Sir Winston Churchill once said of democracy: «The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter». Never has this rung more true than the result of the 2016 American Presidential Election. Nearly all pundits, pollsters, world leaders and members of both the Democratic Party and even the Republican Party expected Hillary Clinton to triumph at the ballot box last week. Yet, the American voter, delivered a stinging rebuke – not only of Mrs. Clinton's historic candidacy – but also more generally the Democratic Party and President Obama's legacy of the last eight years. Democrats are now not only the minority in the US House of Representatives (after losing a huge majority in 2010 and subsequent Congressional elections in 2012, 14 & 16) they also are the minority in the US Senate and across the country at State and local level they have been decimated over the last six years under President Obama's leadership.
When Barack Obama entered the White House in January 2009 his party was in control of 62 of the nation’s 99 State legislative chambers. By January 2015, Republicans were in control of 68. Democrats held 31 Governorships in 2009. Under President Obama that has dwindled to 17. The much vaunted Obama Coalition appears to be just that – the Obama Coalition – not the Democratic Party's Coalition. The only time Democrats seemed to be able to win was at the Presidential level when Barack Obama's name was on the ballot. In the off year mid term Congressional elections when the President was not running, turnout from the Obama Coalition was depressed and the Democrats got hammered in 2010 and again in 2014. It is clear that the Obama Coalition will only show up at the polls when Obama's name is on the ballot, not for other Democrats and the party's policies.
Thus, if the Democrats, now bereft of both Obama and the Clintons for national leadership, are to claw their way back to victory in the Congress and eventually the White House, they will need a leader who can fashion a deeper and more durable coalition of voters who can be counted on to turn up at the polls for policies rather than cults of personalities. The Democrat who can do this, who could stand a chance of beating Donald Trump and making him a one term President, is a remarkable politician who could ignite a movement for real change and really deliver it. That Democrat is the Massachusetts Senior Senator and former Harvard Law Professor Senator Elizabeth Warren. For progressives disappointed with all the hype of the Obama years of «hope and change» when actually very little changed and what was achieved (such as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank) was half baked at best, Elizabeth Warren is the real deal.
Senator Warren could connect with the white working-class on a visceral, emotional level in much the same way Senator Bernie Sanders seemed capable. She is authentic in her appeal to working people precisely because she was born into and came from the working-class and has never forgotten her roots. Her father was a janitor who suffered a heart attack when she was 12. This incurred many medical bills which the family struggled to pay and a pay cut due to her father being unable to carry on working his normal hours. This led to the loss of their car when they failed to make loan repayments. To help the family finances her mother found work as a sales assistant in the store Sears while the young Elizabeth Warren at the age of 13 began waiting tables in a cafe to help bring in extra funds. Having been born into and grown up in the working-class Senator Warren knows exactly what it is like, how tough that existence can be, how money is a constant source of anxiety, how there is little financial security, independence and opportunities to better oneself academically, professionally and socially.
Senator Warren has dedicated her working life, first as a lawyer and academic, and then as a consumer protection advocate and Senator to fighting for the working middle class of America, which is the vast majority of the people who live in America. She put herself though university and law school and became an expert in bankruptcy legislation after entering academia. After an academic law career which spanned stints at Rutgers, Texas University, Houston University and UPenn she ended up as Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. At Harvard, Warren became one of the most highly cited Law Professors in the United States with a specialization in bankruptcy.
Like Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren started off her political life as a Republican but became increasingly disillusioned with the GOP and by the mid-1990s switched to the Democrats. Yet it was not until the catastrophe of the Wall St engineered Global Financial Crisis of 2008 that she really came into her own and came to national prominence. Just when ordinary, hard working people needed a champion the most to stand up to the immoral, corrupt, grossly greedy and dangerously reckless behaviour of the Big Banks on Wall Street and the deplorable Hedge Funds of the murky shadow finance world, they found one in Elizabeth Warren. Warren speaks with a remarkable passion, contempt and intellectual fire power against the most corrupt and evil institutions of money on the planet – the big investment big banks such as the «vampire squid» Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and other equally corrupt and criminal financial organisations like AIG.
