What Elizabeth Warren Accomplished With Her Candidacy

Elizabeth Warren’s primary campaign affected me like no other I have been a part of, and I am still sorting out its impact. I think her candidacy was extraordinary.

I began working as a volunteer in NH for Warren last July. Most of my time was spent organizing a grassroots letters- to- the- editor group and helping with some local events, plus I did writing on my own about her campaign. In the course of all this, I had several chance conversations with Warren and a number of opportunities to watch her campaign.

What She Has Accomplished

First, Warren has demonstrated that you can marry deep thinking to actionable plans.

All those plans, carefully thought out and very pragmatic. Warren comes from a scholarly, academic career and she has lofty goals and rock-solid values (“Dream Big. Fight Hard”) and yet she identifies concrete, achievable ways to get there.

An interaction with her brought this home: we met Elizabeth by chance at a local drugstore near her house late on a Sunday afternoon last summer, one of her few days off. She was wearing a T- shirt with “Phenomenal Women” emblazoned on it, a nondescript baseball cap on her head, and a small red plastic store shopping basket over one arm. Even though she was doing errands, she was happy to talk policy with us. In the course of conversation, she outlined for us — standing right in the shopping aisle — her Green Manufacturing plan to revitalize the economy and shift our country away from fossil fuels. And here’s the thing: she took my wife’s arm and exclaimed, “I’ve figured out how to afford it!” More on the finances in a moment. What struck us then was how wonderful it was to watch her mind work — her energy and intelligence.

She was delightful — engaging and warm and passionate in an infectious, hopeful way. I really believe she would have kept talking to us about it all if we hadn’t let her have her one day off. She was constantly thinking about the details of her plans, how to make them actually work.

Why don’t we demand the same from all candidates? We need to ask every candidate to specify in detail what they will do. Yes, your vision is important, but how will you get there? Perhaps we need a “Warren Rule” for candidates: your platform needs to have the same level of specificity and detail that Elizabeth Warren displayed in her campaign.

Secondly, Warren showed that kindness and toughness can be combined in a political candidate.People who know her well really love her, and the stories of her kindnesses are legion. She has been a mentor to a generation of women and men. Combine that with Warren’s ferocity: can anyone doubt that after watching her questioning of corporate CEOs? Or Michael Bloomberg?

“My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” Warren famously said in 2010 as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was being negotiated. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”

A supporter once urged her to “give them hell” when she campaigned. “That’s what I do,” she calmly replied.

Yet Warren’s ferocity is not rooted in testosterone-gone-amuck or a malignant narcissism; it comes from a strong moral vision and the courage to fight for what she truly believes in. And it is melded with empathy and care. A valuable combination in our political leaders.

Third, Warren has shown that we can actually afford the social justice values many of us hold. Warren revealed how much income inequity is way out of kilter in our country, far worse than many of us (me) ever thought, and she made clear that our health care system is being drained by oversized profits of health insurers.

The fulcrum for restoring some balance and equity to our capitalist system is Warren’s 2- cent wealth tax. What Elizabeth was referring to in our chance drugstore meeting (“I’ve figured out how to afford it!”) was what became her “2-cent wealth tax.” The truth is out: the amount of money sequestered in the uber-wealthy would fund an array of social programs that would make our country more liveable for millions of people, everything from universal child care to wiping out onerous student debt to the Green New Deal.

As a result in part of Warren’s campaign, higher taxes on the super-wealthy now has the support of a majority of Americans. Even former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, a Wall Street insider, noted in a recent op-ed that, “A wealth tax is on the table.”

Further, while Medicare for All still leaves many people nervous, Warren’s transitional plan — both how to finance it and how to do so in a politically workable way — ` lays out a path that may indeed become the way forward.

Fourth, there is what Warren accomplished for girls and woman, and, yes, for all of us, by her smart, passionate, inspiring run for the presidency. All those pinky- swears to all those young girls. Wonderful! And for all the men who deeply believe that we need a woman in the White House, Elizabeth Warren is an inspiration. What more could you ask for in a President?

Here things get tricky, though: Warren’s withdrawal highlights the fact that we are sidelining some of our best talent at this time of great national need.

America, we have a problem.

The reaction to Warren’s campaign reveals the amount of gender bias alive in this country. In several studies of voters, Warren was identified as the “ideal” candidate for President but people were reluctant to vote for her because of their “electability” fears. 2016, 2020: now we have a second very accomplished, super-qualified, intelligent woman who winds up on the outside looking in.

Since Warren withdrew there has been an outpouring of grief and reflection, some of it from the same commentators who were luke-warm when she was running but now express great admiration for her. I suspect this has to do with guilt. The comments often sound like what children say when they have done something they’re ashamed of, so they over- apologize after the fact. We need to de-stigmatize the reality of a gender bias against women in power in order to move past it. More on this in a later post.

Right now, let’s applaud what Elizabeth Warren accomplished and look forward to her strong role in what comes next in this country.

Persist.

Author, Father (grandfather!), Spouse, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Faculty, Stanley King Institute

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store