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Opinion | Jon Keller

Why all the Warren-bashing?

Photo illustration by Lesley Becker

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN has made plenty of enemies during four years of harpooning the corporate sharks who feed off consumers. And while her bid for a second term won’t be decided for another 22 months, their efforts to undercut her credibility and influence are already in high gear.

“She channels the energy of the emerging and aggressive and disenfranchised wing of the Democratic Party better than anybody else,” says Colin Reed of America Rising, a Washington-based PAC that is among the leaders of the war on Warren. “She needs to be aggressively targeted early on.”

Reed’s PAC, with financial help from hedge fund kingpins and other well-heeled Warren haters, is carrying the fight with scathing op-eds (“Elizabeth Warren Losing Her Grip”) and online hot takes (“Ripped From the Headlines: Elizabeth Warren Hit with ‘Liberal Ire,’ Ethics Issues”).


And surprisingly, they’re getting plenty of help from Warren’s ostensible allies.

Anti-Warren sniping surged last fall, when her opposition to a major medical research and funding bill — the 21st Century Cures Act — drew fire from Democrats.

Warren claims her criticism forced removal of onerous parts of the bill, including a provision giving “kickbacks to doctors to get them to prescribe more expensive drugs. . . . If Democrats had stood their ground and fought we could have got a better bill.” Few of her colleagues saw it that way.

“You have to be willing to compromise to get what you want,” Senator Jeanne Shaheen told a New Hampshire newspaper.

That episode followed a summer of tut-tutting over Warren’s caustic anti-Trump rhetoric, culminating in a speech where she clucked like a chicken to mock the Republican’s refusal to release his tax returns. In December, the senator drew unflattering publicity for deriding a hedge fund manager who turned out to be a Warren backer for what she misread as flattery of Trump.


MSNBC talk-show host Mika Brzezinski, a self-proclaimed Warren fan, captured the emerging narrative when she told viewers she was “tired of [Warren’s] act,” describing her as “shrill,” the classic put-down of the blunt-spoken female politician.

The most recent addition to this evolving devaluation of Warren came from her own base, as furious liberals took to her Facebook page to vent over her reluctant support for Ben Carson’s nomination as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “Coward,” wrote one poster. “When is your term up?” asked another.

And the unkindest cut of all, given Warren’s battle scars: “The Republicans don’t compromise. Why should you?”

The irony is striking. Amid a golden age of political trash talking, the leading female critic of the political establishment is cast as a somewhat unhinged hypocrite by the right, a meme now being channeled by the left.

“I’m gonna keep standing up to the big corporate interests and big banks,” says Warren. “They have more money to spend than they have issues to talk about.”

Actually, there seems no shortage of issues to fuel the anti-Warren narrative. Listeners of WBZ Newsradio 1030 have recently been treated to an ad campaign from the Judicial Crisis Network, a group awash in right-wing money.

In the spot, two women discuss how Warren “may join a crazy effort to block a Supreme Court nominee forever.”

“It’s like she’s decided slowing down a nominee is more important than helping out on health care, or taxes, or trying to deal with the new drug epidemic that’s spreading all over our country,” says one. From her friend comes the increasingly popular battle hymn of the war on Warren: “She’s always grandstanding about something.”


Which might leave those who consider Warren’s outspoken skepticism more needed now than ever to wonder — when did that become a negative? And if Warren doesn’t “grandstand” on consumer protection issues, who will?

Jon Keller is the political analyst for WBZ-TV and Radio.