When so many politicos, up to their eyes in campaign donations from these insidious organisations, took a softly approach or mumbled lines of faux anger against their corrupt leaders, Elizabeth Warren channeled every ounce of her working-class common sense morality and lambasted vigorously the fat cats and tycoons of «criminal rackets» otherwise known as investment banks and hedge funds. Senator Warren, unlike so many of her liberal limousine colleagues, understands that fundamentally that the love of money is indeed «the root of all evil» and is unafraid to confront and challenge the titans of Wall Street who have caused so much destruction and brought so much misery to the lives of working people across America and the world. Her brilliant academic mind, expertise and fiery charismatic personality brought her to the attention of the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who recommend her to President Obama as the Chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Committee monitoring the infamous multi-billion dollar tax payer bailout of Wall Street. Her intellectual, political and physical energy and robustness impressed many. So much so that President Obama asked her to help set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau designed to implement the Dodd-Frank regulatory framework established by Congress to supervise Wall Street.
The greatest sign of all that Elizabeth Warren was a force to be reckoned with and an effective fighter for the working middle class was just how much Wall Street and their allies in the Republican Party loathed her. In fact it is hard to overstate just how much hatred their is for Elizabeth Warren among investment bankers and hedge funders because she knows them for what they truly are and is courageous enough to constantly call them out and hold them to account while attempting to bring them to heel. Sadly, once Elizabeth Warren had established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, President Obama rightly nominated her to became it's first Director but then buckled under the pressure of a ferocious backlash from Wall Street and their Republican allies in the Senate. This was a great shame and one of President Obama's weakest moments. What made President Obama's capitulation even more galling was his second choice for the job eventually got it in a recess appointment without Senate confirmation which made a lot of true liberals and progressives wonder why he could not have done the same with Elizabeth Warren's candidature.
Not being the type to let such local difficulties stand in her way, Elizabeth Warren decided if the Senate would not confirm her the best thing to do next was join the Senate itself. She ran an astonishing campaign for Senator for Massachusetts, becoming the first woman to be elected to state wide office in Massachusetts, defeating Scott Brown of the Republican Party and raising a huge amount of money without the need for donations from Wall Street. Wall Street threw everything they had at her and she proved you can run a campaign without the backing of Big Banks and the financial services industry and prevail.
In the Senate she became a super star of the Senate Banking Committee with her stunning lacerations of Wall Street executives and other financially corrupted fat cat executives. She has campaigned tirelessly to increase middle class economic security, expand opportunities to those hard pressed families who are not well connected or endowed with trust funds and over-inflated investment bank salaries while attempting to get the interest payments on student loans down and make college tuition free. What makes Elizabeth Warren so remarkable is not only her first-class intellect and academic expertise in an age of some many intellectually mediocre, light weight know nothings – but also her charisma and passion. You can sense she burns with rage against the structures of modern capitalism. Watching her rhetorically and intellectually making mince meat out of the so-called masters of the universe of Wall Street is a cathartic experience and the political equivalent of Rocky Balboa's ten rounds against Ivan Drago. She is the ultimate political fighter. And what also gives her a special quality is just like Margaret Thatcher one senses she is a conviction politician who means what she says and will do not just talk. Unlike limousine liberals such as Ted Kennedy or John Kerry she knows what the working-class is all about having come from it. She has the credibility and authenticity to connect with working middle class people the same way Bill Clinton could, because she is one of them, and understands them.
In 2020 the Democratic Party is going to need a leader who in no way can be tainted and tarred with the Devil's Temple of Wall Street. Democrats will need someone who can appeal to and excite the Obama Coalition of millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics and women while also connecting at a gut level with small-town, provincial America of the working-class rust belt, the people who have not benefited from globalization and have been hurt the most by the financial crisis and corporate driven free trade agreements. In Elizabeth Warren the Democrats could find no better leader and ambassador for economic fairness, social mobility and equality. Soon after the election of Donald Trump Senator Warren made it clear she would stand up to all forms of bigotry and never compromise or give an inch on this matter. She also made it clear that making the economy work in a fair and balanced way for everyone, including the majority middle-class, will be her top priority.
Her intellectual and political soul mate in the Senate is Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Sanders would do the Democratic Party and America a great service by passing his torch of a political revolution over to Senator Warren. Elizabeth Warren would also continue the path which Hillary Clinton has blazed and finish that great Lady's work of finally shattering the highest, hardest glass ceiling. If Democrats want to retake Congress and the White House they are going to need a nation wide movement of many ages, ethnicities, genders and classes to get this done. In Elizabeth Warren they have the perfect leader for this political challenge.