Why Liberals are Lame, Part 3: Why a Warren Run for Senate is a Terrible Idea

It’s bad enough that what passes for the left has been kneecapped by the Obama Administration. The ambiguous campaign promise “Change you can believe in” has turned out to be a Nixon-goes-to-China series of moves to the right that would have been well nigh impossible for a Republican to execute without incurring significant costs. Remarkably, Obama has increased both the number and scope of wars, used deficit scaremongering to cut Medicare and Social Security, and passed a health care “reform” bill that made overly expensive American health care even more uneconomical by enriching Big Pharma and health care insurers. And this is only a starter list in his campaign against average Americans.

Those visible moves have been accompanied by a largely stealth operation to neuter what were once called progressive organizations (“progressive” has been rendered meaningless by being adopted by pretty much everyone to the left of Attila the Hun). Groups truly committed to a left-leaning anti-corporate platform quickly learned the cost of crossing Team Obama: in their so-called veal pen, the Administration would get big company backers to yank their funding. This process has now moved up the food chain, but with bigger groups, it is less clear whether the Administration is the driver or whether like minded operatives are acting on their own initiative. Regardless, there is increasingly a vacuum to the left of Obama, which eases his continuing move to the right, as think tanks that are perceived to be reasonably independent, like the Economic Policy Institute, mysteriously lose the backing of significant, established funders.

But what is worse are the self-inflicted wounds. What little remains of the left seems to be rallying around Elizabeth Warren, which given the dearth of prominent figures who are serious about standing up for middle class Americans, as opposed to pandering to them and then selling them out, isn’t a bad impulse per se. But they are deploying their energies in quixotic missions or worse, falling completely in line with the Administration’s plans, which has been to subject Warren to a high end version of the veal pen treatment, to box her in and render her incapable of independent operation. And in case you wonder what I am talking about, I mean the plan, concocted by the Democratic party hackocracy, for her to run for the Senate seat now occupied by Scott Brown.

To understand why this is a dreadful idea, we need to back up and look at Warren’s career. She came from a poor family and was the only one of her siblings to go to college. Even then, she was expected simply to become a teacher (which was a much more respected occupation then than now). She went to Rutgers, a not-terribly-prestigious law school, and managed to go from having a solo practice to teaching law, ultimately getting tenure at Harvard Law School. Bear in mind that this is a wildly unconventional route for getting tenure at a top-tier law faculty, and Warren had the additional disadvantage of being in the first generation of women to break into serious professional roles.

Warren’s dedication to reversing the plight of the middle class comes from having happened into studying it in depth (and having personal experiences that enabled her to make connections others would probably have missed). The account I have heard is that she was a Republican and asked by a politician from her home state of Oklahoma to look into escalating bankruptcies in his constituency. She approached it with the conventional assumption that they were due largely to overspending.

As she dug deeper, she was stunned to find that the data said otherwise, that divorce, job loss, and medical emergencies were the major culprits behind the alarming rise in financial collapse. And even more surprising was that adjusted for inflation, middle class two-earner households with children had no more discretionary income than the “man as breadwinner” family of 1970. Why? A bidding war had erupted for the increasingly scarce good (or even decent) public school districts and safe neighborhoods. And two earner families need two cars, when one often sufficed back in 1970.

But the dual income family was missing an important safety net: that of the wife being able to enter the workforce to supplement family income in the event of an emergency. Thus her finding was that middle class parents trying to assure that their children received a solid education put them at risk of financial disaster in a way that was unthinkable in 1970. This research and the related insights served as the foundation for her book, The Two Income Trap.

This book, which was a best-seller and made her a celebrity, also provided the platform for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A recent Bloomberg profile described how Warren developed the idea of a consumer protection agency in 2007 and commented:

The annals of academia are stuffed with provocative proposals. Most die in the library. A little over four years after she first dreamed it up, Warren’s has become a reality.

And she achieved this outside any of the traditional centers of power. Warren had no lobbyists, think tanks, marketing experts providing Madison Avenue phrase-smithing, PR campaigns, or big donor bucks behind her idea. Her success was based on her ability to identify and prove in commanding depth a series of heretofore poorly understood, related problems that afflict ordinary Americans and provide concrete, workable solutions, along with her tenacity and considerable communication skills.

Let us look at what has happened to Warren since she took her job as an advisor to the Treasury. This was, as we have maintained, another veal pen move. Warren, outside the Administration, could have cast a harsh and effective spotlight on how Team Obama was turning the CFPB into a Potemkin agency to appease powerful financiers. Obama places high priority on neutralizing criticism from the left (notice how pissy he becomes when challenged on his bona fides; he appears to have an ego investment in his fauxgressive branding). So they made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: join the Administration in an advisory position, tasked with setting up the agency, with the carrot of being a prime candidate to run the agency on a permanent basis.

Putting her in this post seemed to be a no-lose gambit for the Administration: it served the most important objective of severely limiting her access to mass market television, which was her big source of power. Yes, her calendar is full of chats with print types, but TV is her domain, and her outings have been limited to preaching to the converted venues like Jon Stewart or her C-Span shellackings. No more talks with people in the heartlands via Dr. Phil. And for the media she was allowed to have, she would be serving as a spokesperson and promoter for the CFPB and by implication, the Administration generally. It’s a classic “get them inside the tent pissing out” move.

I’m not certain where the idea of her being given the authority to hire people and proceed with specific initiatives came from; I imagine Warren as a counter offer (“If you want me to take this role, I need to be able to do X, Y, Z”) but in the end it really does not matter. This is a considerable amount of power, and it seems to have been given to her quite casually.

Team Obama likely considerably underestimated her; indeed, there is nothing in her background to suggest that she’d be an effective organization builder. The assumption may well have been that she’d not get all that much done, or make a hash of what she did do, either outcome disqualifying her to run the agency, and better yet, tarnishing her as an ivory tower academic who had trouble making her grand-sounding ideas work. (Note there are good odds of a subtle but real disconnect between Geithner and Obama. Geithner has signaled he is looking to leave the Administration. At the same time, he would no doubt see Warren as a serious problem, since her interests and instincts are the polar opposite of his. By contrast, Obama has longer-term objectives and he is more likely to have seen Warren as a useful ornament if she can be managed. And he seems to be particularly taken by real policy wonks. So he may have been more willing to give Warren some rope, on the assumption that no matter how things played out, he would not have given her enough freedom for the exercise not to be a net plus for him under any scenario. And Warren may have misread his cold calculation, his resultant willingness to accede to some of her wishes, and his corresponding sympathetic noises as genuine interest in her agenda. Never forget that Obama needs to raise $1 billion for his presidential run and will therefore do nothing that will seriously ruffle banksters).

But that bet was a grave miscalculation. Warren if nothing else is astonishingly competent, and competence is too often undervalued. She has a career of being thrown into the deep end of the pool and pulling off things that by any common sense standard should be beyond her. Indeed, her banking industry detractors were clearly expecting to lambaste her for organizational cock-ups; instead, the only thing that came up in the Congressional hazing last week was Ann Marie Buerkle’s foot-in-mouth effort to blame Warren for hiring people using the pay scales established for the CFPB in Dodd Frank.

But that does not mean her performance was pitch perfect. She appears to have focused her effort on the main chance, which was building out the CFPB as much as possible so as to make her vision difficult to derail. She seems to have accomplished a great deal on that front. Not only, as even her detractors have been forced to admit, has she done a great job in attracting talent, but she has accomplished a task that has eluded previous bureaucratic efforts: that of simplifying mortgage forms.

Moreover, during the House Oversight Panel hearings last week, she made a couple of asides on procedures she had put in place to assure that staff got trained and shared knowledge. Those are the sort of culture-building devices that McKInsey organizational practice experts often highlight as differentiators between high performance teams and the also-rans. They are not hard to build in at the outset but very difficult to retro-fit. At one point, Warren may have let her real objective slip out: she said something like, “The director really does not have that much power.” She may have quite deliberately have sought to create an agency where influence was distributed, and less dependent on a powerful director, not simply due to uncertainty whether she’d get the post, but as the best way to improve the odds that the agency would be hard to derail.

Of course, that view is optimistic. Bad leadership can destroy a good organization in a remarkably short period of time. However, despite doing a phenomenal job on the operational level, her political performance was less astute. Yes, she made a full bore effort to reach out to critics and appears to have made decent progress. But she was blindsided by the leaks and brouhaha over the CFPB’s role in advising the 50 state attorney general mortgage settlement, and the CFPB appears to have reduced its involvement in that project substantially. Perhaps that was Geithner’s call, but it was very clear that she was sent out on a mission and had her air cover abruptly withdrawn.

The savagery of the bank-led attack on Warren and the CFPB (couched in nauseatingly transparent efforts to make it seem more reasonable than it was), was met by remarkable silence by the Administration. Not only did they apparently prevent Warren from responding directly, but they offered no support when Warren was undermined, not only by Republican attacks, but by fire from the OCC (and probably others in the Administration).

It was a tactical error to back down from being involved in the mortgage settlement talks; this is a critical battlefield for consumers and at a minimum the CFPB might have been able to box in Iowa AG Tom Miller. Warren had already been tarred and feathered for responding to a request from Miller via Geithner; since she could not escape having that role be misbranded as something nefarious, why not proceed as before? The incremental damage was limited and the potential gains were probably material.

Similarly, in the Congressional hearings, she was far more deferential to banks than she needed to be. Several Congressmen grilled her on whether she would ban any products. Her first line of response was fine, namely that the CFPB was not presently planning to ban any products and its course of action would be to make sure there were disclosures and procedures to make sure consumers understood what they were getting into. But she was pressed, and she didn’t have much to add, save she didn’t think it was appropriate to remove any of the CFPB’s tools. She could easily have taken a more forceful message within the same story line, namely that the CFPB was tasked to improve how markets worked, that included stopping predatory behavior, such as payday lenders engaging in illegal practices like getting retirees to sign over their Social Security payments. Warren has often invoked the expressions like “tricks and traps” and “cop on the beat”; it was time for her to provide some examples.

Instead, it sounded as if the bank and Congressional browbeating and the Treasury force field have had an adverse impact (Steve Waldman and I have discussed the last phenomenon; we both experienced during each of our two visits to the Treasury netherworld, and he described it as being like an acid trip). Warren seemed far too concerned about trying to make a case that what she did would not hurt bank profits, when Sheila Bair had no such compunctions. These exchanges did not come off as if Warren was playing a game to get through the Congressional gauntlet; she came off as sounding somewhat captured. Since when do profits come ahead of obeying the law? Whoops, I forgot, this is America in the 21st century.

There is no question Obama has treated Warren badly, although her effusive note about the appointment of her hire, Richard Cordray, to the job she hoped to get had more than a twinge of Stockholm syndrome in it. Consider her closing paragraph (boldface ours):

Prior to the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, the President and I fought side by side to make the new agency possible. And, if we need to, I know we will continue to fight side by side, to keep it strong and independent and to make sure it has the tools it needs to serve the American people.

The “side by side” is astonishing. She’s not an equal of the President. And they aren’t on the same team. Obama has made an entire career of making grand promises and walking them so far back as to put him in a different country by the time the process is over. He has openly mocked the idea of honesty in politics, and has said with no apparent embarrassment that politicians lie and he is just like his peer group. As we described last year, Obama has irrevocably tied his star to that of the banks, so he must persuade, cajole, coerce or dazzle those in his sphere of influence to fall into line.

If Warren labored under any misapprehension on this point, the events of the last week should have laid them to rest. Obama treated her abysmally by announcing his nomination of Cordray on the heels of the Congressional hearing. Had Obama presented his choice sooner, she would have had to do much less prep, since the Congresscritters wouldn’t have put much energy into roughing her up. She would have been spared considerable stress and a potential public humiliation.

Obama might have hoped the Republicans would succeed in damaging her, since it would have given him more air cover for his obvious plan to ditch her (we’ve been calling that as the endgame for months). And the announcement is a clear snub. 44 Senators have made it clear they will approve no Presidential appointment, even a Republican pick. Senator Richard Shelby reiterated the opposition stance after the Cordray nomination was publicized. So naming Cordray was a diss of Warren that did nothing to advance the cause of the CFPB.

If Warren wanted to harbor any delusions regarding Obama’s intent, the response of the Democrat hackocracy provides further confirmation (there’s an amusing translation of various reactions in Politico’s Morning Money) and some revealing comments in a separate Politico piece, “Warren allies silent on CFPB choice“:

From the AFL-CIO to the Consumer Union, few liberal groups have expressed anything but the mildest of disappointment that their heroine did not get the job.

And notice this truly insulting remark:

“She is playing extremely well with others right now,” said one close observer of the process who declined to be identified by name because he continues to work with the administration and CFPB.

In other words, she appears to have been successfully indoctrinated, maybe even broken, but they aren’t sure the conditioning has taken.

