The pressures on middle-class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington,” she said. “I want to change that.”
Suffice it to say that her opponent, Scott Brown, will not be hurting for corporate cash. Warren will need small contributors, lots of them. She will get good support from unions, and Nichols notes that the influential National Nurses United union is already on board her campaign in a big way.
Nichols does a good job of limning the big-picture significance of a Warren victory:
It’s not just that a Warren candidacy could provide Democrats with a needed pick-up of a currently Republican-held seat–although that’s a big deal for the party, which faces a dismal electoral map in 2012. If the chief advocate for real banking reform and the development of a federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau runs and defeats US Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, she will instantly become an essential spokesperson for progressive values in national economic, regulatory and fiscal policy debates.
Put Warren next to stalwarts like Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, a re-elected Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, a re-elected Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, as well as progressive candidates like Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Hawaiian Democrat Mazie Hirono–House members seeking open Senate seats–and you’ve got the makings of what Warren’s old friend Paul Wellstone always wanted: a Senate progressive caucus.
Not to take anything away from the aforementioned progressive senators, but few of them could teach Warren much about corporate abuses. She is one of America’s top experts on the topic, as well as a fearless advocate for reform.
Progressive Democrats who have been lamenting the future of their party and its reluctance to embrace populist principles have just run out of excuses. The Warren campaign will be a no-whining zone — and a place where progressive activists can confidently invest their time, talents and economic resources.