By Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk Tribune News Service.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has been a liberal favorite since her election in 2012. An outspoken critic of big business and a proponent of more regulation on the banking industry, the Massachusetts Democrat earlier this month led an effort to stop the $1.1 trillion government funding bill because it included changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that imposed strict rules on Wall Street.
Now Warren's liberal supporters are touting her as a viable alternative to former Secretary of State and presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton for president in 2016. The left-liberal website MoveOn.org recently launched a campaign to draft Warren into running.
Is Warren the candidate Americans need in 2016? Or is she the candidate Democrats deserve? Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis, the RedBlue America columnists, weigh in.
JOEL MATHIS Elizabeth Warren isn't going to run for president. She's said so repeatedly. And then repeated it some more. America's going to get a Jeb Bush-vs.-Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, and there is nothing that's going to deter us from our dark and terrible destiny in that regard.
But you can understand why some people would daydream about the possibility.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Congress approved a budget that included a clause lifting restrictions, imposed after the too-big-too-fail meltdown of banks that nearly destroyed the American economy in 2007, that prevents banks from receiving a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. bailout if things go bad when they trade risky assets. Now taxpayers are once again on the hook for banks' bad decisions.
Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder, a Republican, slipped the clause into the bill. The wording of the provision was written by Citigroup. And Warren, quite rightly, was outraged.
"Washington already works really well for the billionaires and the big corporations and the lawyers and the lobbyists," she said on the Senate floor.
"But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citigroup bet big on derivatives and lost? What about the families who are living paycheck to paycheck and saw their tax dollars go to bail out Citi just 6 years ago?
"We were sent here to fight for those families. It is time, it is past time, for Washington to start working for them!" She is entirely correct. But Warren is probably right not to run for president: That job requires a broad focus, and her laser-like focus on Wall Street's perfidies is desperately need in public life.
What's needed, then, is for Warren's supporters to begin the hard work of creating a generation of Elizabeth Warren acolytes.
Find candidates and run then for city council, state legislature and Congress, and keep at it for years and decades. We need more than Elizabeth Warren, you see: We need Warrenism.
BEN BOYCHUK Many conservatives watching this Elizabeth Warren boomlet are probably thinking to themselves right now, "Gee, this looks awfully familiar."
Let us cast our minds back to 2012 . . . no, 2008. Wait, how about 1996? Better yet, 1992 or '88. In each of those presidential election years, conservatives placed their hopes on candidates with solid ideological bona fides. Remember Jack Kemp mania? The vaunted Phil Gramm juggernaut? How about the Newt Gingrich freight train?
And in each of those instances, conservatives were sorely disappointed when a parade of Republican establishment, "my turn" candidates won the nomination and lost the general election.
So-called progressives likely can look forward to similar disappointment in 2016.
But wouldn't it be great if Elizabeth Warren turned out as the Pat Buchanan of the American Left? Buchanan, don't forget, ran against George H.W. Bush in 1992 as a populist spoiler and outspoken critic of free trade and multinational corporations.
Buchanan may not be as enamored of the welfare state and immigration reform as Warren is; but on economic policy they're talking the same language.
And what is Hillary Clinton? The Democratic Party establishment's safe bet. The uncharismatic wife of a charismatic ex-president. A darling of Goldman Sachs. And a conventional liberal, by and large. Inevitable? Perhaps. But that's what pundits said about her in 2008, too.
Warren isn't exactly an outsider herself. Common folk don't win U.S. Senate seats. She's a former Harvard Law professor, after all. But she knows how to ride the current left-liberal causes du jour, like income inequality. And she's tapping into a large reservoir of public resentment toward big banks and crony capitalists, something that the anti-GOP establishment Tea Party has been doing successfully for several years now, by the way.
What a shame if Warren doesn't jump in. Her candidacy would be glorious to behold as a referendum on "progressive" policies and ideas. If Warren's one accomplishment was to pull Clinton further to the left, it would be a great service, to the Republican nominee. Run, Liz, run! ___ ABOUT THE WRITERS Ben Boychuk ([email protected]) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal. Joel Mathis ([email protected]) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine.