RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Introduction: "The Harvard professor has spooked the right. As she begins her high-profile Senate campaign against GOP star Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the consumer advocate tells Samuel P. Jacobs how she created 'much of the intellectual foundation' for the Occupy Wall Street movement. She also talks about her past life as a Republican and the challenges of being a woman on the campaign trail - and says she's no 'guileless Marxist.'"

Elizabeth Warren, former Assistant to the president and Special Adviser to the Secretary of Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (photo: Getty Images)
Elizabeth Warren, former Assistant to the president and Special Adviser to the Secretary of Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (photo: Getty Images)

Who's Afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

By Samuel P. Jacobs, The Daily Beast

25 October 11


Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns


The Harvard professor has spooked the right. As she begins her high-profile Senate campaign against GOP star Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the consumer advocate tells Samuel P. Jacobs how she created 'much of the intellectual foundation' for the Occupy Wall Street movement. She also talks about her past life as a Republican and the challenges of being a woman on the campaign trail - and says she's no 'guileless Marxist.'

lizabeth Warren is running for office in the most high-profile race in the country not involving Barack Obama. It's a position that calls for some tact. So what does she think about the Occupy Wall Street protests that are roiling the country?

"I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do," she says. "I support what they do."

Warren's boast isn't bluster: As a professor of commercial law at Harvard and the force behind Obama's consumer-protection bureau, Warren has been one of the most articulate voices challenging the excesses of Wall Street. Still, she enjoys an outsize celebrity for an academic and bureaucrat: a favorite guest of Jon Stewart, Warren, 62, has become a hero to the left, a villain to the right, and a fascination for everyone in between. Now that she is challenging Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, she has emerged this year as a poster child for what some of America loves, and an increasing swath of America hates, about the president.

No one else has Warren's gift to send the right into a sputtering frenzy.

She is, in the words of former Reagan operative Jeffrey Lord, "a guileless, fevered Marxist." George Will put it more primly, but with the same sense of trepidation. Warren, he wrote, "clarifies the liberal project and the stakes of contemporary politics. The project is to dilute the concept of individualism." Warren likely didn't calm those fears by attending a fundraiser hosted by George Soros - the billionaire bogeyman of the right - in Manhattan last week.

Thanks to her service in Washington, overseeing money distributed to woozy banks and creating a consumer financial protection agency, Warren is feared as somebody out to soak the rich and redistribute wealth. But a look at her biography reveals that she's not the hardened leftist some suspect. Here's Warren's challenge: Most first-time candidates for office struggle to create a compelling story about themselves. Warren has a different problem. She has to un-make one.

For all those quaking on the right at the sight of an ascendant Warren, rest easy. Warren's no lefty. In fact, Warren was a registered Republican into her 40s. When it comes to ideology, Warren makes for a rotten heir to Kennedy.

"I was a Republican because I thought that those were the people who best supported markets. I think that is not true anymore," Warren says. "I was a Republican at a time when I felt like there was a problem that the markets were under a lot more strain. It worried me whether or not the government played too activist a role."

Did she vote for Ronald Reagan, who ushered in much of the financial deregulation which Warren has devoted her life to stopping? "I'm not going to talk about who I voted for," she says.

It wasn't until later in life, when Warren was 46, that she had her political awakening. At the time, she was serving on a committee recommending changes to the nation's bankruptcy laws. Until then, Warren says, "I said, ‘No, no, no, not for me on the politics.' "

Warren decided then, in 1995, she could no longer retreat into the ivory tower. "I can't just leave this to people who are going to wreck the lives of millions of American families if they get the chance," she says. "I waded in."

Warren adds that she voted for both Republicans and Democrats and thought that neither party deserved to dominate. "There should be some Republicans and some Democrats," she says. Brown's campaign could make the same point. In a state dominated by Democrats, it might help to have a Republican providing some healthy opposition.

Warren's political sympathies are as much a product of upbringing as anything else. Born on the worn-down side of Norman, Oklahoma, young Betsy Herring grew up in a home that clung to the bottom of the middle class. She had pluck, taking her babysitting earnings to pay for application fees to two colleges where she thought she might have a chance at a debating scholarship. At 19, Herring married NASA engineer Jim Warren, her childhood sweetheart. A decade later, she was a divorced, mother of two, starting out a career as a junior law professor in Houston.

