Elizabeth Warren’s baggage

Is Elizabeth Warren a true progressive? Her history shows some inconsistencies.

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Amelia Warren Tyagi (born September 2, 1971) is an American businesswoman, management consultant, and author. She is the co-founder and president of the placement firm Business Talent Group, the chairman of progressive think tank Demos, and the co-founder of HealthAllies (now part of UnitedHealth Group).  With her mother Elizabeth Warren, she is also the co-author of two books: The Two-Income Trap and All Your Worth. She is a board member for the non-profit organization Fuse Corps and a former commentator for the radio show Marketplace.

In 2018 Demos donated $45,000 to Working Families Party in Maryland.  This was their  first donation to WFP.  In 2016 WFP endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.

On Sept. 9, 2019 U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive presidential hopeful aiming to push her party to the left, on Monday endorsed a Philadelphia City Council candidate with similar aims: Kendra Brooks.  A lifelong Democrat running under the Working Families Party banner, Brooks is hoping to win one of the two City Council at-large seats that are reserved by Home Rule Charter for candidates outside the leading party and which have always been held by Republicans.

In an unexpected move a week later, the Working Families Party (WFP) then endorsed Warren after a 60.9% showing in a party wide vote.

There are several reasons why this endorsement came as a surprise, especially to supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). Sanders earned the party’s endorsement in 2016 with an 87% win in an online membership survey and it was widely believed he would receive it again.

According to Washington Post reporter Dave Wiegel, this number (Warren’s 60.9%) combines two groups. 50% of the total, or 30.5%, is determined by the votes of WFP leaders and the other 50% is the result an online membership survey. He notes that WFP has dozens of leaders and thousands of members.

The party has been asked by skeptics to release the details of the vote, but they have refused to do so.

As has been widely reported, WFP gave its leadership (a few dozen people) 50% of the vote, and gave the other 50% to its membership (tens of thousands). Draw your own conclusions, but this looks to me like insiders leveraging money to overrule the will of the people. Not good!

They released the membership vote in 2015 when Sanders won 87 percent of it. They also put out a press release this time that said 80 percent of their members listed Warren and Sanders as their top choices for president. So they clearly have separate access to the member tally. It is not lost in the “back end” or obscured to maintain the “secret ballot” or anything like that.

They won’t release the member vote because they don’t want to release it. If they wanted to release it, then they would, as they have in years past.

But why don’t they want to release it? You hate to speculate about such things, but the only answer is because the member votes went for Sanders while the leadership votes went for Warren, and the organization is embarrassed to reveal the degree to which the leadership overruled the membership.  (I am also convinced that Warren knows the truth in this matter, and that she may well have been involved in a plan which resulted in this outcome).

Warren’s campaign treasurer is Paul Egerman, billionaire and Dark Money bundler specialist who built one of the largest SuperPac/Dark money networks in Washington, DC. 

“Corruption, the influence of money, touches every decision that gets made in Washington,” the Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator from Massachusetts told hundreds of people attending her May 16 campaign event at George Mason University in Virginia. “Whatever issue brought you here today, I guarantee if there’s a decision to be made in Washington, it’s been touched, pushed, massaged, tilted over, just a little, so the folks with money do better than everyone else.”

So Warren has also selected for her presidential campaign treasurer a man whose contributions run counter to Warren’s statements — among the most emphatic among the more than 20 Democrats running for president — against big money in politics.

Dubbed a “personal PAC man” to politicians by The Boston Globe more than a decade ago, retired software engineer Paul Egerman, 70, has quietly established himself as a key benefactor and rainmaker for Democratic political committees and liberal causes.  Paul Egerman was also secretary of Demos in 2018. 

Neither Warren’s daughter nor her campaign treasurer’s role with Demos—and the think-tank’s grants to the Working Families Party while Warren’s daughter was co-chair of its board—were disclosed by WFP at the time of its Warren endorsement.

Warren has other baggage as well.  I’m talking, of course, about her claims of Native American ancestry, which became a national story thanks to Scott Brown, her 2012 opponent to represent Massachusetts in the US Senate. During the race, Brown brought this issue up to discredit her, but it didn’t work; Warren beat him by more than 230,000 votes. And yet, it is sure to dog her throughout the presidential race, and, I believe, will ultimately lead to her defeat in the primary, if not the general election. 

First, let’s get the facts straight. Elizabeth Warren did not get her job at Harvard because she said she was Native American. How do we know this? Because the Boston Globe, a reputable journalistic outlet, scoured old documents and interviewed dozens of Warren’s colleagues at Harvard Law, and found that her claims of Native American heritage had no bearing on her career at Harvard or anywhere else.  Nevertheless, she has offered a public apology to Native Americans over her past claim to tribal heritage, directly tackling an area that has proved to be a big political liability.  Her remarks were an effort to move past the fallout from her past claims of tribal ancestry, which culminated in a widely criticized release of a DNA analysis last year. The issue nearly derailed her campaign in the early days as President Trump began derisively referring to her as “Pocahontas.”  Still, it is bound to be one of Trump’s talking points if she is the  Democratic nominee.  

