The Many Faces of Elizabeth Warren
Can this progressive win the rust belt? Or will her political opportunism and coziness with the establishment be her downfall?
Mega-millionaire Elizabeth Warren seems to be an unlikely political fighter for the working class, but that’s just the role she’s trying to sell. At 70 years old, she currently sits comfortably in third place among a field of twenty-something candidates still vying for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
Fresh off the heels of the 2016 election — which featured another 70-year-old white woman from the North East, pant suit-clad, with cropped blonde hair (that Warren endorsed) — some people can’t help but feel a bit of déjà vu at the idea of a Warren candidacy. Maybe this explains recent reports that Warren has regularly met with Hillary Clinton for advice on her campaign. The similarities between Clinton and Warren go beyond identity, but they do carry notable differences.
Warren’s star continues to rise within the Democratic party establishment and the big donor class — at the same time, her support among likely voters is surging as the field narrows.
Who is Elizabeth Warren?
Elizabeth Warren grew up in Oklahoma and was said to be a vociferous defender of conservatism in her early years. Her journey from a small town girl isn’t only a story of a rising politician and presidential contender; it’s the story of how her ideas changed and developed over time, leading her to leave the Republican party when she was nearly 50.
In Oklahoma, Warren was a child genius, a state debate champion, and a high school graduate by age 16. She was married two years later to her first husband, becoming a mother of two before getting divorced and later remarried in 1980. She studied at George Washington University, The University of Houston, and Rutgers, later becoming an attorney and commercial law/bankruptcy expert, teaching at colleges across the country. She eventually settled into the comfortable role of Harvard University professor in 1995.
It was during her time teaching and researching that she started to see her economic beliefs and plans were more in line with Democratic policy, and her political identity began to slide to the left.
In hindsight, it seems that Republicans could have been the catalyst of her ascension into the limelight. After writing almost a dozen books, authoring hundreds of articles, and being recognized with a litany of excellence in teaching awards, Warren was asked to advise the US government on economic policy reforms following the financial banking crisis. She helped establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011 but wasn’t named to head the committee by President Barack Obama because he feared congressional Republicans wouldn’t approve her nomination. When she didn’t get the nod, Elizabeth Warren decided to run for federal office instead and beat a GOP incumbent to become Massachusetts’ first female senator in 2013.
Since 2013, Warren has built an impressive name for herself, building on her financial expertise and understanding of the law, painting herself as a champion for the middle class — all things that have become the cornerstones of her Presidential campaign.
Her economic plans revolve around what she can do by taxing the 75,000 richest Americans — people who have amassed enough wealth that their money makes them money without directly applied labor. According to Warren’s plan, Every dollar amount made above $50 million will be taxed at 2%.
Warren says her “wealth tax” would produce $2.75 trillion in revue over a decade and the US government could redirect to low-income citizens. The senator’s plan calls for using these funds to pay for educational overhauls, universal pre-kindergarten, raising teacher salaries, free public college and technical schools, and tackling the opioid epidemic. It would cost $2 trillion over the same 10 year period, a $750 billion boon. That extra money would be put toward Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. However, it’s not enough extra revenue to fully fund either.
Warren’s opposition says that not only does that math fall short, but they’re skeptical that a wealth tax would produce the almost $3 trillion over ten years that Warren claims it will.
Historically, countries have moved away from wealth taxes because they don’t produce the projected revenue and they’re extremely complicated to understand and enforce. Harvard professor and former secretary of the treasury for President Obama, Lawrence Summers, said $1.1 trillion over ten years would be an ambitious estimate of what Warren’s plan would yield. Critics warn that, in effect, the middle class would pick up the other $2 trillion or more in tax increases.
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While some of Elizabeth Warren’s financial ideas (free public college, student debt forgiveness, universal government healthcare) line up with Bernie Sanders’ socialist agenda, Warren argues she’s anything but a socialist. The senator calls herself a capitalist and says she believes in a “well-regulated free market.”