Starting in 1979, Warren embarked on influential, decades-long research of what causes families to go bankrupt. By 1992, Harvard Law School asked her to join the faculty. At that time, only five of 60 tenured professors were women. Three years later, Warren agreed to teach there permanently. The offer was a rich one. In 1996, Warren was the third-highest compensated employee at the university. Warren and her husband now live in a $1.7 million Cambridge home. The candidate who is accused of instigating class warfare seems like she has stepped out of a Horatio Alger story.

Still, you don't need to look at Warren's biography to realize that conservatives' fears are misplaced. Warren's studies have centered on debt, in particular the stress that the modern workplace puts on families. In The Two-Income Trap, her 2003 book, Warren argued that two-income families are less financially secure than families with a single earner. "Her complaints on behalf of the middle class sound positively Nixonian," Christopher Caldwell wrote this summer in the Weekly Standard (where "Nixonian" can be a compliment). Go ahead and find another Democrat, particularly one who makes liberals swoon, being called a "closet conservative" as a compliment.

For a proudly progressive state, Massachusetts has an embarrassing record of voting women into office. Only one of 10 members of the Massachusetts delegation in the House is a woman (and she was married to a U.S. senator). The commonwealth has never elected a woman governor or senator. It sits in the bottom half of states in terms of female representation in the state legislature. And then there was the epic 2010 flameout of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lost Kennedy's Senate seat to Brown.

"The word's out: I'm a woman," Warren says, "and I'm going to have trouble backing off on that. I am what I am. I'll go out and talk to people about what's happening to their families, and when I do that, I'm a mother. I'm a grandmother." Visiting a toy store in Salem, Mass., earlier this month, Warren played up her femininity, gushing about her 11-month-old grandson, Atticus. "The hardest part of being around this kid," she said, "is that he has the most delicious-looking toes."

The collision of politics, gender, and sexuality can be a nasty one for female candidates. Just ask Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin. Warren's brother, David Herring, unprompted, told me, "She is not a lesbian. I think I read that. That was comical." (Warren is married to Harvard Law professor Bruce Mann.) The example of a female authority figure still seems to scramble the male brain.

Warren's looks are causing some men to pay extra attention - including Brown. When quizzed by a student at a candidates' debate in early October about how she paid for college, Warren grinned and said, "I kept my clothes on." Brown's response? "Thank God." Brown famously did take his clothes off to help pay his tuition, posing nude for Cosmopolitan in 1982. "She was joking. I was joking," Brown later said. Not everyone is so disparaging. One man who Warren encountered in Salem asked why she hadn't returned his email messages after an encounter on an airplane. "I was hitting on you," the man clarified.

For fans, Warren's charm offensive has risks too. They don't want her to stop hitting back.

"Maybe she should kick more sand in their eyes," says admirer Eliot Spitzer. "Maybe she should rough them up a little more." your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+147 # Buddha 2011-10-25 21:10
Given my long-time disgust at how corrupt and corporatocratic our politicians are of both parties, I have never given to a political party or a candidate's campaign. I will be, for the first time in my life, actually giving a sizable donation to a candidate, Elizabeth Warren, and I don't even live in Massachusetts! If more of our politicians were like Warren, as aware of the issues, educated and intelligent, with a moral base where helping the least fortunate is the top goal, our nation wouldn't be in the dire straights it currently finds itself...and the Occupy Protests wouldn't be as necessary...
+45 # Vardoz 2011-10-26 08:45
I LOVE her. She talks nothing but truth and sense.She has principles and ethics and shes a fighter. We have already donated and we do not live in MA. We need many more like her! As the GOP are taking over state legislatures and are aggressively resdistricting in in favor of them so the battle to change things really has to come from the states up! If she's a Marxist and that = justice and good govenment,jobs and a prosperous nation then call me a Marxist! I thouht we were supposed to be a nation of people, for the people and by the people? Not of the 1%,for the 1% and by the 1%!
+15 # CL38 2011-10-26 12:21
Don't forget Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, Al Franken and others who've always spoken out.
+7 # JohnCDurham 2011-10-27 13:07
Same here. I have given her money. I believe she is the purist human running for public office. I even believe she might be more honest and competent than anyone reading or writing in this blog.

It's hard to live with, that...
+90 # abeitling 2011-10-25 21:37
I too like Warren. She strikes me as being strong, ethically fair minded and intelligent. I wish her well.
+46 # pernsey 2011-10-25 22:53
She has intelligence and integrity so the Republicans are in a frenzy...I hope she wins!!

