Elizabeth Warren is running for the United States Senate for the right reason and with the right message.
In fact, her reason and her message are the same—a bit of political calculus that ought not be lost on Democrats who seem so frequently to stumble when it comes to aligning their ambitions and themes.
Warren wants to change the economic debate in a country where the poverty rate is rising, the middle-class is shrinking, the rich are getting dramatically richer and the corporations are writing the rules. In Warren’s words, working families have been “chipped at, hacked at, squeezed and hammered for a generation now, and I don’t think Washington gets it.”
“Washington is rigged for big corporations that hire armies of lobbyists,” she continued. “A big company like GE pays nothing in taxes and we’re asking college students to take on even more debt to get an education, we’re telling seniors they may have to learn to live on less. It isn’t right, and it’s the reason I’m running for the U.S. Senate.”
From a messaging standpoint, that is precisely the right place to begin a major 2012 campaign—with a bow to reality and an embrace of populism. And Warren, despite her Harvard Law background, has been around politics long enough to know where to deliver it.
She started Wednesday morning not in the halls of academies but at a Boston commuter station, where she greeted working men—in a campaign start that provided evidence that this, like all of Warren’s endeavors, will be a high-energy and people-powered project. And the nation’s most identifiable battler against the big banks and the Wall Street speculators was driving the message home. “The pressures on middle-class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington,” she said. “I want to change that.”
Before the finish of the day, Warren planned to take that message to the voters of New Bedford, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Lowell and Gloucester. That will help to position her for a Democratic primary race with several other contenders and, if she prevails as expected, a November 2012 face-off with Republican Senator Scott Brown.
Warren’s run is Massachusetts focused, by desire and necessity. She wants to take the seat held by former US Senator Edward Kennedy and to go to Washington as a Kennedy-style champion of economic and social justice.
It is that determination that makes this run more than a Massachusetts race, however.
It’s not just that a Warren candidacy could provide Democrats with a needed pick-up of a currently Republican-held seat—although that’s a big deal for the party, which faces a dismal electoral map in 2012. If the chief advocate for real banking reform and the development of a federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau runs and defeats US Scott Brown, R-Massachusetts, she will instantly become an essential spokesperson for progressive values in national economic, regulatory and fiscal policy debates.