She wants to take giant corporations — like Amazon and Wal-Mart — to task. The corporations, who don’t pay taxes and also don’t pay their workers a living wage, use tax-payer subsidies to pick up the difference in food stamps, Medicare, and other entitlement programs — all while sitting on billions of dollars in annual profits.
Her plans for Amazon and other big tech companies? Break them up. Warren has campaigned on a plan to pull apart recent mergers for large tech companies such as Facebook and Google and also prohibiting them from participating in markets they produce and control.
Her pro-American financial plans are bringing in support from surprising places. Most recently, Tucker Carlson praised Warren’s economic ideas, saying she sounds like “Trump at his best.” At the same time, though, he lamented her ultra-liberal social policies like abortion, gun control, climate change, and views on immigration.
Immigration is perhaps where Warren is the most “rank and file” with the Democrat party. Her plan is to decriminalize illegal border crossings by downgrading the crime to a civil offense, meaning those who cross would not be detained. While Democrats argue absconding is not an issue; under President Obama, it is estimated that between 40 and 90 percent of illegal immigrants did not show back up for court and instead silently slid into the shadows, getting lost in the US population. In addition to the decriminalization of border crossings, Warren also favors expanding DACA to include current illegal immigrants who are under 18 and vows to more than quadruple the number of asylum seekers allowed into the US.
While she surges ahead on her financial reform ideas (appealing to voters on both sides of the aisle) and appeals directly to the liberal vote with her immigration stance, she comes up woefully short with those in both parties in the foreign policy arena. Concerning her ideas of war and military intervention, Warren is all over the map. Her critics say it’s because she doesn’t have a depth of experience in this arena. Some say that she may be intentionally vague in order to hide what seems like more hawkish sensibilities.
The Massachusetts senator is a supporter of Israel as an American ally and believes it important for America to support the only free Democracy in the region. She has also voted repeatedly in favor of defense spending and pumping money and influence into the military-industrial complex. Recently, when asked why she voted for Trump’s military increases and her cozy relationship with some weapons manufacturers, she dodged the question.
Warren voted to withdraw from the war in Yemen, but that’s been one of the few places she’s been reserved in matters of war. The senator supports US sanctions in Venezuela and declined to co-sponsor legislation that would ensure congressional approval would be needed before any military action was ordered. In addition, she doesn’t support peace talks with some of our harsher adversaries such as North Korea, even going so far as to vote for sanctions on the country in 2017, despite opponents arguing doing such would impede the peace process. With all of this in mind, it would seem that her foreign policy stances fall more in line with the hawkish ways of Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, and the late John McCain.
Though she has been unpredictable on military matters, she has sat squarely in the far-left camp concerning healthcare. She wants to abolish private healthcare and cover all Americans on a government option within a few years. She is a co-sponsor of Bernie Sanders’ Single-Payer healthcare bill, which would raise taxes on the middle class dramatically. (The idea, however, is that the benefits increase would outweigh the tax hike; some say that, in practice, the math wouldn’t add up.) Research finds that most US citizens support expanding access to a government option to increase competition in pricing, but they do not support the abolition of the private market.
A tax increase isn’t the only issue threatening to bust the single-payer healthcare balloon. Other countries with single-payer systems such as Britain and Canada have sometimes astronomical wait times, having to postpone life-saving medical procedures for years (the average surgery and specialist wait time is 6–12 months). It is estimated that almost 60,000 Canadians come to the U.S. annually for medical treatment citing wait times and inadequate care.
Another issue concerning single-payer healthcare is trust. When single-payer was first introduced in America by Hillary Clinton during her husband’s first term as president, “Hillarycare” called for a panel of nine people to determine which procedures were worthwhile and which weren’t. These “death panels” have been front-page news in single-payer countries around the world, such as the Britain toddler, Alfie Evans; who was not only denied medical intervention but was not permitted to leave the UK for treatment elsewhere despite other countries volunteering to take on the 23-month-old’s case.