Admittedly, there were some stronger objections, notably from Paul Krugman and Public Citizen, but the scarcity of those protests serves to prove the rule.

The key message to Warren is that Obama and the Democratic party are decidedly not on her side, and she has deluded herself if she now believes otherwise. To wed her star to theirs is not an enhancement but a diminution. We’ve written in past posts why a Senate bid would not advance her aims. In the pay to play system, she’d not raise enough money (due to a certain dearth of heavyweight corporate contributions) to get on any interesting committees. And most important, she’d still have to back a party and a President whose vision is in large measure at odds with hers.

March Wheeler confirms our views:

What the people hailing a possible Warren run are arguing, effectively, is that the consolation prize for the banks having beat her on CFPB should be junior membership in a body that–as Dick Durbin has told us–the banks own.

Even putting aside the power of the banking lobby in the Senate, under what model would Senator Warren be effective championing progressive values, or even just “protect[ing] the agency she’s built”? Even assuming the Democrats kept the same number of seats they currently have on the Senate Banking Committee, even assuming Democratic leadership has already promised her the seat that Herb Kohl’s retirement will open up, that will still make her one of just three progressives (the other two being Jeff Merkley and Sherrod Brown) on a committee that has long been actively working against her CFPB candidacy. Even assuming Democrats keep the Senate, how amenable is Chairman Tim Johnson–a bank-owned hack–going to be to Warren’s ideas? If Richard Shelby were Chair, it’d be even worse.

And what about Warren’s effectiveness in the Senate as a whole–that body, under Democratic leadership, where good ideas go to die? Name a progressive Senator who has been able to do much to champion progressive ideas there? Sanders? Franken? Whitehouse? Sherrod Brown? I love all those guys, and like Sanders and especially Franken, Warren would presumably be able to leverage her public support to push some ideas through. But are any of them more effective at championing progressive values than Warren was before her White House gig, when she regularly appeared on the media and excoriated the banks in terms that made sense to real people?

Yet naive progressive groups continue to back failed causes. The Progressive Campaign Change Committee had proudly announced that it is pushing a Warren Senate bid and has raised $15,000, which is probably enough to buy 5 minutes of TV time. Why don’t they spend their firepower on viable ideas rather than ones that serve the craven interests of the Administration, which is to render Warren irrelevant?

We Yankees have a saying: “Fool me once, shame on thee. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Warren is too good to continue to be this Administration’s pawn. It’s high time she wakes up and smells the coffee.

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  1. CB

    Hey, where’s Part 2? Or is it Part 1? I read a part some time ago, but nothing since till this. I think Warren would be suffocated in the Senate and just the campaign would be a terrible waste of her time and energy. The Senate is where good intentions go to die.

      1. CB

        OK, thanx. Concur. It will be interesting to see what Warren does after she leaves–and decompresses. I should think a year or so of teaching will seem like a blissful vacation.

  2. Psychoanalystus

    There really is no such thing as a liberal anymore except in name only. This whole liberal vs. conservative is just another circus meant to keep the chumps entertained and comfortably distracted. The liberal class has long ago sold out to the elites, and are now just another tool in their toolbox.

    Maybe there are a few isolated progressives out there, like Ralph Nader, but they have been so marginalized, they are irrelevant.

    We need to face the music. The elites have stripped us of all options to repair the system via traditional democratic means. They even took our voting rights away with Citizens United. There is only one option left: the Tahrir Square option. This is the only option that they fear, and the only one that works.

    1. Ignim Brites

      The Tahrir Square option is a joke in a country the size of the US. The only real option is secession.

      1. Psychoanalystus

        Secession from what and into what? And which senators and congresspeople would vote for it? Who would lead it? The tea Party?…lol

        A Tahrir Square movement in every state capital and in DC would get things done. It worked in bigger and more repressive countries than this (China, Russia).

        1. abprosper

          I have to agree with you on the “Into what?”

          A thing though, the 1000lb guerrilla we are all overlooking is that large chunks of the populace do not regard the political views of the other as legitimate.

          You can’t reform anything with someone who won’t work with you and will do everthing in their power to logjam you.

          And no this is not new, the only reason we have such a decrepit and inefficient Constitution is that it was impossible for the Founding Fathers to agree on anything other than “we want the British out and to be the top dogs.”

          So while we could have a Tahir square movement here, one based around getting rid of the Oligrachs it would probably end up just as it did in Egypt, the military takes over and the social changes we made would still be out of reach.

          1. Psychoanalystus

            Indeed, it seems the elites have succeeded into creating the perfect system for themselves, one where one half of the population is at the throats of the other half. It is perhaps hopeless, and maybe this type of situation, where the oligarchs inflict just too much pain, brings about radical shifts such as communism.

    2. Jean paul Marat

      “Don’t be deceived when they tell you things are better now. Even if there’s no poverty to be seen because the poverty’s been hidden. Even if you ever got more wages and could afford to buy more of these new and useless goods which industries foist on you and even if it seems to you that you never had so much, that is only the slogan of those who still have much more than you. Don’t be taken in when they paternally pat you on the shoulder and say that there’s no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason to fight because if you believe them they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretence of bringing them culture. Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them they’ll send you out to protect their gold in wars whose weapons, rapidly developed by servile scientists, will become more and more deadly until they can with a flick of the finger tear a million of you to pieces.”
      — Jean-Paul Marat

  3. Dameocrat

    So what are you suggesting she do precisely, and dont give us this huffpost line of joining some undefined citizens movement, with no definition of what it will do and what its goals are and how it will change things precisely. I would like to see her run for President as an indy or a green or a new labor party. The dem party sucks no doubt but why arent you saying what you think she should do instead.

    1. attempter

      If she’s as brilliant, passionate, and public-spirited as she’s cracked up to be, why couldn’t she help define the movement, what it will do and what its goals are and how it will change things precisely?

      But we already know what all these are anyway. The movement is anti-bank, anti-corporate, anti-war, anti-police state, just to name a few. We can easily abolish all these, restitute the land and resources and infrastructure of our communities, base our relocalized economies on food sovereignty and agroecology, our relocalized polities on full participatory democracy, and live far freer, more prosperous lives.

      Just because all that’s a mystery to you doesn’t mean it’s a mystery.

      But the reason neither Warren nor any other system elite would embrace and fight for this democracy agenda is because they are system elites, and therefore opposed to the people. Take this as your working hypothesis, and Warren’s actions make sense. Dogmatically reject it, and her actions do indeed become a mystery.

      1. Patricia

        Attempter, there are people who are good at working in systems, fewer who are good at working outside the systems, and even fewer who can analyze a system and see what needs to be reconstructed. Civilization needs all types.

        Those whose abilities lie inside the system are not intrinsically without integrity. Some are, some aren’t. In this era, however, it seems that those whose talents lie inside the system find it almost impossible to be effective because the system is fundamentally corrupted. What are they to do?

        From appearances, Warren is great at working inside of systems and understanding how to correct parts that go awry. Because the system is now so deeply twisted, the only real place for her to be effective is by standing outside of it and pointing at it. She may not know this, I don’t know.

        But it is important for everyone to realize that it may be beyond Warren’s ken to be able to evaluate the system itself and then to be able to point the way through dismantling and onto reconstruction.

        However, It is not beyond your ken, attempter. “Just because all that’s a mystery to you doesn’t mean it’s a mystery.” One of the most difficult things about a person in your position is that you are required to not only watch the ongoing wretched deterioration (fully understanding that the longer it takes, the greater the damage and the worse the job), but also that you must keep explaining yourself while you wait/watch. It is downright demoralizing unless you come to terms with it.

        I have no answer for how to bear it without falling into chronic cynical rage. But it might be helpful to take on the task of educating others. Not so much on what/how it’s gone wrong, something that Yves (among others) shows us over and over, but creating visions of how it might be instead.

        Everyone is afraid and most of us handle fear by denying it until we are bowled over by the thing that we fear. But giving us pictures, visions, sources, and plans for a possible future offers hope. And hope lessens the fear, and that gives some of us the ability to squirm slowly out of the denial. And since it’s reconstructive, that gets blood moving and then sometimes action follows. Etc.

    2. Walter

      … some undefined citizens movement, with no definition of what it will do and what its goals are and how it will change things precisely.

      You’ve just described the Democratic Party!

  4. YankeeFrank

    Thanks Yves for your usual clarity. Obama is a thoroughly unremarkable man except perhaps for his ability to charm and lie. I do hope Warren has not been too co-opted. Its possible she had to drink a little kool-aid to get the thing done and as she separates from the administration she will regain her perspective. With regard to her supposed lack of organizational abilities, etc., our society would be wiser if it understood that experience may help but nothing is better than common sense and a lack of pretension when a job needs to be done. Setting up an organization so that it can properly train and share knowledge should be obvious, except for those with pretensions to notions like individual genius. I guess that’s the reason so many organizations fail these days — they believe all the horse-shit that puffs them up and justifies shitting on people. Lack of character is a serious problem in our society. Elizabeth Warren has swam in it for decades and managed to keep the stink off her (as have you apparently ;)… I don’t think this one episode will do her in.

    1. okie farmer

      Warren actually has tremendous power if she chose to exercise it. All she needs to do is form an exploratory committee to run for President, either as a Dem or Independent. O’s re-election would be doomed if she carried through on a bid for the Presidency and he would recognize that immediately, but be unable to develop a counter strategy that could stop his defeat. Great idea, huh? but Warren seems to me to be someone who would be uninclined to go after O, in fact, she seems to me to be someone who would avoid electoral politics entirely including MA senate race. If she formed an exploratory committee soon, she could lever her way into the Director’s job at CFPB as a recess appointment when the Senate rejects Cordray.

  5. attempter

    It seems there’s two kinds of Warren cultists around here. The kind that wants her to run for the Senate isn’t really pro-Warren but is merely a Democratic partisan, and wants to keep Warren boxed into the system where she’ll continue to “play nice with others”. (And Warren so far seems perfectly happy to box herself in.)

    What little remains of the left seems to be rallying around Elizabeth Warren, which given the dearth of prominent figures who are serious about standing up for middle class Americans, as opposed to pandering to them and then selling them out, isn’t a bad impulse per se.

    I’d say the evidence is clear that desperately continuing to seek “better elites” to rally around is a bad impulse per se. It’s an ongoing escape from freedom, an ongoing escape from responsibility, and if it continues, it’ll earn exactly the wage it deserves. Nobody replied to my prior question asking what two years of Warren cultism has gained us.

    1. Foppe

      what two years of Warren cultism has gained us

      That’s simple: the possibility of raising awareness that something is wrong. You might think that everyone can be reached by simply pushing the “democratic party is corrupt” party line hard enough, but, realistically, this doesn’t work for people who haven’t already been converted, or willing to convert (and even then it’s uninformative). So what you need is obvious examples of stuff that’s going wrong that shouldn’t be, so that people who before wouldn’t even have entertained doubts about the value of the “lesser evil” political paradigm, will finally start to realize that that’s a lost cause too. Because only then might they start looking for alternative explanations of what happened, and perhaps finding blogs such as this one.

      1. attempter

        There’s quite a few commentators doing a good job of explaining why “better Democrats” is a worthless concept.

        Meanwhile, I’ve moved to to explaining why “better elites” is equally worthless, for the same reasons as well as for many added ones.

        1. Tao Jonesing

          Meanwhile, I’ve moved to to explaining why “better elites” is equally worthless, for the same reasons as well as for many added ones.

          Correct. As we’ve both said before, making incremental change to a fundamentally rotten structure leaves the rot in place. Unfortunately, the human brain is hardwired against fundamental change and, absent a catastrophe, it is only comfortable with incremental change (and only then if it cannot be avoided).

          The problem these days is not confined to liberals or democrats but applies to every rationalist of any political stripe. Rationalists like to say they live in the “reality-based community,” but the fact is they just rationalize the reality the realists create for them. In that sense, Elizabeth Warren’s supporters are just enabling the very behavior they claim to abhor. It’s a kind of co-dependent relationship: the power structure could not accomplish its aims without the support of rationalists.

          Remember this:

          The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”[

          1. Valissa

            Yup! Have always appreciated that quote, as it was stunningly honest.

            “The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking. The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events.”
            John Kenneth Galbraith

            “The goal of modern propaganda is no longer to transform opinion but to arouse an active and mythical belief.” Jacques Ellul

        2. kievite

          There’s quite a few commentators doing a good job of explaining why “better Democrats” is a worthless concept.

          Meanwhile, I’ve moved to to explaining why “better elites” is equally worthless, for the same reasons as well as for many added ones.

          Nothing new here. This is essentially a Trotskyite position. So what’s next? Permanent Revolution ?
          Here is a relevant quote from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trotskyism)

          to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. – Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League[17]

          Now who is your “proletariat”? Bloggers ? ;-)

    2. Albert W.

      “Nobody replied to my prior question asking what two years of Warren cultism has gained us.”

