Monday, September 17, 2012

0 Wall Street's Fear of Elizabeth Warren

Full disclosure, I'm an intern for the Elizabeth Warren for Senate campaign so, as you can imagine, I'm thrilled with this headline.  I should also say, for legal reasons, that these thoughts are entirely my own and, in no way, reflect the views and opinions of Elizabeth Warren and her campaign staff.

The more I get involved with the Warren/Brown race in Massachusetts the more I am intrigued by it.  I haven't followed Scott Brown's voting record as a Senator especially closely but I know his stance on enough major issues and know that I prefer Warren's perspectives to his enough so to feel confident on her campaign team.  However, as a Republican Senator, Scott Brown is very tame -- all things considered.

I just finished reading this piece in Bloomberg & Businessweek by Sheelah Kohlhatkar that talks about the image Scott Brown has presented to voters and why he is so important to Wall Street. The piece, appropriately titled, Scott Brown, Wall Street's Hope to Stop Elizabeth Warren, looks at Brown's political history and how he has conducted himself within this Senate race.  For Wall Street people, it seems as if Scott Brown is not only the fiscally conservative, low regulation, "pro-business" candidate that they would naturally like.  Scott Brown is the only thing standing between their business practices and someone with the expertise, clout, and cojones to really work to limit Wall Street's freedom to trade as they used to trade (read: to conduct business at the expense of the common man).

I have seen a fair number of Elizabeth Warren interviews by now and also had a brief breakfast with her and six other Tufts students to discuss student debt at Danish Pastry House right by Tufts and I've noticed that she is hammering home this message of financial responsibility on the part of banks that puts middle-, lower-, and working-class citizens in harm's way.  She talked about it at Danish Pastry House in the context of student debt.  She talked about it on The Daily Show back in January.  She made it a large component of her most prominent speaking spot of this whole campaign season -- at the DNC last week.  Painting Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans as the party of people whose loyalties lie with the upper crust of society has become a standard weapon in the Democrats arsenal this campaign season.  Everyone has made reference to Romney's and Ryan's opinions on taxes when they were not lambasting Republicans for their stances on social issues.

The thing that sets Elizabeth Warren apart from other Democrats who are also charging against Wall Street and corporate exceptionalism is that she has the knowledge base and vocabulary to actually put some consumer protections in place that will reign-in the wild, wild, Wall Street.

A couple weeks ago I would have said that didn't matter all too much.  The polls I was reading showed a Brown advantage or a negligible difference between the two candidates.  Brown, a somewhat centrist-Republican and true Son of Massachusetts, was connecting with voters in a way Warren wasn't.  It was, as an article I read put it, as if Elizabeth Warren had opted for the Aaron Sorkin approach -- that approach being similar to Sorkin's argument for how news should be on The Newsroom: intelligent, direct, and answering to a higher calling for integrity (read: holier than thou at times but, boy, that would be helpful news).  Warren was telling it how it is and banking on the power of the truth to bring voters to her team; for a while, though, it seemed as if Warren was viewed as smart and nice by voters but they cared about someone they connected with and who they liked.  No number of Ph. Ds will replace the value of knowing why the Red Sox made a great move in dealing Gonzalez, Beckett, and Crawford to the Dodgers and also why the Celtics are always contenders for the NBA Championship (even when they're not).  You don't have to be right but you damn well better be able to make a defense of the Celtics because those LA assholes are gonna let you have it no matter what.

But with these most recent polls coming out I'm eager to see if money pours toward Scott Brown and if the attacks get nastier.  Kohlhatkar pointed out at the end of her piece in Bloomberg/Businessweek that it seemed as if Scott Brown was beginning to sincerely dislike Warren.  Perhaps that is the case, perhaps it isn't.  More relevant to me, though, is that I think voters are beginning to demand more concrete facts and information from politicians.  General affinity is nice but President Clinton reminded everyone what the jobs score is between Republicans and Democrats and he reminded the country of how it was accomplished.  With so many university students registering to vote (en masse) in Mass and Republicans being blasted for lack of specifics in their platform that make good "arithmetic", I would not be surprised to see this shift in the polls as the beginning of a push for Warren.

If I had to predict, I would say that between the efforts to make sure young people are voting and a general fatigue with empty shouts and complaints, people are eager to have a solution and Elizabeth Warren is offering that.  Consumer protection sounds like a really nice concept when you begin to think about it -- and especially when you're tired of the namecalling between the two parties.  I know Scott Brown has been trying to paint Warren as an elitist tool from Harvard who doesn't understand the common person's life but, perhaps there is a certain merit that Massachusetts has begun to recognize that having an uppity, elitist, Harvard professor might not be the worst thing in the world.  Who knows, maybe more independent and middle-class voters are beginning to recognize that the survivability of the middle-class might depend much less on the handsome, athletic, Pats fan, with perfect hair and more upon the seemingly docile, softspoken, frame of a Harvard bookworm.


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