-3 # RLF 2011-10-27 05:23
+53 # davidmichael 2011-10-25 23:13
Elizabeth Warren is practical, smart, and courageous. In short, she will make a great senator because she is not afraid to speak out or kotow to the Republican Establishment. Personally, I would vote for her as the next president. She has the guts and cojonas that Obama lacks. I wish her the very best on her journey into politics. The country needs her commitment and determination. She's a breath of fresh air.
As for the present Congress...they should all be fired and forced to live on Social Security. What a disappointment our present non-government is!
+15 # aitengri 2011-10-25 23:25
I'll bet this lady will go meteoric once she wins her election. She may well become the "Palin" of the "left", no matter how sanely centrist and rational she is. Just enough heat and spice leaks through to give hope for a powerful, new candidate, a leader of the new Occupationist Party. Remember who is coining that one :) (yours truly, aitengri)
+29 # brilyn37 2011-10-25 23:44
Warren is the tonic that America needs right now.
+38 # liznandy 2011-10-25 23:50
I was once a Republican, too. And I very much admire Elizabeth, not only because she also carries my name, but because we think alike. I support the OWS movement, decry the loss of financial regulation and would tell George Will, that he is correct (I was about to say Right On!)"The Age of Individualism is over. In The New Age it will take the diverse inhabitants of the ARK to rebuild the barn, and to rethink where we are going.
+32 # MainStreetMentor 2011-10-25 23:56
I don't think ANYone could find a stronger, more deserving candidate, than Dr. Warren. The people of Massachusetts will most certainly create a very high, strong tide of votes for her on which she will ride into the U.S. Senate.
+36 # R U Kidding Me? 2011-10-26 00:48
I have seen and heard her speak. There is complete sincerity and authenticity in the way she cares about our country and current troubles. I too donated and will donate again to her campaign and I don't live in MA. either
+2 # aitengri 2011-10-26 00:59
I have posted a comment. I don't see it here. When I re-enter my saved text from that comment, I am told I've already entered that comment. Where is the comment? Here it is again: I'll bet this lady will go meteoric once she wins her election. She may well become the "Palin" of the "left", no matter how sanely centrist and rational she is. Just enough heat and spice leaks through to give hope for a powerful, new candidate, a leader of the new Occupationist Party. Remember who is coining that one :) (yours truly, aitengri)
+25 # lin96 2011-10-26 01:29
Elizabeth Warren should be running for President. She reaks of the truth and that's very attractive. You can't help but see that there's no spin or twists to what she states. It's the pure unadulterated truth. I admire her honesty and integrity. I wish her well.
+7 # barb 2011-10-26 06:11
+23 # SouthBrun 2011-10-26 06:25
A great article on Ms Warren. I now like her even more. Especially he support for the OWS. While the article describes her as a little "Nixonian", I say that she is somewhat "Lincolnesque" in that she
follows his remark: "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
+1 # MJay 2011-10-28 18:33
M Jay:
Where did you obtain your Lincoln quote? That's powerful!
-10 # 666 2011-10-26 06:42
Nothing against Warren, but over the past few decades the Right & its media tools have framed political debate by "creating" so-called spokespeople for "the Left": e.g. Obama, Michael Moore, etc and now Warren. That's like calling Massachusetts [I lived there] "proudly progressive" - hah! where do you think Romney is from! Yet all these supposed "marxists-fasci sts" (an oxymoron BTW) are really right-of-center (albeit Moore has been drifting leftward).

The Left has NO voice and no real identity in this country (OWS is a start), just a lot of donkeys wearing elephant suits. We can buy into the myth of the two-party system, or we can bite the bullet and seek real change by voting for those who really give voice to the ideals of social justice. Will things get worse when our 3rd, 4th & 5th party candidates lose for a few election cycles? Absolutely. But they're getting worse now, and they are going to keep getting worse as long as the GOP+Dem party of the plutocrats puts profit before people.

As Jacobs notes, Warren has solid establishment credentials. In the long run she's no real threat to the plutocracy. Elect her or not, but don't fall for the illusion that you'll see any real change.

Media created (& misplaced) political Hope is the carrot dangled before the carthorse of the masses.

Please remember: "There is NO carrot."
+3 # JohnCDurham 2011-10-27 13:13
So, who do you like?

If everyone was as "well informed" as you are, I doubt I would ever spend a minute trying to change the course in Congress, get a protection bill done or run for office. That would all prove... nothing.