      As far as I can tell, jack sh*t.

    3. Fractal

      Could you explain what you think is the second kind of “Warren cultist?” You said there are “two kinds of Warren cultists around here.” The first you identified as merely “merely … Democratic partisan[s].” What was the second?

      As for “two years of Warren cultism,” are you referring only to her service in positions to which she was appointed by Congress (COP in support of SIGTARP) and Obama (Special Asst. to POTUS and counsel to SECTREAS)? Why limit your inquiry just to the past two years? Do you know what she did before Obama was elected? Does it help or hurt your argument that Obama might be one of those “Warren cultists” because he appointed her?

      1. attempter

        The other kind are the “true progressives” who may be skeptical about the Democrats but still ardently seek a Leader to tell them what to do. Who are utterly incapable of breaking free of the system-think box. Who remain unreconstructed elitists.

        By “two years” I was estimating how long it’s been since the blogosphere started being all aflutter about Warren, since we started hearing bloggers blathering about “Warren for President!” and so on. I wasn’t referring to her system positions.

        Obama never appointed her to anything other than to keep her quiet and boxed in. She knew this, and she went along with it. Today she’s still playing her part like a good little soldier.

    4. Walter Wit Man

      The term “Warren Cultist” may be provocative but I think it is pretty descriptive.

      The way I see it . . . the word “cult” doesn’t necessarily refer to a cult of Warren’s personality, although she does evoke an ethos of honesty, competence, and integrity, but it instead refers to those Democrats and lefties that all agree to engage in magical thinking, like a cult. Everyone in the cult sees the basic harsh reality: that government is owned by the elites and democracy and freedom is a sham, and that the Democratic party and Obama are part of the problem. But the magical thinking involves the cult participants’ agreement to pretend that Obama and the Democrats may choose to protect the people against the elite [or that Warren will be able to shame or convince them of the same from the inside]. The Democratic cult members think that if the ‘sympathetic’ elites like Obama can just be convinced its in their political interest to go easy on the people, then maybe there is hope. So the cult members craft heart-felt and sincere pleas to the Prince to recognize that treating the people with compassion is in his interest too! The Warren cult members may have a slightly more aggressive approach than the Democratic cult members when it comes to political strategy, and may want to engage in primaries and to run more liberal Democratic candidates, but they still share the same delusion that it is better to collaborate with the elites rather than oppose them.

      I guess I’m with attempter in my per se mistrust of any elite “reformer” that fails to treat the current insiders as the adversaries they are.

      Why in the world would Warren claim Obama stood side by side with her fighting for the people? She should have kicked him in the nuts as she was being bum rushed out the back door. At some point one must agree not to work with, or stand ‘side by side,’ someone who is working against the people one is claiming to protect.

      If Warren kicked Obama in the nuts (but you know, in her own classy way), and then announced she was running as a Green, then I might be more impressed and hopeful. As of now, it’s too little, too late. We need someone to take on the financial elite, as well as the two party system.

      1. attempter

        I think it’s especially the cult of political and economic Leadership (Fuhrerprinzip) as such. It may be possible for many of them to reject Obama, but far fewer are mature enough to reject Leadership as such. So they glom onto any likely candidate. Warren has sometimes talked a good game, she’s probably sincere about wanting reform (but only if she can do it within the system; otherwise she doesn’t want change), she’s good on TV, so it was easy to weave this fantasy around her.

        But you’re right, it’s not really she who compels it. She’s as fungible as Alan Grayson (anyone remember that flavor of the month?) and will head off to the same obscurity, no doubt to be replaced by the next Leader fad.

      2. Thor's Hammer

        Walter and others who have contributed reasoned responses to this topic:

        Why I’m going to vote for Michele Bachmann or whichever crazy M***Fr the Repgnut party puts forward—.

        Warren strikes me as the type of person it would be nice to have as president of a nice democracy where the nice free press published all sides of real news and the people read that news and developed reasonable opinions about the nice real world and acted in the best interest of the nice country and all the nice creatures they share it with.

        Too bad we don’t live in that world.

        The one politically useful role she could play would be to deny President Obummer victory in the coming election by running against him as an independent. But this is the USA after all, and running a campaign that can buy enough air time to be noticed would require that some billionaire hate Obummer enough to fund her campaign and supply a small army of personal bodygards to foil the assassination attempts. Think about the Homeland Security police state capabilities and Obummer’s tasteless joke about using Predator drones to protect his daughters while using same to kill civilian’s families at will around the world—. Somehow I don’t think the nice lady has the stomach for that game.

        What the world needs from the USA is not four more years of rule by a lying scum bag who manages to patch together the O rings on the Space Ship of State and keep it flying. What we really need is somebody totally crazy like Bachmann or Palin who will crash the Empire’s Death Star, destroy its ability to maintain a thousand imperial outposts and spend 50% of the world’s military budget while extracting 30% of the world’s resources for the benefit of a country with only 2.7% of the world’s population—- and scatter the remains of the Empire to the four winds. Now that’s Change We Can Believe In.


    5. lovelalola

      How is Warren elite? Because she managed to break through to tenure at Harvard? She didn’t go to any special schools and grew up without much, if any, privilege. It takes years of training to be an elite, to think like them, to do the things they do without even a whiff of morality or ethics. Warren does not fit that profile.

  6. cfsteak

    As one who knocked on doors for Obama, I gave up on him BEFORE he took office when I saw his transition team and his Team of Rivals junk.
    The rightward spectrum shift of political dialog since the formation of the DLC has ruined the Democratic party,I thought it was starting to swing back to the left with Obama I was WRONG, meanwhile Kermit the frog has inferred Warren wasn’t going to happen,
    ” During his presentation, Norquist explained why he believed that there would be a permanent Republican majority in America. One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, “C’mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House.” Norquist immediately replied: “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”
    thats the power a minority in the senate can wield.

    Now I’m a in awe of Warren and see a Warren in 2016 presidential route with some time on the Senate foreign relations commitee to round her out, that’s why I would like her in the senate.

        1. psychohistorian


          I think we are building up a head of steam. Lets work like hell to see that steam move us in the right direction.

  7. Z

    Very astute analysis on the Warren situation. I learned a lot from that.

    Yes, there’s no way that she can get elected as a democrat and maintain her credibility. She could run as an independent though, which is going to make it very hard to raise money. But that would be the only way that a run would be worth it in my opinion. The upside in that scenario … if she beat the odds and won as an independent … is that she would have won as an independent and that it could become a catalyst towards a third party movement. And, in my opinion, that’s the only political direction that it makes any sense to go any more.


  8. bob

    Bad idea on it’s face. Put the only person to walk through DC without being entirely covered in shit into the cesspool of deliberation by special interest?

    She and Bernie could start the “completely ineffectual” caucus.

    1. CB

      Witty. And true. Sometimes I think these rebels are only comfortable being outside and wouldn’t know how to function inside. Not knocking the outsiders, just pointing out the differences in perspective and temperament. Nader, for instance, IMO, could never actually govern but was, sometimes still is, effective at raising issues and counter arguments. I’m definitely an outside game person, I don’t trust the inside power structure.

    2. Cedric Regula

      I get the part about how she would be more effective critiquing the system from the outside. But then again I still worry about how we get “representatives” casting the votes and earmarks on the inside.

  9. borngaindem

    I have better idea- she should run for president either as a primary challenger to Obama or as an independent- that would really shake things up and god knows we need that right now.

    1. CB

      I don’t know that Elizabeth Warren wants to sacrifice herself to that lost cause. I hope not because those kinds of campaigns usually turn out to be vanity runs, i.e., Steve Forbes, and I’d like to think she’s more down to earth than that.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        Well, then she should run against some other big names, like Nader, McKinney, and maybe Matt Gonzales, in the Green Party primary.

        Set up a super PAC and try to get a few angel investors from Hollywood liberals or other wealthy lefties to fund a long and more exciting nomination process for the Greens.

        It should not be a stuffy Democratic or Republican affair–which wouldn’t be hard to beat. Come up with some gimmicks and get creative and try to address issues the other parties are afraid to address. Maybe have a debate on Bill Maher, on HBO, or something. Have a debate about prison reform and drug laws as an “opening act” to a rock show. Try to reach all the dissatisfied independents and liberals. Anyway, if you had some bigger names and Elizabeth Warren was drafted, and chosen out of a number of well qualified liberal candidates, it would be harder to say it was a vanity campaign.

        After all, anyone that runs for POTUS is pretty vain.

    2. Jesse Frederik

      Sometime ago there was some talk about Michael Bloomberg running as an independent. That might be the best hope for progressives. A four way race between some Tea Party crazy, Bloomberg, Obama and Nader or Warren.

        1. Cindy Elmwood

          I’m not positive but I think Jesse F was not saying that Bloomberg was a progressive, but that a four-way race including Bloomberg (like the example he gave) would split the vote enough to a give a progressive a real chance. I seriously doubt it will happen, but it would be interesting.

          I do think there will be a serious run by a third-party candidate in 2012. (“Serious” meaning attaining more than 10% of the popular vote.)

          1. propertius

            The best one could hope for in such a scenario would be to throw the election into the House – where it would promptly be sold to the highest bidder.

      1. JerryDenim

        Doomberg as a progressive prez?

        Are you kidding? I live in NY and he has done some good things for the city as Mayor but he’s no champion of the little guy. He’s a BILLIONAIRE, New York, Wall Street money grubber, who made his fortune in finance. All of his closest pals and buisness associates are rich financiers like himself, and he depends on Wall Street’s status quo for his fortune to retain it’s value. He’s the LAST guy you want to count on to be a game changer.

      2. Foppe

        To quote David Harvey about Bloomberg:

        When epochal shifts of the sort that brought neoliberal globalization into its current position of overwhehning dominance occur, then all manner of other conceptual, ideological, political, and cultural transformations will likely accompany it (though not exactly of the sort that Friedman had in mind). De Sousa Santos notes, for example, that the term governance, rarely used before 1975, has in recent times become a dominant way to think about and practice politics. The ideology of governance is grounded in ideals of efficiency and rationality of administration, bringing together significant “stakeholders” (the favored term) to come up with “optimal” but “politically neutral” public policies. Grounded in the idea of “private-public partnerships” and elaborate mechanisms for bringing various stakeholders into a consensual coalition, governance effectively masks the class and social relations that are redistributing wealth and income to the affluent through a networked and decentered system of organized political-economic power. A billionaire himself, [Bloomberg] could effectively purchase the mayoralty [of New York City] unbeholden to anyone and announce an administrative system “above politics.” He has indeed rationalized city government to a high level of efficiency and delivered much in the way of improvements in the city. But his aim is to make the city competitive in the global economy. Innumerable high-value development projects are reshaping the city. He prefers not to subsidize businesses to come to the city but to attract high-quality businesses that can bear the costs of a high-value location. While he does not dare say so, the same principle applies to people. Manhattan has increasingly become a haven for the affluent classes, an astonishingly rich and often transnational capitalist class, active beneficiaries of what the “neutral” and “efficient” Bloomberg administration is able to deliver. To conceptualize this lopsided class project as if it is just about efficient governance is plainly misleading. (Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom, p. 71-72.

    3. Dave of Maryland

      As a primary challenger to Obama she would win in a landslide (per exit polls), and then the next morning when she lost in a squeaker we would discover how embarrassingly rigged American voting really is.

      1. issacread

        Thank you. One forgets certain facts far too quickly speaking of sheer organizational intelligence.

  10. Wasabi

    Thank you. This analysis is very sharp about everything except the Warren for Senate movement. The motivation of Dem party hacks is nauseating, but the power of a Senator isn’t determined in advance. True, the Dem party under Obama is, even more than it was under under Clinton, competing with the Repubs to be the most-favored party of the plutocracy. It may have no future at all as a representative of the middle class and the poor, but it shouldn’t be written off completely just yet, athough progressive third-party challenges are of course always welcome.

    It seems quite possible that Obama will lose in 2012 due to his perceived mishandling of the too-small stimulus and his role in ginning up a bogus debt crisis to hide his failure to deal with the unemployment and the foreclosure crises. His needless austerity will tank the economy further and increase unemployment, and if unemployment is at 9% or more next year, as it may well be, the chances are that Obama will lose, no matter how many slick commercials his campaign cranks out. That will make it essential to keep Dem control of the Senate, though it will not be easy. So a defeat of Brown by Warren would have more significance than in most election years. Just try to imagine how bad it would be with Repub control of both the Senate and House (and very possibly the WH) next year.

