Warren Goes to Washington: The Historic 2012 Election in Retrospect
The key political race in the country every four years is typically the run for the White House, but the historic election of 2012 was different. Massachusetts was at the heart of the difference.
The most important election that year was for a US Senate vacated when Senator Edward ("Teddy") Kennedy died three years ago – between Elizabeth Warren, a true Democrat of the venerable FDR variety, and Scott Brown, said to be a moderate Republican of the venerable "I Like Ike" ilk. Here's why.
Elizabeth Warren was the exact opposite of everything that was wrong with Washington and Wall Street and the radical Republicans who inexplicably selected Mitt Romney as their standard bearer. Warren was the anti-Romney in every sense of the word.
Romney's background smacked of privilege and money. He was a card-carrying member of the Lucky Sperm Club. Warren was born into an ordinary working class family. As such, she had no connections in high places, no family name, and no fortune to propel her to the top of any profession. Nobody who knew anything about Warren doubted her achievements or suggested that she was a "legacy" at Rutgers (where she earned her law degree) or Harvard (where she taught law).
Why was Warren's background so important? Precisely because it defined who she is, explained where she is coming from, and gave voters the best guarantee money can't buy that she means what she says.
Imagine that! A candidate for high office who means what she says. An unapologetic liberal one who had proven she would not back down to powerful Republicans in Congress or kowtow to Democrats who prefer to soft-pedal the criticism of the greed-is-good philosophy that led to the Great Recession of the past five years.
Nor did Warren spare spineless members of her own political party as evidenced in her public criticism of then-Senator Hillary Clinton for reversing a position and supporting a bill to weaken bankruptcy laws that protect debt-ridden consumers. As a senator, Warren wrote, Clinton "could not afford such a principled position. Campaigns cost money, and that money wasn't coming from families in financial trouble." Indeed.
Then-Senator Joe Biden was a big backer of that bill, too; it was a piece of legislation tailored to the need and greed of the nation's biggest banks – the one's we later learned were too big to fail. Warren: "Senators like Joe Biden should not be allowed to sell out women in the morning and be heralded as their friend in the evening." That kind of candor from a public figure – and a woman – was not only refreshing but also essential to the moral fiber of a society that was clearly losing its moorings.
What was clearly needed was greater income equality in society and greater gender quality in Washington. The historic gender imbalance in Congress was one of the fundamental causes of the problems the US had faced for decades, from over concentration of wealth at home to overemphasis on military solutions abroad.
In 2012, the pundits couldn't stop talking about Ohio as the main battleground. They were wrong. The main battleground was Massachusetts. Only in Massachusetts did voters do the right thing in 2012, as they had in 1972 when they voted to put the late Senator George McGovern in the White House. McGovern was perhaps not a great man, but he was a good man, one of a very few national leaders who dared to stand up to Richard ("Tricky Dick") Nixon and speak out against a terrible undeclared war.
Warren went to Washington and quickly proved that she had the right stuff to be a great leader at a time when America desperately needed prudent and progressive leadership. The rest of the nation had watched the Massachusetts race closely and there was great rejoicing when she won, not because her opponent Scott Brown belonged to a party that had lost its way (which was true), but rather because Elizabeth Warren had not lost hers.