On the day after Tuesday’s electoral loss, the Obama administration brought an unfamiliar face to the White House – Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor noted for her staunch advocacy on behalf the middle class and fierce criticism of the bank bailouts. Perhaps the administration will take a more aggressive approach to Wall Street, along the lines of what Warren wants. But for Democrats to truly take ownership of the economic crisis, Warren will need to play a more prominent role. Not just her ideas, but the force of her personality is needed.
Warren and the Democratic Party need to think seriously about her prospects for higher office. Going into 2012, Massachusetts Democrats will have no shortage of candidates to choose from, eager, party-trained politicians ready to take a run. Republican Scott Brown’s victory to the US Senate last week made clear that voters crave something besides the norm: someone from outside the traditional political structure who can speak to their everyday, bread-and-butter concerns in a credible way. Warren fits the bill.
Warren has spent her career laying the groundwork for what might be called progressive populism. From her perch in Cambridge, she’s excoriated the unfair credit and lending practices that, in part, gave rise to the current crisis. She was the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which, if created, would regulate credit cards and mortgages in the same way home appliances are regulated now. (Full disclosure: Warren once wrote about the agency in the publication I help edit.) And well before the bubble broke in the summer of 2007, when America was still riding high on George W. Bush’s economy, Warren was speaking out against the incredible pressure the 21st century economy was putting on the middle class. She was derided as a Cassandra, but she was right.
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