    As a MA voter, I believe Warren has enough popularity to beat Brown. And Warren, as a Senator, could still give speeches and TV appearances that would reach a national audience. She is media-friendly, and being Senator would give her all the more reason to be interviewed. And she could team up with Bernie and others to make various imaginative newsworthy events. If she were savvy, her influence would go far beyond her committee assignments. Moreover, if Obama is finally off our backs in Nov. 2012, the Dem Party would have to go through a period of self-criticism, even if a lot of it were kabuki, and consumer protection might well become a major theme. And if we are in a recession in 2015-16, as is quite possible, who knows, Warren might even run for president. It would be very hard for her to run for president without having any previous experience as an elected politician, so being a Senator might make her candidacy possible. It’s better to think big about the future, even at the risk of being naive, than to foreclose possibilities prematurely. If Warren decides to run for Senator, I hope you’ll support her. Remember the Buddhist parable about lotus blossoms appearing out of the mud?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thank you Foppe

      I also suggest you read the Marcy Wheeler post I linked to in full:


      Hillary Clinton had to kiss ass (as in bring men coffee often, I kid you not) to be accepted in the Senate. I can’t see Warren doing anything remotely like that. She does not suffer fools.

      And you assume she won’t be contested in the primaries. Big assumption. My buddies who are very plugged into state politics say her run would be opposed, and she is by no means guaranteed a win.

      Warren can already get on national TV and concentrate on her message, which is to get a better deal for American families. How the hell does being in the Senate on tertiary committees help that? She does not need the Senate to have national reach, and she’d be far less restricted as to her means if she were to continue to pursue her own path.

      1. okie farmer

        Yves, I watched the national Democratic Party machinery go ‘all in’ to beat Senator Michael Bennet’s very progressive primary opponent, Andrew Romanoff, a former President pro tem of CO State Senate, and superb leader in the CO state house of reps before that – 12 impeccable years in state govt. National Dems spent more ($7M)on the primary challenge to help Bennet than they spent in the general election. I would be not in the least surprised that if Warren decided to run in MA that she would face a very well funded primary opponent. The DLC have demonstrated time and again that they would rather lose than elect a progressive.

      2. Adrian Haiwei

        Moreover, as a Massachusetts resident, it looks to me like Khazei (pronounced like “Casey”) has been building a promising campaign for the Brown seat. He seems like a decent guy (though I’ve held off supporting him financially precisely because I think it would further undermine Warren if she were to run for the seat and lose, and I do see her as one of our few beacons of real leadership – I would feel obligated to donate and precinct walk for her if she got in).

        Besides the problem of trapping her in a cage of futility if she wins, setting up a fight between Khazei and Warren promises a huge waste of resources in Massachusetts, and risks further diminishing her if she loses (to him or, worse, to Brown).

        1. stryx

          cage of futility

          This is either what the veal pen is kept in or the best band name ever.

    2. Jean paul Marat

      Obama lost the 2012 election 2 years ago with the appointmnet of Thimmey G and Bernie B. The rest of his term is developing lecture material.

      Bachmann Rand in 2012 — ’cause a single thrust of the knife at the throat is a faster death than a thousand hopey-changeys.

    3. Fractal

      I agree specifically with this: “This analysis is very sharp about everything except the Warren for Senate movement.”

  11. dearieme

    All she need do is check her birth certificate, and the run for President while demonstrating that O’s birth certificate is counterfeit. Easy peasy.

    1. Dave of Maryland

      So long as we’re on the subject, if Yves is correct, that Obama has become a monster, then we need to chop him off at the knees. We need to FOIA his FBI file. I expect it will be full of mysterious redactions.

  12. Benedict@Large

    I can see it all now; the final insult …

    Warren gets elected to the Senate, and is then rejected for membership on the Senate Banking Committee.

  13. rafael bolero

    Forget the two business parties. New party. Labor-Green-Peace-Insured. Maybe we need some French and German advisors once again, like Washington (George) got the first time around. Right now feels like the British-Anglo banks have slowly reversed the American Revolution.

    1. Mary

      Well, while we’re talking parties…part of the problem is nomenclature. I think the right name for the new party is the MODERATE party. Why? Most of the American public is MODERATE. More centrist. But MODERATE is a term all can relate to. Take from the left, right, tea partiers…(some were not religious right before it got co-opted.

      Ross Perot and Steve Forbes didn’t come up through the traditional machinery. Why should the MODERATE party nominee? It should be a person the MODERATE people can relate to. Someone who seems to have, or actually has integrity and can speak directly.


      1. Adrian Haiwei

        What’s the moderate position on letting plutocrats rape the other 98% of the population?

        Whatever it is, it is surely to the left of Obama…

  14. John Doe

    I think it’s obvious she hasn’t been “captured.” She’s deciding right now if she should run for the senate seat, I’m thinking she won’t (most people with integrity can’t stomach what it takes). If she doesn’t, I hope she starts criticizing Obama (but I don’t think she will, she’s too happy that he didn’t completely kill the CFPB) with her skills but if she does run, I will support that as well. Obviously she won’t be able to do much, but I think she is the best judge of whether she should throw rocks from inside or outside the system.

  15. Mark

    That’s an amazing fantasy world you’ve constructed for yourself, Yves. Somehow, in your fantasy world, you know exactly what Obama and Geithner are thinking, and exactly what their motivations are. Amazing!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m merely looking at their actions, their use of language, and their priorities (which again they’ve either stated or are evident, like Obama’s need to raise $1 billion for 2012) which you seem remarkably unwilling to do. I guess those happen not to align with what you’d like to believe about this Administration and the Democrats, so you try to discredit the messenger. Did you raise a single substantive objection to this post. or my prior ones on this topic or Obama/Geithner policy toward banks? No.

    2. Patricia

      Since Obama’s lies gargle like a sink, examining the totality of his actions is the only way to track back possible motivations.

      And recently, Whats-His-Face-Financial-Guy went out of his dizzy-busy way to let Ireland know that they simply must swallow the super-austerity pill.

      One doesn’t need fantasy land to find motivations–they stick out like that ever-lengthening nose on your face.


  16. and i

    It was my impression the idea of her running for senate was put out by the Obama administration as a consolation prize to their shrinking base, and to get rid of her for a while. I never though much of it, it’s now repeated mainly by bots.

    They fear her.

    The quote “You can’t cheat an honest man” [WC Fields?] explains a lot about the dynamic between Warren and the Obama Admin I think. They try to manipulate her, and she goes all curious on them. Hard for these little freaks to deal with.

    I think the ‘side by side’ thing was her way of preventing Obama from taking credit for anything she did, oddly enough.

    1. MichaelC

      I thought that as well. I also thought it may have been her way of attaching him to her hip. It sounded to me more like a parting shot than a signal of delusion. Whatever she really meant the line wasn’t meant to be taken at face value. She does have a sense of humor. And she may genuinely be excited about Corday as the first head. He has balls, energy, and political ambition. Not a bad outcome for her project really.

      The Senate idea is just silly and unimaginative. She’s neither, so I’m betting anyone seriously considering the idea pro or con is wasting their time.

      1. MichaelC

        PS . I loved his doublefisted handshake w Obama. Marvelous bit of agression/condescention.

  17. DejaVu

    The distinctions, “Left”, “Right” no longer have any meaning, this has been true since at least the end of the Soviet Union.
    The major reason why there is no “left” is because there is no labor movement in America. This is talked about in Robert Fitch’s superb book, Solidarity for Sale.
    The other two things that keep the “Left” in obscurity are virulent anti-Semitism(disguised as anti-Zionism, for the most part) and the truly baffling acceptance by “Progressives” of Green doctrine regarding global warming.
    These three problems ensure that the remnants of the “Left” will be completely politically meaningless and impotent forever.

    Deja Vu

  18. Dan Duncan

    Chris Matthews, shaking off the tingle going up his leg, thinks this Yves’ post was a pandering puff piece.

    Ridiculous. The praise is Over-The-Top. Warren isn’t an effective public steward. No, she’s a Wonder Warren, Public Servant Extraordinaire!

    Pick a sentence, at random, and you’ll get a gem like this:

    “Warren if nothing else is astonishingly competent”

    Think about what you’re writing here….”astonishingly competent”? What?!

    “Oh My God. She’s on time. Again! Astonishing.”

    “The savagery of the bank-led attack on Warren…

    Oh, please. “Savagery.” Gimme a break. If she can’t deal with this kind of savagery, then she’s a weak “public servant” with no business in this line of work. End of story.

    You’ve obliterated your credibility with respect to Elizabeth Warren. You’ve moved well beyond the bounds of reasoned commentary. You’re no longer a mere Warren Advocate, but rather a Warren Acolyte.

    This post comes across like you either have something (personally) to gain from Warren’s advancement—OR—that Warren pulled a page from the Ayn Rand Playbook, established a cult and that you are a card-carrying member who’s defending your Liege.

    1. Foppe

      You are of course entitled to your own opinion, but why do you feel the need to “buttress” your criticism by using lame rhetorical tricks like “let’s pick a sentence at random” and then not offering any substantive argument whatsoever to explain what it is that offended you; or talking about Chris Matthews’s feelings (seriously, who is he, and why are we supposed to care?)?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Tell me exactly how many people can build an agency in the time frame she has, or for that matter, get a major program written into law when she has no formal power base and her agenda is at odds with those of the elites (by definition) and powerful vested interests? Or for that matter, merely rise from where she has come from to become not just a Harvard professor but a nationally recognized and respected voice for average Americans. They are remarkable accomplishments, no matter what else you think of her. And I’m not an acolyte, I’ve been very critical in other posts (see this, for example: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/03/the-consumer-financial-protection-bureaus-bogus-mortgage-settlement-math.html or http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/03/the-elizabeth-warren-rorschach-test.html). By contrast, Turbo Timme couldn’t even come up with a credible speech early in his days as Treasury secretary, or did you forget that one?


      1. Fractal

        Each of those points are excellent examples of why Warren would run an extremely effective Senate office. You left out her remarkable work on the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) in support of SIGTARP, probably because you listed that part of her resume in the main post. Her work on the COP could be Exhibit “A” for why she could be an excellent chair for any committee of the Senate.

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          You are simply deluded about what she can accomplish in the Senate. In her past roles, she’s been able to drive the agenda, she’s been in an executive or leadership position. In the Senate, you are confined by the need to work with others in your party. And it just is not that powerful a role for her. She already has ready access to national TV and would be far better able to convey her message unrestricted by the Dems and the need to do all the “pothole” stuff that Congresscritters are asked to get involved in by their constitutents.

          And did you ignore the link above, or my prior post on how Dems get on committees? It’s pay to play. There is an explicit price. Warren, with no meaningful corporate sponsorship, won’t be able to get on any serious committees, particularly the finance related ones. And a chairmanship is out of the question.

          Read this or the underlying Ferguson paper and we might have a useful discussion. But you are increasing making clear you don’t have a grasp of the basic variables in this calculation.


          Saying loudly that you believe things are different than they are does not make them true.

    3. and i

      “This post comes across like you either have something (personally) to gain from Warren’s advancement—OR—that Warren pulled a page from the Ayn Rand Playbook, established a cult and that you are a card-carrying member who’s defending your Liege.”

      Get a grip on present reality, Super Dan. Paranoid much?

  19. Norman

    It’s time to move on folks. Increasingly, the only option that the so called unwashed have, is what someone above wrote, “Tahrir Square”, but with a twist, American style. There are way too many Americans that are/have been effected by the so called “elites”, that, like rats pushed into a corner, come out fighting with a viciousness that can be over powering, even to a much superior force. This is not to say that the majority of the population are rats, but they certainly have been boxed in and are treated as such. As the saying goes, the pendulum swings both ways, action begets reaction.

    1. Malcolm

      Right on, Norman. And if the Republicans are stupid enough to cut 6 million or so off unemployment benefits, we will have a lot of reinforcements at the barricades.

  20. thelonegunman

    we were duped by Obama and his fantastical campaign…

    he should be primaried… as long as progressives continue to return to the abusive spouse that is the ‘democrat’ party, we will not get the ‘change’ we so desperately need…

  21. BDBlue

    Awhile ago, Glenn Greenwald linked to this comment by pow wow, which explains how broken the Senate actually is and how no one other than the leadership has any power and that all “governing” actually happens behind closed doors. The impetus of this explanation came after a complaint from Rand Paul, of all people, about how nothing ever happens in the Senate (no debate, etc.). Here’s an excerpt, but the entire comment is well worth reading:

    “They” in this case being the Party (= fundraising) organizations and their leadership, which operate almost entirely off the public record and out of public view. Their objective at all times: avoid unpredictable democratic floor action, and the accountability of public debate.

    To meet that objective the Parties basically gave the Senate the ‘boiling frog’ treatment. Slowly, over years – imperceptibly enough to have escaped journalistic notice of a sudden, shocking dismantling of the Senate – a fake quorum call (which doesn’t call the quorum, but does suspend all floor business until lifted by unanimous consent, or by the Majority Leader) that was once a rare interruption to floor proceedings instead itself became the essence of Senate floor proceedings.