She was a conservative Republican for many years,  and she aggressively states on many occasions that she’s a capitalist.  While most politicians in America are capitalists (save for Bernie Sanders, AOC, and a few others), holding yourself out as a capitalist is not going to give you popularity with a strong part of progressives.  Every time she says that, I wonder whether her various plans to fix the economy are really going to be worked on actively, because those plans are opposed by most capitalists.

In 2015, Warren, elevated in 2014 to a leadership position within the Democratic Party as strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, faced a choice of how to engage with the party. On the one hand, she could listen to the demands of the party’s base and progressive activists and go to battle with the Democratic establishment by challenging presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. On the other, she could stay out of the race, continue to build her clout in Congress, and work to push Clinton left through a process of sustained diplomatic outreach. Warren opted for the latter.

Both history and Warren’s own dealings with the 2016 Clinton campaign tell us that “big, structural change” can’t be won by coddling the Democratic Party establishment and the corporate money that funds them. Whatever the next Democratic president plans to do — whether embarking on a Green New Deal, breaking up big tech, or even something as paltry as implementing a “public option” for health care — they will run up against potentially fatal opposition from not just the GOP, but from within the Democratic Party itself. Only a direct challenge to the power of those elites will enable a progressive president to overcome it.  Does Warren have the strength and conviction to continue down that path?

She is now seeking expert advice on how to defeat the remaining 2020 Democratic presidential nominees and, according to NBC News, she’s turned to failed 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton for advice.

Earlier reports indicated that Clinton, determined to re-litigate her 2016 defeat at the hands of then-New York real estate investor Donald Trump, had been reaching out to potential 2020 candidates, offering her sage advice (though it’s not entirely clear she’s come to terms with precisely why she lost the contest herself).  A handful of candidates reportedly took her up on her offer to chat. Warren has, NBC says, kept an open line.

“The two women have kept a line of communication open since the Massachusetts senator decided to run for president — though only a conversation around the time of Warren’s launch has been previously reported — according to several people familiar with their discussions who spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of private interactions,” the outlet reported.

Warren talked with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about her 2020 presidential campaign, including her decision to forego big-ticket fundraisers during the Democratic primary but not in the general election: 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: So, here’s my question — you’ve been in politics for a little while. You’ve just recently re-elected. And during that time —

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: That’s right. One Senate term, uh-huh.

HAYES: One Senate term, right? So, and during that time, you have done — you’ve done calls to wealthy billionaires —

WARREN: Uh-huh.

HAYES: — you’ve done big-ticket fund-raisers, you put together a pretty good war chest, I think about $11 million that you had amassed.

WARREN: Uh-huh.

HAYES: What does that say about what you were doing before? If this is the right way to do it now, why now and why not before?

WARREN: So, look, I’ve never actually been in a deeply competitive primary. I get it. Republicans come to the table armed to the teeth. They’ve got all of their donors, their wealthy, wealthy donors. They’ve gone their super PACs. They’ve got their dark money. They’ve got everything going for them.

I’m just going to be blunt. I do not believe in unilateral disarmament. We got to go into these fights, and we got to be willing to win these fights.

HAYES: So, this applies to the primary. Like, were you to get the nomination —

WARREN: This is a primary —

HAYES: — or anyone else gets the nomination, like, just raise all the money you can how ever you can.

WARREN: Yes, but here’s what I want you to see that’s different about it, Chris. Think about the difference once we’re down to the two candidates. If the Democrats have spent the next year in a primary, building this thing, face-to-face, person-to-person, neighbor-to-neighbor across the country, think of the kind of foundation that we have laid down.

So that when we’re really up against it, in the general election, it’s not just money to fund television ads, it’s all the folks who will do the door knocking, it’s all the folks who will make the phone calls, it’s all the folks who will reach out to their network, because you know how we’re going to win in 2020, it’s going to be big. It’s going to be people who voted for Donald Trump last time around. It’s going to be people who haven’t voted at all. It’s going to be people who see a vision, and a way to make this democracy work, not just for the rich and the powerful but make this democracy work for everyone.

In other words, she’s going to take big money in the general election; Bernie Sanders will not.  And if she wins, won’t she be beholden to those big money donors?  Won’t she give them what they want?

When Donna Brazile disclosed her findings on whether Hillary Clinton and the DNC cheated Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, Warren initially said that she believed that the primary was “rigged”.  But she has since backed away from that position, saying that the primary was “fair.”  This  is just another flip flop by Warren.

She initially voted for Ben Carson to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  After a big blowup from progressives, she changed her stance and voted against him. Yet another flip flop.

She also voted in favor of Trump’s massive increase in the defense budget in October 2017.  Bernie Sanders did not. She is not a progressive on military matters.  

Early on, I wrote two articles accusing Kamala Harris of hypocrisy.  I’m not sure I would call Warren’s faults hypocritical.  But to vote for her, I want to be sure that she will follow through on her promises.  We’ve been through progressive promises which were not carried out.  We had eight years of that with Obama. For that reason, I’m going to stick with Bernie Sanders, who has stayed with his program for 40 years.  And if I didn’t have him, I would be backing Tulsi Gabbard, who seems willing to take unpopular positions and stay with them. My hope is that he will be the nominee and that Tulsi will be his running mate.  But if Elizabeth Warren were invited to be in his cabinet, I would be all for it.

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