So, who do you LIKE?
+14 # eddieK 2011-10-26 07:47
Elizabeth W. is one of the most authentic people to enter politics in decades. She is not actually a politician, and I doubt that she ever will be. However, as a civilian in office, I believe she will be more representative of "the people" than those who make a career of collecting money and influence to satisfy their egos. Sure - I do hope that she stays active long enough to become President, and make history a positive thing for the first time since Clinton.
+6 # Rara Avis 2011-10-26 08:56
OK so Warren is a Marxist and opposes individualism. She's just the kind of collective Marxist bogey-womnan we need!
+5 # mjc 2011-10-26 09:30
Warren may be one of the two or three people in this country that we can trust to help govern this country. We may not find this out until the end is near, but it is reassuring to know that there are a few like her around.
+12 # sandyclaws 2011-10-26 09:40
Obstruction my friends, is not healthy opposition. Healthy opposition is not obstruction with the sole purpose to have President Obama fail at any cost! Healthy opposition is when people get together to solve a problem and have actual facts to back up their ideas, not just some stance that caters to their ideologies benefitting their supporting lobbys. I do hope Warren is successful in anything she does, but it is time we address the republicant's strategies and stop treating them as viable, honest politicians. They only vote for things that benefit the 1%. That is obvious and we need to get them out of office so we can get this country back on it's feet! When somebody proudly proclaims they are a consevative or a tea partier, we need to start saying "Gee, I'm sorry, but I understand that's curable with education".
+8 # ABen 2011-10-26 09:54
Elizabeth Warren is a great candidate for Ted Kennedy's old seat and should easily defeat Scott Brown. If we want more people of her stature and quality to run for and win elected office, we must change the way in which campaigns are run. As long as politicians must raise millions to run for office, big money interests will hold sway in Washington. Go to >>
-43 # Darwin26 2011-10-26 10:17
Warren is a Warmongering Tool. She'll be the next ObamaNationInc or senator of such Neo-liberalism to make your 'rational' head spinning.
search further ~ Just Say No To WARREN.
+11 # Terrapin 2011-10-27 09:52
Darwin 26 ... 8 years of the Bush (REPUBLICAN) regime lies their way into murdering millions and kicking the shit out out of the two of the most defenceless nations on the planet ... HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU MAKE A STATEMENT LIKE THAT. Might this be evidence of feeble-mindedness;
Perhaps you need to be reminded that YOU are one of the 99%
+1 # JohnCDurham 2011-10-27 13:15
"Search further"? You sound like you are a real Searcher. So, who have you FOUND?
+8 # kootenayguy 2011-10-26 10:44
Christoper Caldwell, writing in The Evening Standard, calls Warren "positively Nixonian." Nixon could not even get nominated as a Presidential candidate by today's Republican Party. I am 65 years old and well remember Nixon's Presidency. For all his political faults, and they were legion, I will argue that he ranks somewhere to the left of Obama.
+1 # JohnCDurham 2011-10-27 13:21
True. Very, very True. Reality check everyone!!! We've come so far downhill, so fast, this comment (I would think) cannot be disputed by anyone older than 50 (I'm 66).

Goldwater was Left of Obama. Please realize this. It will help with your adjustments to the necessity of a National OWS movement.
+3 # bobby t. 2011-10-26 11:27
Warren will not win easily. The GOP will fight her tooth and nail. Brown will get lots of women to vote for him because he is cute. Lots of men to vote against her because she is a woman. I know that women out there will hate those last two statements. Tough. It is the truth.
Sex appeal is what made Sarah Palin draw 49 million votes in 2008, which was almost enough to knock off then Senator Obama. Ironically, he won by 1% of the votes. 51-49....and that after eight of the most horrific years in history. Liz is not a saviour, but she deserves Ted's seat. Brown does not. The fact that the democratic party put up a moron last time shows you something is rotten in that state. Seems that both parties are blowing smoke up our butts.
+12 # conniejo 2011-10-26 12:35
Well, Bobby T. It will be interesting to see the data on gender demographics related to voting after the next election. I am a woman and I don't take issue with both of your statements. Massachusetts' history suggests you certainly are right that men, in that state at least, have trouble electing a woman. I have many female friends, and I don't know one of them who would vote for Brown for any reason, and certainly not because he is "cute." I don't doubt that there are younger women who have less experience in the horrific world that mostly men have created who may vote for "cute," and certainly there are some women who will vote for Liz because she is a woman. However, the people, men and women, of my acquaintance will vote based on who best supports their ideals. But, then, maybe Wisconsin voters are more sophisticated or, more likely, have had a stronger reality check because of our governor than those in Mass. We certainly all know people who vote against their own self-interest because they fall for the fear tactics or sound bites that misrepresent reality. I'm much more hopeful that the 99% movement has awakened enough people to what's really going on to change the voting demographics. As I said, it will be an interesting election.
+6 # CL38 2011-10-26 12:15
Given her character, lack of fear and direct approach, let's make Elizabeth the first female candidate to break the glass ceiling in MA!
+9 # amye 2011-10-26 12:21
Yeah, Elizabeth...rou gh em up a bit in your classy way and style! We love you!
+4 # Ryguy913 2011-10-26 14:15
I'm sorry, but all these cries of "Never vote Republican!" are simply inane.