    In other words, what was once informally used as a procedural pause on occasion, when floor debate needed to be suspended so Senators could briefly confer with each other off the record, now instead predominates in the Senate, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, with only an occasional speech or business action interrupting the non-quorum-call “quorum call’s” idling away of Senate time. [See Paul’s description above.]

    Note, first, that this pernicious Fake Quorum Call (FQCall) is controlled by the Majority Leader (he can lift it at any time), and its existence is not formalized under any Senate rule.

    Note, next, that in the absence of the FQCall, the Presiding Officer of the Senate is obligated under Senate rules to put the pending question to a simple-majority vote of the Senate, unless someone seeks the floor to debate (or requests an actual quorum call, to verify that there is a Constitutional quorum of Senators present).

    By putting those facts together, I hope it’s clear that, absent the FQCall, under default Senate rules and procedure, if no business or debate (or a real, live quorum call) is ongoing, nothing can stop a simple-majority vote on the pending business from being put to the Senate by the Presiding Officer while the Senate’s in session.

    In other words, this entire 60-votes is always required in the Senate is bullshit imposed by the Senate leadership of both parties to make the Senate, already designed to be anti-democratic, even more anti-democratic). Given the role Harry Reid and the Dems play in this, I hope it also makes it clear that the entire “end the filibuster” campaign a year or so ago was nothing more than a fundraising mechanism for the Ds and “progressive” blogs as well as a nice roach motel for lefty activism.

    When you combine how the Senate is actually operating day-to-day with the pay-for-play rules, I don’t know why anyone would push someone they view as an effective advocate into the Senate. It’s designed to prevent any kind of real debate or representation.

    1. Valissa

      I remember reading that. Combining that knowledge with Tom Ferguson’s report on the pay-to-play in both parties (which Yves posted here a while back) it becomes very clear just how deeply embedded the kleptocracy is. What good is political activism (of any flavor) under these conditions? Politics has become all about ideology… which is about the same as saying it’s become a form of secular religion. On the rare occasion when I read political articles by liberals, conservatives or libertarians it all comes off as self-righteous quasi-religious sectarianism. Each group thinks if they were in charge “things would be better.” Ideology is easy, and believers in an ideology are much easier to propagandize. Most Liberals swallowed most of the Obama campaign propaganda hook, line and sinker… much as conservatives did with Bush.

      1. Adrian Haiwei

        You kind of undermine your own point. It is kleptocracy that is the the dominant principle.

        Right-wing “religion” is the irrational belief in claims clearly falsified by rudimentary analysis (like, say, the laffer curve or the proposition that societies are more prosperous when most civil institutions are eliminated), but which conveniently reinforce the agenda of plutocrats. Republican religion is really just a marketing cloak for kleptocracy.

        Democratic “religion” tends to fall more along the lines of moral claims – i.e., people deserve access to healthcare, and to not be duped by mortgage companies. Unfortunately, these Democratic “religious” claims are just a diversionary ruse when deployed by politicians – witness, for example, Chuck Schumer’s ruthless defense of treating hedge-fund manager income as capital gains, with a much lower tax rate, while bloviating all the time in safe neo-liberal veins.

        The Progressive rank and file tends to lose its momentum quickly – stops actively espousing and organizing around these so-called religious claims – because Democrats *always* sell us out. People hate to look like suckers and/or idiots. (Note how George W. Bush steals an election, claims a bogus mandate, and gives huge tax cuts to his billionaire backers – and the media gives him a pass on the obviously bogus math of “dynamic scoring” because “well, W needed to throw some red meat to his base”; Though Obama took a couple token gay rights stances, and made commitments like closing Guantanamo that he abandoned, he has really long since given up even trying to throw his base a mother-fucking bone.)

        One other point: there is no equivalency between the right-wing’s skillful, well-financed, expansive, coordinated use of marketing science and captive media channels to advance the framing and interests of their inter-networked wealthy/corporate/natural-resource-extracting/gun-loving/religious nut/racist backers, and the left-wing’s keystone kop, incoherent, low-intensity fumbling among disparate, disconnected interest groups, wherein nobody effectively drives clear framing, message formulation, message discipline, or any semblance of effective alliance to effectively engage the enemy.

        Because of this, progressives lost all the battles of the Obama Administration before it even began, back in 2008, when we failed to definitively pin the financial crisis on failed right-wing ideologies and specific Republican policies. If we had done this effectively, Democrats would have had 66 Senate seats, we would probably have had a public option (among other useful measures), and the 2010 shellacking would never have happened – people would have clearly understand who had fucked them, and would not have been ready to forgive the Republicans.

        However, with no effective left-wing message coordination outside the Obama campaign itself* (which had its own much narrower agenda), the right was able to spin the “Fannie/Freddie and the CRA – socialism! – caused the crisis” bullshit into a dominant counter-narrative that has completely shaped all the subsequent events.

        * Note that Obama had limited coattails in states he won – the states where he focused his resources geographically, and where those resources were focused on *his* election – and no coattails whatsoever outside states he won, where Democrats lost dozens of races they would easily have captured if there were such a thing as a coordinated progressive movement that could have reinforced an accurate narrative of what really happened.

        1. Valissa

          Undermining is in the eyes of the beholder. You still believe in the Left-Right, Dem-Repub paradigm. I know because I used to think like you and could have written your comment a few years ago. But I have become a political atheist and that has changed my perspective, and no longer am concerned with which party wins or loses. Also as a long time student of religion I’ve been surprised how handy that knowledge has become. Politics and economics both have strong religious undertones.

          1. Adrian Haiwei

            Not sure what kind of claims you would want to hear. (“Things would be worse if we were in charge”?)

            The problem isn’t the claims, per se. Politics is a reasonable forum to debate moral truths, as well as the most effective ways of achieving prosperity.

            The problem is the inability of majorities to 1) evaluate the honesty and accuracy of these claims and 2) organize in sufficient numbers around better alternatives.

          2. Valissa

            Adrian, that was very nicely stated and got me thinking. I have a couple times over the course life entered the foray of politics, and was somewhat active in the netroots for a few years (2005-2008). What I eventually realized is that I do not enjoy moral arguments (or enjoy them only rarely). I do not enjoy moralizing or being moralized to, and I do not enjoy the groupthink that tends to form around different ideologies. Studying history I came to see that the noisy surface level politics of an era reflect underlying cultural and technological trends, and I am more interested in studying those trends than being politically active or wasting time arguing with people. Personally I think cultural change underlies political change and is a more productive place to focus, so I am working on some ideas regarding that in my personal research.

            For those who do enjoy political discussion and activity and think it has meaning and value, I think that’s great. I support people doing what they think is right even if I see things differently. I wish you well with your endeavors at political change.

    2. JTFaraday

      Ah, and Paul Pere says he’s not going back to the House–maybe it’s becoming a trend:

      “On Tuesday, Mr. Paul, 74 years old, said he wouldn’t seek re-election to Congress in 2012. The Texas Republican said he wants to focus on his presidential run, but also conceded that it is time to turn over representation of his Gulf Coast district to new blood.

      Mr. Paul’s campaign will be interesting to watch. No other candidate brings such a steadfast view that government is woefully ineffective. No declared candidate has Mr. Paul’s track record of supporting radical economic policy.

      “I don’t see any answers here in D.C.,” Mr. Paul said in an interview Tuesday. “There’s a lot of talk, but not solutions because they don’t want to change the function of government.”

      …Last month Mr. Paul won a straw poll at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans—grabbing nearly twice the support of the runner-up, businessman and former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and eliciting more than three times the support of Rep. Michelle Bachmann, (R.-Minn.).

      The results were in stark contrast to his 2008 presidential bid in which he was excluded from some debates and finished in the middle of the pack in the Iowa Caucus.”


  22. Jesse

    I think this particular analysis is highly selective in its imputation of motives, and draws a picture that is more a caricature of the political process than a realistic assessment.

    It almost completely ignores the very real obstacle of the Republican controlled Congressional confirmation process.

    I am deeply disappointed by Obama. But one has to maintain some sort of objective assessment of the landscape, and not give in to lashing out in that disappointment.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      People who are much closer to these action confirm these motives are operative. And did you miss the part where Shelby (who led the effort to put the 44 signature “we’re not confirming anybody” letter together) confirmed his block will oppose Cordray? Tell me why it made any sense, given that calculus (and the lack of any reason NOT to take those Senators at face value on this issue) why a Cordray nomination was any more confirmable than a Warren nomination? Both would go nowhere, which meant the choice of Cordray and the pushing aside of Warren was for other reasons (as in, as we’ve said from the outset, she was never a serious candidate for the job because she was too offensive to BANKS, which Obama is desperately trying to curry, as numerous articles in the Times and Journal attest).

      1. okie farmer

        OMG!, Yves, do you mean that appointing Cordary is actually a plan to get rid of him too? I do recall that when Warren hired him, he was seen by progressives as someone who would fight for the little people.

        I get it – O takes out two birds with one stone.

        1. Cedric Regula

          After the Rs take out Cordery, O can can say he had no choice but to “compromise”, then offer up the guy from Capital One, whom gets confirmed. Then O gets his bankster campaign money and O’s campaign speech writers will write scripts about how the Rs fought “consumer protection”.

          Just another day in Washington.

      2. MichaelC

        Perhaps Warren decided she’d be more useful on the outside as Corday’s sure to be shameful confirmation battle gets underway.

        I don’t think she’s going to be sitting quietly on the sidelines if Corday’s confirmation battle turns into another Clarence Thomas Pepsi/ pubic hair freakshow.

        She’s thrown them off their game at every step. And she always appears so sanguine.

    2. and i

      He could recess appoint her without republicans being involved at all. He’ll have to do the same with the other guy, unless he just wants to run the clock to better serve the banks, like he’s been doing. Yves has got it right regarding the shmuck in the WH, imo.

    3. ken locke

      Yves, You readers raise an important issue: Who is Warren? Is ahe just another elite to misguide us? Is she a cult? Is she an political insider who can effectively expose the system? A reformer whose heart is in the right place?
      My thoughts to this may be surprising, but she kind of reminds me of Melcolm X. She is able to speak in very concrete experiential terms that people in the middle class (particularly that vast sector where the working class joins with the middle class) can readily relate to. In this sense she shares with Melcolm X a very rare talent (of course in his case he was poetically distilling the black urban experience).
      I believe that in order for a people to start to get mobilized, they need their class expeience reflected back to them in a mirror that is undistorted by ideologic needs.
      Therefore, in a way similar to Melcolm X, I believe Warren needs to leave the Deomocrts as he left the Black Muslims, so that she can see the wider movement of things and further develop her perspective while continuing to maintain an independent platform to mirror back to ‘her people’ their reality.

  23. jo6pac

    Thank you, I’ve said this in the past she would be better outside pointing out how bad they system is. Thanks

  24. arby

    A single Senator operating under the rules can shut the place down on a single piece of business until the rest of the group gangs up on them. Then, that one person can start to do it all over again on the next piece of business. It is not a ‘constructive” power but it is a power. Occupying the agenda in this media age is a very important power. What it takes is a stubborn person who is willing to take the animosity of the herd until the mass concedes to the individual. What the country needs is someone in the Senate who will exercise that power as an education tool until the public comes awake. If Warren were that kind of person, then the Senate would be a good place to have her.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The tactic you describe is called a “hold”. IIRC, there were five holds put on the Bernanke re-appointment (a remarkable number) and they neither in the end held up the process nor derailed his approval. So you are considerably overestimating the power of this device.

      1. Fractal

        You might be correct about the particular instance of Bernanke’s re-appointment, but be clear that it was his RE-appointment, he had already been confirmed by the Senate for his FIRST term.

        But Bernanke’s case is NOT representative of the scope & impact of Senatorial holds. For starters, take a look at the number of judicial appointments frozen in the Senate. Harry Reid has, of course, corrupted the Senatorial hold process: he has ignored holds placed by Democrats but kow-towed to holds requested by Republicans.

        None of which has deep relevance to the choice by a grass roots movement of which person to support for a Senate campaign.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You are missing the point. Bernanke still had to go through the exact same confirmation process. A hold procedurally has exactly the same impact.

          The difference with Bernanke was not his prior confirmation (that would not overturn a hold, it has no relevance) but that Obama whipped for Bernanke personally. LBJ would routinely whip for what he wanted as President. And holds are not ironclad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senate_hold):

          Holds, like filibusters, can be defeated through a successful cloture motion. However, the time required to bring around a cloture vote often allows fewer than 40 senators to block unimportant legislation when the majority is not willing to force the vote. The countermeasure to excessive holds may be increased determination on the part of the leadership to bring up measures despite holds, but the delay involved in cloture votes constrains the leader’s ability to do this

          In addition, a Senator who is seen as simply obstructionist quickly loses his ability to secure cooperation from others. Warren seemed to work hard in the Administration not to be tarred with the “not a team player” dig.

