Elizabeth Warren has been a relentless advocate for consumers, students, and workers in a time of worrisome — and often grotesque — inequality. For that, the senior US Senator from Massachusetts deserves a second term, and the Globe endorses her for reelection.
The former Harvard Law School professor won in 2012 with expectations that she would become one of the most important voices in the Senate, especially when taking on the fat cats of Wall Street. And she delivered.
In one of the memorable moments of her first term, Warren grilled Wells Fargo chief executive John Stumpf at a Senate hearing in 2016, after he ducked responsibility for issuing credit cards to customers without their consent and setting up sham bank accounts in order to meet sales targets.
“You haven’t fired a single senior executive,” Warren told Stumpf. “Instead, evidently, your definition of ‘accountable’ is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy P.R. firm to defend themselves.”
Bottom line, she said, “You should resign.” And not long after, he did.
Warren wasn’t solely responsible for this rare moment of Wall Street accountability, but she played an important role — just as she did in pressing for a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of Wells Fargo and a Labor Department review of the bank’s employment practices.
When then-Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, in her last act in office, announced restrictions on Wells Fargo’s growth and the resignation of four members of the board, The New Republic wrote that it was “directly attributable to one woman: Senator Elizabeth Warren.”
Warren has also spent part of her first term flirting with a presidential run, most recently taking a DNA test to prove the Native American heritage she has long claimed. The maneuver was an attempt to neutralize critics, including President Trump, who say she wrongly asserted minority status to further her law career.
Some voters may find her national ambitions off-putting. But Massachusetts has a long tradition of pushing leaders onto the national stage — from Calvin Coolidge, to the Kennedy brothers, to Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and Mitt Romney. And the truth is, Massachusetts voters have understood Warren’s national significance from the start.
She came to broad public notice before her first Senate campaign, when she shepherded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into being as an adviser to President Obama. Her defeat of incumbent Senator Scott Brown was widely viewed as a rebuke to the Tea Party’s national ambitions. And in a period of Republican dominance, she quickly became a signal voice in the Democratic resistance, turning Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s jab — “nevertheless, she persisted” — into a badge of honor.
She has sometimes gone too far. Warren rigidly opposed changes to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that even its sponsors endorsed, and she’s latched onto some fashionable progressive ideas — like abolishing ICE — that aren’t terribly practical.
But she has made the best of her time in a Republican-dominated Congress, working with GOP colleagues on a host of measures to help the average citizen — from cutting down on the illicit use of prescription opioids to making hearing aids more affordable.
Warren is the clear choice over her rivals for the Senate seat, independent Shiva Ayyadurai, who has called her a “Racist Demonic Fake Indian,” and Republican Geoff Diehl, who cochaired Donald Trump’s Massachusetts presidential campaign. Diehl, a state representative, doesn’t speak with the same bombast as Trump. But he’s engaged in Trump-style immigrant-baiting, and he’s wrong on the issues: from the border wall, to guns, to GOP tax cuts for the wealthy.
All in all, Warren has been true to herself and stood up for what Massachusetts voters value the most. Whether she puts those values before the national electorate is a question for another day. Right now, the question is, does she deserve another term as senator? And the answer is unequivocally yes.