I'd vote for Dick Lugar over Joe Leiberman or Ben Nelson any day. And I'd vote for Susan Collins or Olympia Snow over Max Baucus or Kent Conrad any day.

Especially at a time when Republicans like Dylan Ratigan are leading the charge for campaign finance reform, I say it's time to throw away that pary-allegiance nonsense and just get to work.
+2 # badbenski 2011-10-26 23:28
In addition to the sexy school marm thing she's got going, she's likely to often find that she's the smartest person in the room. With equal parts brains & moxie, she'll be a tough out for opponents.
+9 # brianf 2011-10-27 08:49
You can bet the right-wing will heavily fund Brown to defeat Warren. We need to get a bunch of us to match this will our own small donations to Warren. With our numbers, we can do it.
+5 # XXMD48 2011-10-27 11:55

I propose third political party represented by the masses of OWS movement named:
"American peaceful revolution people's party"
Next president and VP: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
-9 # disgusted American 2011-10-28 18:36
Elizabeth Warren is a war monger - she supports the fake war on terror 100 percent and also Obamacare. And she's an ObamaNationInc insider.

She will march in lockstep with leadership.

Be careful. You might get what you wish for. Look what happened with Obama. He told you everything he thought you wanted to hear.

I am a MA resident and will not vote for Warren. Friends are also looking closely at her and seeing what I see.
+4 # CL38 2011-10-28 19:57
Oh please, you are clearly a right wing plant.
0 # disgusted American 2011-10-30 18:16
Am a woman, not a right-wing plant and don't support Repukes. Was a Dem but got fed up with lies Dems & Obama gave re Obamacare. When Pelosi rammed it through using reconcilation, I was done with that party. Am also sick of endless war. Warren is not.

Am an uninsured MA resident who knows how Obamacare will work b/c it is the MA plan on steroids which has harmed many. Premiums rise while benefits decrease a/k/a cost-shifting failure onto backs of middle- to- low-income earners. Penalty for being uninsured is enforced by Dept. of Revenue using all methods available for tax debt. Obamacare uses IRS.

You'll be appalled when Obamacare starts so fasten your seatbelt. You'll be mandated to purchase unaffordable insurance even if it's subsidized and will be underinsured. You'll be told how much you can afford to pay based on PRIOR year income. If you show a higher income when you file the current year return, you will have to pay back. You can never get ahead. If you are found eligible for expanded Medicaid, that's what you'll get. Medicaid has estate recovery for people 55 and up (OBRA 1993) - not the same as granny going into a nursing home - so those folks will get a mandated collateral loan.

Educate yourself. Then you can speak intelligently instead of name calling. Democrats and Republicans dine at the same trough.
+1 # CarrieLK 2011-10-29 09:06
OK, guys, am I the only one here disturbed by the tone of this writer. First, he can't seem to get his mind around the fact that people care about issues, not ideology. He seems to really want to put Warren into a "liberal" or "conservative" camp. That's a large part of what's wrong with this country - the us against them view of politics, much of it stoked by journalists like Samuel Jacobs.

Second, "Visiting a toy store in Salem, Mass., earlier this month, Warren played up her femininity, gushing about her 11-month-old grandson, Atticus." Right...because only weak, feminine women actually love their grandsons, and to "gush" about him somehow shows...what Mr. Jacobs? How does that make her a different politician? More to the point, how does that make her less worthy, as you imply. And if she were a lesbian, that would mean...she's less qualified? ...she eats rocks? I'm not sure what the implication is supposed to be.

You're right, being a woman in politics is hard - mostly because of so-called like you.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.