          And as I indicated, politically connected colleagues in Massachusetts are skeptical re a Warren candidacy because she is pretty likely to be opposed in primaries (and Patrick is not likely to support Warren).

          1. Fractal

            The mechanics of “holds” should be analyzed by reference to the Rules of the Senate and the Parliamentarian’s Manual, not wikipedia. We could run a day-long thread on whether holds are constitutional, ethical, effective. But you passed over my point about judicial nominations, dozens of which have been obstructed by holds, some of which have been hung up for years.

            I am personally much more interested in this point: “politically connected colleagues in Massachusetts are skeptical re a Warren candidacy.” Why not ask a few of them to post here to explain the politics “in Massachusetts” (including their own alignment)?

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            I worked with the people who were involved in Audit the Fed and opposing the Bernanke reappointment. I cited Wikipedia out of convenience.

            And tell me how blocking nominees advances Warren’s agenda? It doesn’t.

          3. Tim

            FYI, the Patrick Yves is referring to is Deval Patrick the current Democratic governor of MA. I don’t see anyway Warren can get around having to go through a primary in which she probably won’t have the support of either Patrick or Boston mayor Tom Menino which in all likelihood she probably barely knows. Also the primary is scheduled only two months before the 2012 General Election.

            Scott Brown’s success while odious is in my opinion is tieing tradition New England parochialism to a corporatist defense of major local industries such as Finance, Universities, High Tech, Life Science/Big Pharma etc. This is a very hard gordion not to cut and one that many local MA pols such as Menino and Patrick dependent on good day to day relations with these institutions may be simply unwilling to cut.

            The challenge is while Brown is close to local MA financial institutions such as Fidelity and MFS cultural differences between the NY and the more old school Boston financial sector make the Boston sector a far less inviting target. Simply put Fidelity isn’t Goldman.

      2. Foppe

        Also see this splendid piece by Taibbi from last year.

        Even more so than in the House, where the leadership still wields enormous power through the Rules committee to decide which amendments will get to a vote and which won’t, the Senate system of unanimous consent puts the whole ballgame in the hands of the majority and minority leaders. Although any Senator can stop any amendment from reaching a vote at any time by objecting, the reality is that not many Senators will go over the leadership’s head to exercise that power. If you’re a new junior Senator on the Democratic side and you don’t like the sound of one of Harry Reid’s craptastic loophole-filled legislative specials, you can object to it, sure — but if you do, you can be damn sure that Santa will not be leaving much in the way of highway money or defense contracts in your stocking next appropriations season.

        The system then is sort of like 100 men sitting in a circle, each armed with guns aimed at everybody else. Since any single member can kill the legislative project of any other single member, the process is designed to force the members to hammer out a consensus behind closed doors, before anything comes to a vote.

        The reason very few real reforms ever get passed is simple. If a particularly dangerous amendment with real teeth (like, for instance, the Levin-Merkley amendment partially restoring the Glass-Steagall act) looks like it has a chance to get 60 votes and override objections, the leadership can kill it simply by not allowing it to get to a vote.

        On the other hand, if senators like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and Delaware’s Ted Kaufman bring the leadership an honest and promising reform like their Brown-Kaufman amendment mandating the breakup of too-big-to-fail companies, the leadership can do an informal head count, determine that the votes aren’t there to get the thing passed, and let it go to the floor to get beat (which it did, 61-31, with 27 Dems voting against). Thus you get the appearance of a democratic process — but reality is that if Brown-Kaufman had the votes to pass, it probably wouldn’t have gotten to the floor in the first place. The whole show is a kind of political kabuki theater.

        1. arby

          My point on the power of an individual Senator is that – in a consensual body – the talents of an obstructionist are encapsulated in determination to focus on a topic and a willingness to suffer ostracism from the herd. You can think Churchill in the Parliament of prewar Britain or (from my own experience in the Senate in the 80s) Jesse Helms who forced the Senate to vote on abortion and school prayer twenty or thirty times a year just to make him go away. I would love to see a Senator force the US Senate to vote on breaking up the big banks twenty or thirty times a year.

          1. Fractal

            Now that would be some great video. How easily we have forgotten the power Dems had when they were a true opposition party.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            You need to read the William Manchester biography of Churchill (I’ve also read Martin Gilbert, BTW). His whole second volume of what was to be a three volume series is called “Alone” and it makes clear that Churchill was isolated and very powerless as a backbencher in the 1930s.

            The only reason he was selected as PM was desperation, since by being so isolated, he was the only candidate not tainted by having engaged in appeasement. and he had held many important Cabinet posts before he had gone into the wilderness, so he did have a lot of administrative experience.

            But as Manchester makes clear, no one but Churchill expected him to succeed when he became PM. Pretty much everyone thought that the elevation of a 69 year old eccentric has been was simply that this doddering Victorian would be the last or penultimate PM before England was defeated by Germany. It was seen as an admission of how hopeless things were.

    2. Joe Firestone (LetsGetitDone)

      While I like Yves’s analysis in this post very much; I’m not sure about the conclusion that she would be less use in the Senate than she would be outside. The Senate now has Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Franken, and Whitehouse. The way I see it, the addition of one or a few more very committed anti-corporate Senators may create a bloc powerful enough to make a difference in end games on critical legislation. If those Senators were willing to use the rules, they could end the constant “caving” in we see from other Democratic Senators like Boxer, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, etc.
      Maybe not; but the addition of Warren goes beyond the addition of one more person. It would be the addition of a leader for the anti-corporates who can represent them much more effectively than Bernie Sanders has been able to do This could be a very important role.

      Having said that, I’m not at all sure about it. These are strange times. We don’t know what will happen in the next two weeks. If there’s no agreement over the debt ceiling, the President may choose to let default occur; and we don’t know what impact that will have on the world economy. If it does trigger the double-dip, then Obama is a goner in 2012 and everyone will know it. At that point, depending on how low his polls go, and understanding his own impotence to do anything but take his lumps, he may decide to resign. If that happens, Biden will become a caretaker and the D nomination will be open in 2012, and I would rather not see Warren wrapped up with a run for the Senate.

      All this is probably very far-fetched; but I believe things are happening fast and that the ground is shifting under our feet. We must have our eyes open for Black Swans these days; even though we can’t bet on them.

      1. arby

        Re: above on Churchill; exactly. No one thought he would succeed but he fought nonetheless. And, because he fought, he was a choice when the conventional politics of appeasement to the facists failed. Surely we need some people to have fought within our institutions when the current appeasement of the coporate bankers fails as a policy as it surely will.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Read my comment above. And a PM In a Parliamentary system has vastly more power than a President in the US. Churchill had also held a ton of Cabinet positions (Home Secretary, Admiral of the Navy, Secretary of the Exchecquer) and was an aristocrat from a political family (his father Randolph had been Secretary of the Exchecquer and would probably had become PM had he not died young of syphilis).

          Comparing a junior senator certain to get on only unimportant committees to a major figure in two parties (Churchill had switched allegiances) as well as a war hero (Churchill had spectacularly escaped captivity while a POW in the Boer War, an escapade that was front page news) who then fell into the relative obscurity of being a backbencher bears no resemblance to Warren’s position.

          Her forte is fighting for change from outside the political system, not inside.

  25. b.

    “Warren is too good to continue to be this Administration’s pawn.”

    Let me try a different tack on what I was trying to get at yesterday. Forget about Warren running for any kind of office. For me, the most important question she faces is, firstly, how much longer her current employment is to last, and secondly, whether or not she will carry her loyalty to her current employer beyond the term of employment.

    I made the same argument with respect to Dawn Johnsen, whom Obama “handled” in a similar manner. I am sure there are plenty of other examples – individuals with public standing, co-opted into the power that be, used and abused, and ultimately discarded.

    In a way, the measure of fitness for public office is when a person quits, and how they quit. Johnsen, and apparently everybody else, went quietly, with decorum, dignity, and “without incident” – and entirely too late. In my eyes, these reasonable choices disqualify them from public office. Yves rightly points out that Warren, unbound and free to articulate her principles, was more effective – more useful to society – then Warren co-opted. But the corollary is that Obama has the audacity to hope – the expectation – that Warren will not resume rocking the boat once she has walked the plank – that loyalty and decorum will compel her to continue to write HuffPost blogs in support of administration deeds. What Obama might have accomplished is that Warren may have been moved beyond a point of no return – she can either break the unwritten rules, or fade away, and any public break will taint her as “unreasonable”, which unfortunately is understood to mean “unelectable”.

    From the very beginning, Obama’s decisions where guided by the elimination of potential rival power centers, at the expense of the public good. Let me make my argument about co-option with respect to Hillary Clinton. Obama’s offer for her to become Secretary of State was, I am convinced, motivated as much by neutralizing her influence and possible 2012 challenge as it was about juggling competing donor camps. If one believes that Clinton is an effective, necessary representative – a view I do not share – then Clinton herself and her supporters should have rejected the offer. Clinton was an influential, established Senator, and a check and balance in the Senate that could ultimately have led to a Senate leader position. If Clinton cared about the rule of law, the War Powers Act etc. – as she demonstrably does not – she would have been a necessary and effective voice – in a Senate that, by and large, also demonstrably does not care about the constitution its members are sworn to uphold and defend. Instead, she chose to become Obama’s Colin Powell. Here, the past does predict future performance.

    All we have to go on in the voting booth is their past choices, including their choice of association. In my view, given the record, incumbency precludes re-election, across the board.

    1. Mary

      RE: Coopting Clinton. Besides, give her the most “powerful” job and the most EXHAUSTING job (jet lag, frustration, aggravation etc.) and nobody would want to run a challenge after that.

  26. Jackrabbit

    Warren Dodged a Bullet

    Obama would’ve LOVED to have her cool her heels waiting for an appointment that never came – while acting as a lightening rod AND toeing the Administration line.

    So it may have been a “dis” to not appoint her, but it was a poisoned chalice. Now she can speak freely and get on with her life.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Also, I wonder if there wasn’t some back and forth between Obama’s political team – who might’ve seen the benefits of keeping Warren “in the tent” – and Geithner?

      My speculation stems from the “rumor” (about 10 days ago) that Geithner might leave the administration.

  27. nowhereman

    I may be wrong, but I believe that Warren has, by the fact that she has been a part of this administration, acquired the expertise to become a formitable critic.
    Time will only tell, whether or not she uses this exceptional opportunity. Then, and only then, will she be able to fulfill the promise expected of her.
    Now that she’s out, she is free to expose to Americans, just what exactly it is that goes on inside.

  28. Mary

    I think EW needs a “specials” series ~ Understanding the Economy and what happened that made you Roadkill, with Oprah. (She did say she’d do specials, right?)

    Or, they could broadcast it on PBS, or as an adjunct to Suze Orman (or Suze could be a fellow guest commentator.

    Or, as a special Frontline series.

    Or, with Bill Moyers (didn’t he attend Bilderberg?) That could make it interesting.

    EW could put on a sweater and conduct a Fireside Chat (or in the summer, a Sprinkler chat) A nice harmless seeming mid-west woman without stilettos and makeup, telling it like it is.

    I’d love that.

  29. VirtualNomad

    Susan Warren for President running under an incorporated TBTF’s (The Blood and Teeth on the Floor) banner? She is indeed much too valuable to waste on the Senate.

  30. Fractal

    Yves, you are wrong about this. We depend on you to be an unstoppable investigative force against the oligarchs. Leave the politics to us.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You have not provided one convincing bit of evidence as to what is wrong with the argument in the post (your comment re holds was debunked earlier in the thread). In all honesty, you don’t like having your beliefs challenged. The Senate is not a good platform for achieving change. As I described in the post at some length, why should Warren hobble herself by joining what March Wheeler called “America’s Most Ineffective Body” when she has been remarkably effective on her own? A Senate seat diminishes, not enhances, her power. That’s not hard to see, but for some reason that idea produces an emotional reaction in you.

      Politics has never been separate from economics, and it is even less so given the “quiet coup” by the banksters.

      1. Fractal

        Yves, I’m not about to respond to every graf in a 35-graf opus. Your hed says “liberals are lame” and it’s a “terrible idea” for Elizabeth Warren to run for Senate. Both are wrong. Both are political judgments, regardless of any details you add in your 35 grafs. I’m not obligated to respond to every graf of your post and every comment on your post in order to comment on your expertise at politics. You still need to leave the politics to those of us engaged in the politics.

        I don’t object to you and your commenters challenging my “beliefs” or my “politics,” any more than I objected to Marcy Wheeler challenging my beliefs and political choices. Marcy Wheeler made great arguments and got great pushback, as I commented on her thread yesterday. You and Marcy Wheeler are extraordinary valuable but neither of you should waste precious time and blog space trying to stop us. You keep smashing the criminal banks. Marcy will keep smashing the war criminals, torturers, intelligence spies. We will concentrate on grassroots political campaigns.

