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Eric Fehrnstrom

The polarizing Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren during an interview at her office in Boston on Dec. 15, 2016.
Senator Elizabeth Warren during an interview at her office in Boston on Dec. 15, 2016.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

A populist who claims to represent the common people. A habit of demonizing opponents. Late night Twitter tantrums. Donald Trump? No, Elizabeth Warren, who is just as polarizing.

When Warren announced her 2018 reelection campaign last week, she chose not to stand with friends and supporters in Massachusetts. There was no summary of her accomplishments. No testimonials from people she has helped.

Instead Warren hit the send button on an e-mail to her largely out-of-state network of liberal donors that rambled on about Trump and “his team of billionaires, bigots, and Wall Street bankers.” It was politics as we’ve come to expect it in the Age of Trump, heavy on name-calling and insults but light on friendliness and cordiality.

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Maybe that’s because Warren’s legislative accomplishments are emaciatingly thin. She specializes in resolutions honoring Boston sports teams, the only thing that seems to pass with her name on it. This has been the case whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge.

Senators belong to the legislative branch of government. Their job is to make laws that benefit the people of the state they represent. This is no easy task. There are many more bills introduced than get passed into law.

The difference between an effective lawmaker and one who is merely grandstanding is their ability to work with people in their party and on the opposite side of the aisle. They have to maintain good will with their colleagues and be willing to compromise.

Warren finds more satisfaction in making enemies than in making progress. According to a report card from the nonpartisan Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, Warren is one of the least bipartisan members of the Senate, ranking 85 out of 98 senators. (The Senate’s Republican and Democratic leaders are not included in the ranking).

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Case in point: the 21st Century Cures Act, a rare bipartisan bill that provided billions of dollars for medical research and sped up the process of bringing life-saving drugs to the marketplace. When it came up for a vote last fall, Warren swung into inaction. Despite backing from President Obama and every other Democrat in the Massachusetts delegation, Warren denounced the bill in unusually harsh language as a giveaway to the health care industry.

Ad hominem attacks, claims of corruption, allegations of selling legislation for campaign contributions — Warren sprayed her accusations everywhere.

Warren’s posturing angered Republicans, embarrassed Democrats, and put her at odds with the largest employment sector in Massachusetts. The one corner of the political world that cheered was Bernie Sanders and the far left, who viewed the bill as a corporate handout.

For Warren, the name of the game is positioning herself for the Democratic nomination against Trump in 2020, even at the expense of doing what’s best for Massachusetts.

Trading insults with Trump is her main preoccupation. Such antics generate headlines for Warren, but what we sacrifice as a state is the federal largesse that we count on our senators to obtain. Her ability to advance the state’s interests has been compromised.

But hey, wasn’t it worth it to hear Warren bawk like a chicken to make fun of Trump for not releasing his taxes?

The bad news for Warren is that her act is losing its appeal. In a preelection poll by Morning Consult, Warren had the second highest disapproval rating among New England’s 12 senators, at 33 percent. Only Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire registered higher negatives.

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Warren claims to oppose everything Trump represents. The truth is they have more in common than Warren or her supporters would care to admit.


Eric Fehrnstrom is a Republican political analyst and media strategist, and was a senior adviser to Governor Mitt Romney.