Who is Elizabeth Warren?

Here's an unbiased look at Senator Warren, her history and career in the Senate, including advocacy, voting record, and proposed policies.
Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses crowds outside the Capitol protesting the GOP health bill – July 25, 2016 (Kelly Bell photography/Creative Commons)

Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses crowds outside the Capitol protesting the GOP health bill – July 25, 2016 (Kelly Bell photography/Creative Commons)

This Twice Elected Senator and Financial Law Expert Is Making a bid for the White House.

Senator Elizabeth Warren tentatively stepped up to the 2020 bid line December 31st of last year, but officially threw in her hat in the ring February 9th. In the historic mill town of Lawrence, MA, she rallied her numerous supporters with an all-inclusive message of racial, gender, socioeconomic equity–nevertheless persisting against what she, and many Americans, believes has become the status quo in America. Many Americans can probably point to left or right wing talking points on Warren, the CFPB or her recent DNA tests, but it would be helpful to take a more nuanced look into the senator’s career and policies before evaluating her based on trending news.

What’s Elizabeth Warren’s background?

Elizabeth “Herring” Warren was born in Norman, Oklahoma in 1949 to parents who exemplify the working class. Her father worked in building maintenance, then he suffered a heart attack while Elizabeth was still in middle school. Elizabeth started waiting tables at 13 to help out, and her mother saved the family from financial ruin by landing a minimum wage job answering phones at Sears. She has three older brothers, all of whom served in the military. For a brief period in the 1990s, Warren was a registered GOP voter.

While Warren has roots both as a blue-collar American life and that as a public intellectual, her political career took off in 2008 after the financial crisis struck. She created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from the ground up but never ran it, as Obama appointed someone else. From there, in 2012, she knocked out incumbent Scott Brown to become the first woman ever elected to a Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat.

Warren’s notoriety–infamy on the right–was established long before she came to the federal government. She became well-known for championing the fading middle class and pushing for responsible regulation on Wall Street after the 2008 crash. She’s also a fierce advocate for racial, gender, and LGBTQ rights. She was notably silenced by Mitch McConnell during Jeff Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing when reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King (opposing Sessions’ appointment to the federal bench), where her unofficial slogan “Nevertheless, she persisted” originated.

What does Elizabeth Warren stand for?

Quintessentially, Warren stands for the working class and the poor, anyone whose economic and political power is least, and fights tirelessly for policies that would even the playing field between those with the most and those with the least. Her biggest foil is the banking industry, too big to fail corporations, and the lobbyists they pay to advocate policies for them. Part of her 2020 presidential platform will, indeed, focus on income inequality, consumer protection, and corporate accountability.

Last year she introduced the Capitalism Accountability Act, which would primarily not only redistribute wealth from high-earning corporations, but seek to make them morally responsible to employees and the communities in which they exist. Another bill Warren introduced, the Anti-corruption and Public Integrity Act, would, above all, force presidential and vice presidential candidates to disclose at least eight years of their tax returns and place assets that present a conflict of interest in a blind trust. These two bills, and a third, the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, a sweeping housing bill that meant to address America’s affordable housing crisis, were never meant to pass, but give a good indication of where Senator Warren will focus her campaign.

She’s also urged her fellow competitors to not take corporate PAC money and has, herself, claimed that she doesn’t take corporate money.

Senator Warren typically falls left of center on a host of other social issues. She is a strong supporter of pro-choice legislation, opposing the 20-week abortion ban and any Supreme Court Justice who opposes legal abortion. Last year, she blasted the president on Twitter for his failure to protect Dreamers, and blamed him of using them as “bargaining chips”. She’s also stood firmly against most of the president’s immigration policies and has spoken out against ICE, stating that it needs to be replaced with something that more reflects our values. She has recently put forth a plan for universal childcare, that would make childcare free for families at 200 percent of the poverty level by redistributing a small percentage of wealth from those earning more than $50 million a year.

While in office, the senator has openly advocated for stricter but common-sense gun legislation and has a D rating with the NRA. Throughout her political career, Ms. Warren has been a strong advocate for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, social justice policies, and recently stated at her Lawrence announcement that, “Race matters and we need to say so.”

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What’s her voting record?

It goes without saying that Senator Warren has opposed much of the legislation, executive actions, and appointments that have come out of the White House, most notably Sessions, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. During the 115th and 116th Congress, she’s maintained a strong score of opposition to the current administration, according to FiveThirtyEight, typically voting in line with the administration less than 18 percent of the time.