        Thousands of us are still going to back Warren for Senate if she wants to run. It’s not emotional. It’s politics.

        1. and i

          Don’t be so snotty when you’re not backing up your point. I’m political, I think her running for senate is a horsesh#t idea, and Obama’s idea at that.

          She should primary Obama. If she loses, she should have a gig like Maddow. Then she should run against Bachmann.

          1. Fractal

            I didn’t start the name-calling, Yves did. She said I was being “emotional.” My position is not “emotional,” it is “political.” I’m voting with my money, my phone calls, my petition signing and, when the time comes, with my feet and my car (i.e., driving to MA to canvass & GOTV if Warren runs). And so are thousands of others, whatever you think we should be called.

            I’d be happy to back up my political argument but I feel no obligation to get into political analysis here since Yves gave no political analysis, nor did Marcy. They both opined on Warren’s past performance in her various careers, how that reflects on her likely ability to exercise power in the Senate, and how the Senate is in many ways irrelevant or useless in fighting progressive battles. All of that is relevant to what will happen to Elizabeth Warren IF SHE WINS. None of it detracts from the value of RUNNING ELIZABETH WARREN as a candidate against a weak GOP incumbent in a deep Blue state. Neither Yves nor Marcy commented on how Warren will perform in an election campaign, her popularity, her name recognition, the extent of her support in the blogosphere, her personal speaking skills, her telegenic personality, or other factors relevant to a statewide campaign. On all of those factors, I am convinced she smashes Senator Brown. You can disagree. That doesn’t mean I’m going to alter my political plans because you disagree or because you think I didn’t “back up” my position.

            Yves quoted or linked to some snide remark(s) in Politico about how PCCC has raised only $15K, but Politico is a right-wing organ owned by the Albritton clan which, in D.C., is our local equivalent to Rupert Murdoch. Yves did admit that other potential Dem candidates in MA are having trouble raising money.

          2. Yves Smith Post author


            I did not say you were “being emotional”, I said you did not like having your beliefs challenged. Straw manning me is not a good idea.

            And you are utterly missing the point. It’s a lousy idea for Warren to run for the Senate because she NOW has more power than a Senator. Look at what she has accomplished. She has ready access to national TV and has reframed the debate through her books and public speaking. She got the CFPB written into Dodd Frank from no base of formal power. Why does she need the Senate? It adds nothing to her clout and in many respects would rein her in.

            So you’ve apparently missed the clearly stated point of this essay, and are objecting based on my failure to provide an analysis of completely irrelevant issues.

        2. YankeeFrank

          Yep. This is exactly why liberals are lame. You set low bars and then don’t even attain the lame goal you set. Warren in the Senate is pointless. Your time would be better spent trying to get Obama primaried or working for a third party. At least if you aimed higher you might inspire and/or cause some fear in the hearts of your betrayers. As it is, you just wind up carrying water for them.

  31. steelhead23

    The primary problem with a Warren run for the U.S. Senate is that it is too low of an aspiration. She should run for Obama’s seat in the Oval Office. I fully recognize the near-futility in this. There is no way this populist could garner the financial support to make a respectable primary challenge, let alone an independent run. And perhaps I am a tad too enamored by symbology and see that a Warren challenge to the president would clearly display that there is a palpable populist (I cannot stomach the term liberal) rejection of Obama’s illiberal policies and actions.

    While I share almost the same level of disdain for our president as my conservative friends, I have become almost apoplectic from their frequent reference to him as “socialist”. The term socialist is used by the right as the functional equivalent of “pedophile” to castigate those they even mildly disagree with. What I desperately want is a person with truly socialist leanings to display the enormous gulf between true populism and the faux-populism of this president – even if it is a Quixotic quest. And frankly, I cannot buy the conventional wisdom that we are weak because we don’t have much cash. Populism is not about cash and given an effective and truly populist candidate articulating populist values could resonate with a disheartened populace and result in a populist victory. President Warren has a nice ring to it. Mr. Soros, are you listening?

  32. Max424

    YS: “Thus [Warren’s] finding was that middle class parents trying to assure that their children received a solid education put them at risk of financial disaster in a way that was unthinkable in 1970.”

    Pull all the stats outta the rabbit hat you want, but the facts in the matter are this: you had to manhandle shit physically in 1970 that would be unthinkable now (you had to open car doors with a key!), so things could not have been better then.

    [Thanks be, to technology!]

  33. kares

    FDR was’nt considered much of anything till he proved that wrong. Considering people like Jack and Ted Kennedy, who owned the seat for about 60 years, Warren just might prove more adept at improving the condition of the middle and lower income families by warring against Senate rules.

    I don’t trust Warren’s “Republicanism.” I don’t know how she stands on other issues, like tax policy and spending, the environment and energy policy and the need to deploy wind and solar energy, the Middle-East, imperialism and the military budget, the need for a modern constitution, etc.

    If the Senate is such a “harmless” place, why not her? she might just do some good. Else, she would be no different from John Kerry.

    1. Anonymous

      Yea, I’m not especially moved by her stated positions on policy questions she’s actually addressed — consumer debt, mortgages, consumer protection, the rest. I think she seems great mostly because the rest of this bunch are just so unbelievably godawful.

      It’s great watching her do things like telling Geithner what a loser he is to his face, but really, she’s just an Eisenhower republican. If she were German, she’d be in Merkel’s CDU. If French, she’d be in Sarkozy’s party. In Canada, she could easily be a conservative, but would be right at home in the liberal party since its taken a hard right in recent decades just like American democrats. She certainly wouldn’t be as far left as Canada’s NDP.

      Yves’s point that the senate is mostly a waste for any promising political advocates and policy-makers is demonstrably true, but to the larger question of Warren’s value given the enormity of the country’s political problems, I think the issue is plain: what we need is a genuine left in this country, not Edward Brooke and Dwight Eisenhower republicans.

      The closest we come to genuine leftists in today’s federal politics are Barbara Lee, John Conyers, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson, and Lynne Woolsey. To genuine leftists in other countries, and American leftists of 80 years ago, that bunch would be called accomodationists. And they’re the best we’ve produced at the moment. That’s how bad things have gotten.

      1. and i

        Lol, those people aren’t leftists, they’re cardboard cartoon cutouts, and cowards as well. All of them folded on that health insurance Obamascam after ‘pledging’ they wouldn’t.

        Those people are bullsh#t.

  34. JS

    Wow, you should listen to yourself. In the face of the most ideologically rigid GOP in decades, here’s a guy that managed to shepherd through universal healthcare, a relatively huge stimulus package, rescued Detroit, passed Dodd-Frank, etc etc & he still has a “campaign against average Americans” & is a betrayal of everything progressive! He has the scars to show for it, for sure, & he ain’t got everything in your liberal wet dream of a wish-list, but as Prez he needs to have a “to-do” list & not some kind of ethereal wish list.
    Ms. Smith, you really sound like…Rush Limbaugh, in reverse.

    1. Fractal

      Obama is a liar. Very few progressives believe a word he says. He is destroying the Democratic Party. We are not going to work for his re-election. We have pledged not to give him money. We have separately pledged in formal grassroots petitions not to give any money to or volunteer for any member of Congress who votes to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits or restrict eligibility for Social Security or Medicare. Deal with it.

      1. JS

        It really ain’t rocket science, bud…not even fractal geometry, more relevantly. If you don’t want to cap federal revenues at 18 or 8 or 0.8% of GDP, don’t want soc security means-tested on the Zimbabwean inflation rate or don’t want Medicare to be between choosing to cut an arm or pay with it, then you shouldn’t be helping elect Bachman or Romney or whatevertheck can be dreamed up by the stinking ideological swamp-inhabitors that the modern GOP has become. Get your kicks out of reading Das Kapital on Friday nights amigo, trying to get it from political leaders is, well…you need to get a life.

    2. john

      You’ve really drunk the Kool-aid, universal health care! You must be kidding. This year my medical insurance broker showed me six different options I could offer my employees: all of them required people to pay more money for less coverage, to pay rent to insurance companies. The stimulus package was identified as too small before it was passed and has dissipated ineffectually just as real progressives predicted. Rescuing detroit was a corporate rescue that just so happened to benefit some employees, sui-generis and besides Obama’s not perfect he can’t always be entirely wrong.

      Obama actually had to make a major effort to get Social Security and Medicate on the cutting table, efforts that a Republican (remember George Bush’s second term?) would never have gotten away with. Obama has turned out to be a Greenspanite trojan horse and is doing as much damage as the maestro himself.

      1. JS

        And you seem to have taken liberal swigs of the Comrade Vodka brand or something…what kind of alternative reality is this where Obama is being accused, by his base, of being a traitor (to the cause) while the right thinks he’s the most liberal president ever?!! (which is the least of things they’re saying…) I’m saying he’s not perfect & not done things I would’ve liked, but to go from there to this kind of frothing hatred, or almost-incoherent rage?! The current GOP Prez-contenders include people who don’t believe in evolution…get it?! EVOLUTION!! And he has to run the country with this kind of opposition party. Where one senator can make the difference between 45 mil people being insured (however imperfectly) or not.
        Get over it…

        1. john

          Well, it seems at least we can agree that the GOP in its present incarnation is bat shit insane. I’m not looking for perfect, I’d settle for something less than devastating. Based on your response to “and i” above, I suggest you look into what really causes inflation: http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=10554 is a good place to start.

          Then, with regard to the certainty with which you present your ideas I suggest: http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford.html Obama could benefit from this one as well: what he is doing is clearly not working for anyone but him, but then it really appears he just may not give a damn as long as he raises his billion from the banks.

          That the GOP traded in its brains for guano is no excuse for a self styled progressive like Obama. By soliciting cuts from that bat shit GOP to Social Security and Medicaid he has made it clear he has his own definition of progressive that has nothing to do with historical progressivism. To deride this observation as Marxist is to really miss the point. Idle capital stocks and idle workers are not in the nations interest and they are not in the interest of capitalists. The only beneficiaries are our financial rentiers and you seem to be shilling for them.

          1. and i

            Didja notice that JS didn’t address your points, just segued into, “Well, he’s not perfect, but Bachmann’s batsh#t insannneee!”?

            I did. Don’t know about you, but I pretty bored of that slogan. They should go back to ‘Change You Can Believe In’. That was good, catchy.

            I wonder why they don’t?

          2. JS

            I’m not sure what the link to the inflation piece was for, I do understand inflation.
            The God Complex is something that people, perhaps even you, might have subscribed to him. His oratory in the campaign was conducive to getting people to believe he was Him, but anybody with even one skeptical fingernail in their body, should’ve taken it with a pinch of salt, to say the least.
            You’re complaining of insurance costs, while the new law hasn’t even taken effect 10%. You seem to forget that the 1st stimulus (under Dubya) actually got rejected in the House, hence to pass a bigger one than what was passed was the right thing to do, but risked being again rejected. Though, I do agree he should have tried harder on that.
            He’s shilling for financial rentiers?! Jamie Dimon, of that all-things-hallowed-in-American-Banking, JPM Chase, says this is “the nail in the coffin of big American Banks”!
            Cuts to Medicare/Medicaid are essential for the long-term, as if we don’t, we would be financially ruined, look up any liberal or unbiased think-tank on that. If he agreed to cuts on that, in his unwritten offer to Boehner in the recent talks, then he was probably doing something which any healthcare law would already do, when we addressed this healthcare spending problem, as the baby boomers retired.
            Enough addressing of your arguments? You think he’s a traitor to your cause, then fine, vote for Nader in ’12, if he runs again, & then get ready for more Bush-equivalent Part III.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          Overpriced insurance that covers very little is no benefit. That is what now uninsured people will get. Just wait till 2012, this is baked in with the failure to deal with the bad incentives and the high cost of the American health care system, which this “plan” made worse.

          People now who are insured still too often face bankruptcy-inducing bills for services not covered. The Obama plan makes that dynamic worse, not better, by further enriching Big Pharma and the insurers.

          As awful and inefficient as it is, the unisured can now go to emergency rooms and get treated. I suspect that will become restricted to non-existant once Obamacare kicks in.

          1. JS

            Ms. Smith — The CBO seems to disagree with you, on the health insurance bit, & the leeway, in terms of the amount we spend on healthcare as compared to other comparable economies, shows that this cost curve could perhaps be bent, without impaired quality of care. If you have a specific argument against any of the particular provisions or cost-savings measures in the PPACA, then please criticize that but saying that the savings in that Act could never materialize without deep degradation of quality of care is an argument that can be settled only by the passage of time, & hence is currently un-arguable.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            JS, the “cost savings” from Obamacare come primarily to cuts in Medicare. Most of these cuts reduced payments for such services as hospitals. Slightly less than half of the “savings” was the reduction in Medicare Advantage, which was an inefficient subsidy system, much like Obamacare is.

