So … Elizabeth Warren and 2016

There are two major topics that will dominate Internet bandwith for the next 10 days: one is anything-and-everything associated with JFK and his untimely murder on the streets of Dallas (for example, we’re now evaluating the single-bullet theory using the latest and the greatest in tech); the other is November 2016 (which is, yes, 36 months away). Presidential elections begin probably two years before the actual Election Day in question, if not decades before (you can argue Obama started running for President before he was even a Senator). Everyone loves to talk about 2016 now because (a) we don’t know exactly what Hilary Clinton is going to do, but we all think we know, (b) at one point Marco Rubio seemed like the dude, but now he’s not, and (c) Chris Christie just trounced his in-state opponent, so he’s in the news to boot.

The new key talking point for 2016 is Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, running for President. It all started with this article in The New Republic; now you have breathless discussion here, here, here and here (and many other places). This, via Wonkblog, is one of the better basic summaries out there: essentially, Warren would be an issues-driven candidate (financial regulation / control of Wall Street); an issues-driven candidate can beat a favorite/front-runner if that issue is fundamentally weighing on the minds of the key voters. That seems pretty simple, no?

Warren was a Harvard Law professor specializing in bankruptcy law, she is a major consumer protection advocate, and she oversaw TARP after the 2008 financial crisis. Her book, The Two-Income Trap, is considered especially influential, and she was an assistant to President Obama when dealing with several facets of the financial crisis. She’s also incredibly popular, at least in Massachusetts.

A big theme of Warren’s speeches and writings is on the decline of the middle class as advanced by Wall Street and financial regulations. I’ll be honest, that shit is pretty bad. I come from an upper middle class background, have 1.5 degrees (i.e. I’m about to get a second degree), and I feel priced out of everything (including flights) and can’t find any job that seems to pay real money. It’s a terrible situation. If it gets worse, would I be inclined to vote for a person who was talking consistently about the revival of the middle class and more stringent financial regulations on “fat cats?” No doubt I would. People like to get riled up about her “social contract” theories, or her thoughts on minimum wage, or her simple message (too simple?), but the fact is … some believe the repeal of affiliation restrictions in Glass-Steagall caused the 2008 financial crisis. That repeal happened on President Clinton’s watch, so his wife running against a crusader — if that topic is very relevant — could be a nightmare. (You can argue that Clinton did wonders for the economy, as I’m sure a Hilary campaign would; but to make the conversation about complicated financial terms and ideas would ultimately play more to Warren anyway.) Plus, Warren clearly articulates that “the American people know the system is rigged against them.”

You can talk about the fact that she’s an academic from a liberal area and yes, this page does exist on the Internet. You could even point to Michael Dukakis, a liberal from Massachusetts who didn’t do very well in the Presidential race. But in a way — and this is a huge leap, but bear with it for a second — you could say Warren might be a toned-down version of JFK himself. At that time, coming off Eisenhower, America needed a brazen, beautiful man with big words to lead them; coming off eight years of Obama, who seems very polished at every turn but whose financial understanding has been questioned, maybe America will want (a) a female — since we’ve been readying for Hilary anyway and (b) a financial regulator/crusader. Nationwide elections are typically about filling the current need; Warren could theoretically do that very well. There are, of course, drawbacks. But remember ….

I have no idea why anyone is actively discussing this right now, but I guess it’s interesting enough when you start thinking about it deeply. America does eventually need a new direction — it needs a focus on income inequality, job creation, and education, if nothing else — and 2016 could be seen as a true turning point there; given how hard it is to beat an incumbent, you’re possibly looking at the winner being President until 2024; the Google generation will be in their late 40s/early 50s by then. What’s going to happen to society as a result of those shifts? OK, I guess it is kind of interesting. I have no idea whether Warren would run, whether she’d have a chance, etc … I just know that if money and the inequality gap are the issues, there’s going to be quite a bit of clamoring.

Ted Bauer