Her voice raspy from the rigors of perpetual fundraising events that characterize running for U.S. Senate in America today, Harvard law professor and controversial—in a good way—creator of the Consumer Protection Agency Elizabeth Warren addressed an Emily’s List coffee gathering in New York City December 14.
She’s seeking to take the seat back for the Democrats from Republican Scott Brown, who ran as a moderate but has held the party line on most votes since he’s been representing Massachusetts. Symbolically, this would be a big deal, since the woman some have called “a red hot poker in the Republicans’ eyes” would be reclaiming the office held by the late great liberal lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy, before he died of a brain cancer in 2009.
When Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock introduced Warren (l and r respectively in photo), she noted that the last year of the progressive woman was 1992—and two decades later, 2012 is shaping up to be the next one with a record twelve progressive Democratic women running for the senate. Half are incumbents and half, like Warren, would be new to the senate.
Warren’s candidacy is stirring up excitement all around the country, but she makes clear that she’s spending almost all of her time in Massachusetts. Unassuming, warm, and down-home direct in demeanor, she has the verbal acuity you’d expect of a law professor (no Rick Perry “oops” here), she gets a laugh when she describes herself as “a much more dangerous woman now” than when she first went to Washington to help sort out the financial morass at the beginning of Obama’s administration.
The narrative of her campaign becomes clear when I ask her how she thinks her economic message can enlist the average voter. She points to the Occupy movement and says it has changed the conversation and that’s her approach too. “I was told when I got to Washington that I shouldn’t go for a consumer protection agency, that I should ask for crumbs. But I believe you have to have something worth fighting for.”
Worth fighting for in Warren’s mind is a compelling vision for America’s future steeped in traditional American values. She asks: “Are we people who say ‘I got mine and you’re on your own’ or will we be a country that believes in our kids and invests in our future?”
Warren has the data to back up her assertions about the need for us to meet those lofty challenges and how we can do it. I’ll be following her race closely and writing about it periodically as the battle (and it will be a battle) is joined.
It’s a long time from now to November 2012 and anything can happen. Right now Warren is simultaneously preparing for Karl Rove’s sharpest attacks and glowing just a bit from her current seven-point lead in the polls.
With a president who routinely appeases the unappeasable right, as witness the retreat on Plan B last week, the best ballast is to elect more progressive women like Elizabeth Warren.
For as Schriock observed to enthusiastic applause, “It’s good to have many women running, but what we really need is to have those women walking onto the senate floor.”