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Another controversial (and not so liberal) position is her previous opinion on marijuana legalization. In 2011, she complained that the Republican position was to keep America “stoned.” Her stance has not only softened in the past 8 years, since announcing her candidacy for president she has become an ardent vocal supporter of federal legalization. (Although her web site still states her official policy position is decriminalization.) Critics call her abrupt about-face an opportunistic turn on her road to the Presidency.
“She obviously wants to come across as a long-time advocate for marijuana reform. Despite her claims, however, Warren did not consistently support legalization of marijuana before 2016. Additionally, the statement on Warren’s website regarding marijuana calls for decriminalization, rather than legalization…” -Cannalaw blog
The other loose strings that her opponents tend to pull at are the inconsistencies in her economic beliefs and her financial choices. Her critics and detractors call her a hypocrite, advocating for more affordable college and student loan debt relief while making hundreds of thousands of dollars teaching single classes; driving up the cost of education for her students.
Warren’s biggest scandal has been in the headlines since 2015 and has spawned a nickname she can’t seem to shake. For years, she publicly touted her Cherokee roots, even calling herself Native American on official forms and job applications. Donald Trump asserted based on her appearance that this claim was absurd and mockingly crowned her “Pocahontas Warren” during the 2016 Presidential election. Under mounting pressure to produce proof of her heritage, Warren released a DNA test proving that she is indeed less Native American than the average US citizen.
She claims she never received any preferential treatment for the assertion, however, Warren was listed on several of her college employers’ rosters as a “minority” and Harvard Law even bragged that she was their “first woman of color.” The Oklahoma native says her parents taught her about their Cherokee ancestry and has claimed her mother even faced racial discrimination. These details add up to a shaky story and a nickname that won’t die.
Further adding fuel to the hypocrisy fire, is the fact that Elizabeth Warren hasn’t been an advocate of Native American issues. On the contrary, her CFPB policies were terrible for tribal businesses.
“[The CFPB is] the most hostile federal agency towards Indian tribes since Indian Affairs was in the War Department.” -Dr. Gavin Clarkson, tribal financial expert
The CFPB has sued various tribal leaders, who contend the policies should not apply to tribal businesses. Not only that, Warren has voted against legislation that would allow sovereignty to tribal governments, making them follow laws and regulations that don’t apply to state and federal governments.
In another move criticized as opportunism, Warren has taken up the mantle of the climate change candidate following Jay Inslee dropping out of the race. Warren called Inslee’s plan important and said it should be on the forefront of the conversation despite his leaving the race. She announced a progressive plan for counteracting climate issues calls for a $3 trillion dollar investment that she says can also be paid for by taxing the rich, but it is estimated she will fall $2 trillion shy from full funding and again there is fear the middle class will end up footing the bill.
“Elizabeth Warren is a devout capitalist, which leads her to ignore any progressive movement until it is politically expedient for her to speak up — usually after the fight is over…. And her capitalist imperialism means she fights tirelessly to build the military presence of the United States in the Middle East. In all of this, Warren has shown herself to be a perfect representative of the U.S. ruling class.” -The Left Voice February 2019
Despite her shortfalls, many Democrats believe Elizabeth Warren to be one of the most electable in an enormous field of candidates. She doesn’t have the sex scandals or trail of dirty politics that continue to plague Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ campaigns, or the scare of socialist proclamations that Bernie Sanders can’t shake. And although she has been proven not to be a minority, she is a woman, and in 2019 identity politics is all the rage to those in the progressive camp.
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Her incredible story of the girl next door turned ultra savvy attorney for the fiscally disadvantaged is ripe for a Hallmark made-for-TV movie; making Warren endearing and relatable to much of the middle-class suburban voting population. The Midwest swing states were won by less than two percentage points in 2016, and that’s a demographic Warren could easily swing in 2020 if made the nominee. Her ability to connect with middle America on economic issues makes her a serious danger to Trump’s 2020 reelection, but will her “progressive” social policies scare these voters away?
Secret Coran-Stacy is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, and a senior contributor to CitizenSource, writing with a focus on U.S. elections and politics, media criticism, and illegal immigration. She hails from Little Rock, Arkansas.
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