If Democrats want to nominate someone for president who knows the ins and outs of government and is adept at political maneuver, they might very well choose, not former vice president Joe Biden, the Mr. Put-It-Together of the Obama administration, but Elizabeth Warren, the liberal fire-brand whose mantra is, “I’ve got a plan for that.”
As recently portrayed by Alexander Burns in The New York Times, Warren knows her way around Washington, and while playing a mean game of outsider politics, is not averse to a little give and take. She amply demonstrated this nerve to act in the central role she played in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
Unlike her rival Bernie Sanders, Warren knows that compromise and negotiation are sometimes both good and necessary.
Sanders is a policy purist. Elizabeth is a policy wonk with an eye on the prize.
Elizabeth Warren is Bernie Sanders without the political blinders on. Bernie runs straight ahead; Elizabeth is capable, when the situation calls for it, of negotiating a zig-zag course, without betraying the goal of the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
There was a sense of this aptitude on Warren’s part at the first Democratic presidential candidates debate of 2019, when the senator from Massachusetts addressed the thorny issue of international trade.
Instead of the wet blanket thrown on world trade by Bernie Sanders, Warren professed an interest in reforming trade, not ending or drastically curtailing it, just as long as middle income and poor Americans are guaranteed a seat at the negotiating table.
A foe of Wall Street financial interests, Warren’s goal as president would be, in her words, to “expand the current list” of interests that sit in on negotiations. This includes consumers, farmers, and union representatives - indeed representatives “from each region of the country, so that critical voices,” heretofore ignored, are in the mix.
She wouldn’t exclude the big boys; she would, however, dilute their influence.
Donald Trump, for all his oppositional talk about “bad” trade deals, and Joe Biden are okay with multinationals; Warren not so much; she wants to tamp down the inordinate amount of clout they wield.
That’s compromise in the interest of the small fry.
Warren, a hard-scrabble Oklahoma girl who grew up to become a Harvard law professor, first proposed the CFPA in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession. Its goal is the protection of consumers against predatory banking practices.
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency emerged from a sharply divided Congress and the opposition of Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner and Obama White House chief economist Lawrence Summers.
Warren, a Washington outsider, cultivated the support of Rep. Barney Franks, chair of the House Banking Committee. She developed allies in the White House inner circle. President Obama himself never wavered in his support of the CFPA.
In due course, Warren struck a deal with an important trade group, the Independent Community Bankers of America. Sacrificing some elements of her original plan, she reached out for the greater good.
“She acquired (a) sense of what was politically doable,” Franks told Alexander Burns.
With Senate Republicans and some moderate Democrats still opposed, she switched to offense, telling the Huffington Post that Congress would either create a “strong consumer agency” or have “no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”
This inside-outside combination compelled Congress to act. The CFPA was born; in short order, the new agency began saving consumers billions of dollars - $12 billion by 2017.
“There aren’t many people who can say they had an idea, wrote about it, and ended up bringing it to fruition,” former top Obama aide David Axelrod said.
As summed up by Burns, Warren, in creating the CFPA, joined “imaginative policy ideas with a keen instinct for mass communication and a willingness to negotiate.”
Warren cites the CFPA in her campaign for president to say, in effect, “this is what I do and what I will bring to the White House.” That’s not bad, not when the issue is replacing today’s shelter-shelter politics with someone who is broadly competent, highly focused, and both practical and inspirational in her reach and daring.
Richard Robbins lives in Uniontown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.