It’s also true that she is a well-known object of ire within the GOP, and is stereotyped as being a partisan flame-thrower, but has worked with several conservative lawmakers on bills to prevent human trafficking and a pay bump for military members. Back in mid-December of 2018, Warren, and most lawmakers on both sides, including the White House, came together over prison and sentencing reform. However, on big social issues like LGBTQ rights, the environment, health care, etc., Warren remains staunchly progressive and far left of center.

What are Elizabeth Warren’s achievements and controversies?

Senator Warren’s career in politics has been relatively short compared with other long-serving incumbents (only starting in 2013), so she doesn’t have a long track record of legislative achievements, but her advocacy began long ago when she started practicing law out of her living room. A brief look at how she got into politics, her achievements and most notable controversies will give us a better insight into her potential presidency.

Elizabeth Warren Achievements

Arguably her biggest achievement, before stepping into the halls of Congress, was the creation of the CFPB, which has recently been hamstrung by Mick Mulvaney and the Trump administration. In 2008, she was tapped by the then-Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid, to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP. Under Obama she pushed for the creation of the CFPB, or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and then built the CFPB from the ground up, hiring its 500 employees and setting agendas. In a twist of fate, though, Warren never officially ran the government office she created because Obama passed her over based on fears of strong resistance from an increasingly divisive Congress.

In her time in Congress, she championed a broad swathe of progressive legislation (mentioned above), that was largely symbolic. But, these symbolic bills will become essential to her presidential campaign and bona fides as a progressive candidate.

Elizabeth Warren Controversies

You cannot mention Elizabeth Warren without mentioning her claim of having Native American ancestry. The president, and many on the far right, have gone so far as to derisively refer to Warren as “Pocahontas”. The racism aside, Warren has maintained that she never used her alleged Native American ancestry to further career, although she did change her ethnicity from “white” to “Native American” while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. However, she has never claimed tribal affiliation.

It’s arguable that this only became a major controversy, one that has slightly damaged Warren’s reputation and given right-wing pundits fuel, when Warren sought to challenge the president’s mocking of her and then make her DNA results public. She also received a strong rebuke from the Cherokee Nation, which stated that, “Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage”. It could also be argued, however, that Warren is seeking to tout herself as open and transparent, a reality the current administration has been credibly accused of having difficulty with. Cherokee Nation subsequently accepted an apology Warren gave the group:

“Senator Warren has reached out to us and has apologized to the tribe. We are encouraged by this dialogue and understanding that being a Cherokee Nation tribal citizen is rooted in centuries of culture and laws not through DNA tests. We are encouraged by her action and hope that the slurs and mockery of tribal citizens and Indian history and heritage will now come to an end.”

Some on the right also like to accuse Senator Warren’s of being an east coast elite and call out her hypocrisy for championing the poor and middle class, given her considerable wealth. Yet, as Warren has rightly pointed out, her working-class roots are legitimate and she has worked hard to get where she is, typically acknowledging the help she’s received along the way, and how with the right policies in place, more poor and working-class Americans could achieve financial stability

Where does Elizabeth Warren come from?

At an early age, Warren established herself as both smart and hard working. To help her family with finances after her father’s heart attack, she began waiting tables at 13. At 16, she received a full debate scholarship to attend George Washington University. After two years of university, she moved to Texas with her first husband and earned a degree in speech pathology. She worked as a special education teacher before earning her law degree from Rutgers in 1976. Warren practiced law out of her living room before becoming a law professor. She’s taught at Rutgers, the University of Houston, University of Texas-Austin, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and finally at Harvard University.

Before taking office in 2013, Warren had a long and distinguished career as a law professor, focusing on financial and bankruptcy law. She is also an expert in the financial burdens born by the middle and lower class, of which she has written several books. By the time of the 2008 financial crisis, Warren was already a national figure, appearing on Real Time and The Daily Show, warning Americans of the fading middle class and pushing for responsible regulation of the financial industry.

The Rantt Rundown

Senator Elizabeth Warren has been generally well-received by the progressive wing of the democratic party, and many middle-class Americans feel that she’s fighting for them. Despite her being labeled as a socialist and too far left to govern for everyone, Warren has always fought for policies that would benefit the most people. Many people, however, feel that her moment to shine was in 2016, and that her toxic reparteé with the president has sullied her reputation.

But as with many topics in the news cycle, her DNA scandal was only one large blip and most of the country has moved on. As the 2020 election gets closer, it will come down to how well she articulates her platform to independents, disenchanted Trump voters, and the white working class. The fact of the matter is that her policies, while touted as too extreme by centrists and pure socialism by the right, would actually benefit all Americans who are struggling the most. Especially the constituents the Trump administration has broken promises with.

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Rantt 101 // 2020 / Democratic Party / Elections / Elizabeth Warren / Senate