            The Democratic party line is these cut to Medicare will not result in benefits cuts. But this is clearly magical thinking, and if there are even further Medicare cuts in these negotiations, then the system will be starved of funds which will surely cause either a reduction in benefit or quality of care.

            Plus, these “savings” only take into account government spending. Average folks will be simply bear the burden of the higher costs as we ask beneficiaries to pay more. No one believes we will lower the crazy high percent of its GDP the U.S. spends on health care. That will rise because Obamacare empowers the parasites in the health care insurance industries.

          3. Mark P.


            When big pharma and the health insurance industry were worried about the record number of Americans who couldn’t afford ever-ascending healthcare prices and who were dropping health insurance, what Obama’s healthcare plan does is to bring state enforcement, no less, to bear on the business of forcing Americans to be compliant so those industries can continue their looting and pillaging.

            Obamacare is pretty much the worst imaginable scenario from the viewpoint of ordinary Americans and the overall health of the U.S. economy. And Obama is either a delusional empty shirt or scum for pushing through such a scheme.

    3. Patricia

      From my vantage point in the town itself, if Obama has “rescued Detroit” then I’d say he’s failed your complete list. Which he has, so apparently we agree….

      1. YankeeFrank

        This JS fellow is delusional. Medicare/medicaid don’t need to be cut — medical costs need to be cut — not the same thing. Medicare is much more efficient than the private health insurance Obama has forced on us so if JS is so concerned with healthcare costs he should be very disappointed that Obama didn’t push for medicare for all. He sets the bar intentionally low and then screams success and why aren’t we all just so happy with our citizen-assassinating, whistle-blower crushing, fascist-in-chief who has tens of trillions for banksters but nothing for the elderly of America. Please. Bachmann may be nuts, but the real question is how do we break the corporate takeover of America, not which douchebag “leader” gets selected in the next media selection in 2012. Obama, Romney, Bachman are all travesties and soulless fascists. Decent people would be crazy to run in our current system. The system needs changing, the people and better leaders will follow.

  35. Chris Maas

    i loved the post – and really love the intelligent, informed comments. Thanks to all of you.
    What’s at the bottom of all of this is that the entire set of terms of discourse is all wrong (defined by AEI, Heritage, etc. and wholly adopted by the DLCC, Obama, etc.). We need someone to change the terms of the argument. Elizabeth seems to be our best hope for that. The only question is how can she best do this? I trust her judgement in this, as in almost everything else she takes on. Howsoever she chooses to engage in this project, she will have my wholehearted support. Please God, give her the strength to stay in the arena.

  36. Walter

    An interesting article and an interesting argument, Yves, but you need to be a tad more careful with your mixing of metaphors:

    She has a career of being thrown into the deep end of the pool and pulling off things that by any common sense standard should be beyond her.

    I read that and immediately pictured her yanking down the trunks of other swimmers. I suspect that’s not the image you meant your readers to conjure up.

    1. steelhead23

      I suppose its impolite to wish to conjur up such images, but having grown up in a houseful of boys, and with just enough impishness to want to show who’s boss, I’m kinda guessin that Liz likely has pulled down a few trunks in her day. If only she’d de-pants the prez! Let the metaphor wars begin!

  37. Ziggy

    Regardless of Warren’s political aspirations and prospects, what she represents – right now, today – is an extraordinarily powerful brand of credibility and trustworthiness that few politicians of national stature can match.

    The moral vacuum of today’s kleptocracy makes Richard Nixon look like a Boy Scout. Any efforts at coalition building to challenge the status quo will require someone like Warren to support and endorse new leaders and, especially, idea. Her approval of either would signal instantly credibility to the broader public in the same manner than the Apple logo represents innovative technology.

    There are opportunities right now to create a coalition focussed on jobs and economic issues, one that would likely include significant numbers of Main Street constituents on both the left and right who would otherwise never agree about anything. The key ingredient to making this happen is trust. Someone like Warren could become a signature catalyst for meaningful reforms almost overnight, and she wouldn’t have to run for office to do so.

    The Senate or presidency would be a step down for a person with Warren’s cache of credibility and talent. Her impact could be much greater than the limitations those offices provide.

  38. Jackrabbit

    Like it or not, Obama is too strong for a primary challenge unless things get really, really bad.

    Warren is not a politician nor is she an opportunist. Whatever she does in the political sphere will be based on principle and well thought out.

    I think her down-to-earth, commonsense approach has appeal to people of principal who have been thrown overboard by both parties in their headlong rush for crony capitalist money.

  39. jcb


    For the life of me, I cannot understand the point of this post.

    Are you still flagellating “liberals” because they were not as outraged as you that Obama did not appoint Warren head of the CFPB?

    What on earth does that have to do with Warren’s run for the Senate? Obama is co-opting liberals by some kind of diversionary strategy? Pleeeeeeze!

    “Bear in mind that this is a wildly unconventional route for getting tenure at a top-tier law faculty…”

    Earth to Yves: Bear in mind that this is a wildly unconventional route for getting elected to the Senate!

    The election of Scott Brown to the Senate seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy was the greatest misfortune to hit the Democratic legislative agenda in the last Congress. Recapturing that normally Democratic seat is essential, because the rest of 2010 looks like a potential disaster. If Elizabeth Warren can do it, we need her.

    What Obama wants is irrelevant, so far as I can see. And your remarks about Warren’s alleged “Stockholm Syndrome” are totally gratuitous. What comes through this petulant post is: “How dare you disappoint me!”

    And the only people who have Stockholm Syndrome appear to me to be the commenters (on every blog) who rush to agree with everything the (otherwise, usually savvy!) blogger has to say.

    1. and i

      Yes, it’s a sick world we live in these days. Especially in Detroit.

      I was rooting for Coakley to lose actually, who needs another DLC dem? It was a possibility that Coakley losing would derail the whole health insurance scam Obama had cooked up. That would have been awesome but no. It was also a warning for 2010, but they didn’t listen, and now Pelosi is off the table.

      No big loss.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Warren has a very clear agenda and has repeatedly hit the same messages. She has branded herself as a straight shooter with a mission. It is therefore fair game to measure her progress against her own, clearly articulated agenda.

      Trying to get derisive with me (generally a sign of a weak argument) does not change the fact that it is quite normal to grade someone by standards they themselves have explicitly or implicitly set forth.

    3. okie farmer

      jcb, you and JS are arguing that progressives need to suck it up and vote for O and Dems because the alternative is worse – the lesser of two evils argument. More than a few of the folks who comment on this blog are ready to elect more fascists on the theory that until the American people can see fully who the Repubs are they will buy the idea that ‘bipartisanship’, or ‘compromise’, or ‘moderation’ are political ideals that we could use to “all just get along”.

      I’m 68, have been an activist since marching in the south in the 60s, going door to door for McGovern, running for state legislature in OK, chairing two statewide campaigns in NM, and giving tens of thousands of dollars to Dem candidates all across the country over the past 35 years, including several thousand to O (early) – and NEVER ONCE voting for a Republican for anything.

      I’ll be working for the craziest Repubs I can find in 2012. Yes!, I’m bitter. Yes!, this sounds like sour grapes. L. Jean Daniels, Chicago activist who has known O for years warned me, “Obama isn’t who you think he is.” Boy was she ever right.

      Fuck this Democratic party.

  40. Bill White

    Unless you think we should all go buy big guns, and move to the mountains of New Hampshire to plot the revolution, political engagement is the only possible way to make things better. Both the inside and outside games are important. As someone above pointed out, Ralph Nader has been very influential even though he’s not ever served in an elected position.

    I like Elizabeth Warren and Alan Khazei both better than Scott Brown for the US Senate from my state.

  41. Patricia

    “…the Senate seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy was the greatest misfortune to hit the Democratic legislative agenda in the last Congress. Recapturing that normally Democratic seat is essential, because the rest of 2010 looks like a potential disaster.”

    The problem is that you are interested in recovering the Party Agenda whereas some here are more interested in the dysfunctionality of our supposedly democratic system.

    Mentioning Stockholm Syndrome seems likely to be projection on your part.

    1. jcb

      “There is no question Obama has treated Warren badly, although her effusive note about the appointment of her hire, Richard Cordray, to the job she hoped to get had more than a twinge of Stockholm syndrome in it. Consider her closing paragraph (boldface ours):

      Prior to the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, the President and I fought side by side to make the new agency possible. And, if we need to, I know we will continue to fight side by side, to keep it strong and independent and to make sure it has the tools it needs to serve the American people.”

      –Yves Smith 7/19/11

      1. Patricia


        You recontextualize Yves’s mention of possible “Stockholm Syndrome” on Warren’s part to cover people like me, but then you throw Yve’s quote back when I write that your recontextualization is more applicable to you…

        You do know that you are making no sense, right?

        Warren is obviously a very courteous person–I have no idea whether she has a bit of the Syndrome or has been merely bending over backwards to be generous. But apart from that, jcb, it is you who are harping on saving the Democratic Agenda. And the Democratic Party Agenda is all mirage.

        1. jcb

          The point in your first paragraph is taken. I should not have applied a term that I called “totally gratuitous” in one context to a second context. I apologize for that.

  42. Brett

    I have to agree. I don’t understand how anyone could argue that Warren could do more for everyday Americans being in the Senate than she could as head of the CFPB.

  43. monte_cristo

    From way outside of the box (not American) Warren comes across as a real “Independent”. At least you’ve painted her that way. As an outsider she makes me think of Nader. The difference might be she is prepared to work within the party machines. But isn’t the point you’re making that the party she’s working with at the moment has just ‘slapped her down’. She’s been neutered by the political establishment.
    She really is in a tricky position. Is she just about to become a ‘career’ politico, you can’t buck the machine, or does she decide to stick being independent (single issue?)?
    The whole tenor of the politicial debate here, almost axiomatic as seen from outside is that Democrat or Republican you can hardly tell the difference. There obviously are differences but the local blogosphere seems to feel that the process is compromised. But on the other hand the purpose of the process is reaching compromise. No doubt Ms Warren thinks the same, she’s a lawyer. What she chooses to do will be interesting to watch. As somebody that changed from Republican to Democrat it seems likely that she doesn’t really see that much difference between the party machines. She works well within machines. We might see her as let’s say one of the 30% of politicos that isn’t their solely for self-aggrandisment. She´ll be ‘good’ for the Democrats in that she´ll pull ‘our’ way.
    The question is, is that enough?
    Does she say to herself “Welcome to the machine.” Or does she say the machine is so compromised it actually serves no purpose working within it at his point. An radical point of view. Is she a radical? Harvard tenure, doesn’t sound radical to me. So she’s going to keep manouevering. I guess she’s less disappointed than we are.
    I’d like to see her make a political gesture you’re suggesting at this point – curse your houses.
    She’s been so betrayed it must be obvious to her that she’s marginal with the party. Just for herself it strikes me she like to find something else slightly more fulfilling. What options does she have? I don’t know. There aren’t many things less addictive than power, and there aren’t many things as intellectually fascinating. She’s hardly going to change to hard science at this point.
    She got closer to making a real difference than most of us do. What she does will be a message. A message from somebody we currently respect for integrity and perseverence. So whatever her decision in this case I’ll respect it in advance.
    It would be an easier decision for her, and possibly better for you, if time in the houses was strictly limited.

  44. Hugh

    Warren could dispel most of the questions about her future plans and positions on the issues by simply telling people what they are.

    I think the “side by side” quotes that Yves cites are a good and current indication that they are much less than what those who are most hopeful here may want.

    Warren is an Establishment liberal, and the Senate is as Establishment as it gets. So even if she got there, yes, she might provide a few moments of political theater, but nothing would change.

    Re the Senate, most of its business is conducted via Unanimous Consent agreements put together by the leadership of the two parties. These are basically ad hoc rules which dispense with regular Senate rules. Indeed most of the business of the Senate consists of it not following its own rules. Bills and amendments are not read into the record but taken as read into the record.

    The point is a half a dozen Senators, if they were so minded, could each spend a couple of hours each day on the floor and object to all unanimous consent motions. This would take away most of the power of the leadership, not simply to make backroom deals, but to retaliate. And this is just one weapon among several that could be used.

    But this isn’t happening now and wouldn’t happen if Warren were a member because, cutting through all the political atmospherics, Senators are far more tied together by class, by membership in the Establishment, and more particularly membership in its most exclusive club than they are to we the people.

  45. Jim

    Political Restructuring/Insurgency/Democracy

    Patricia’s early comment at 7:53A.M. raises an important organizing issue. She states “There are people who are good at working in systems, fewer who are good working outside systems and even fewer who can analyze a system and see what needs to be reconstructed.”

    Bill White at 2:25P.M. adds “That both the inside and outside games are important.”

    It strikes me that any hope of building a future democratic political movement must be based on a candid and engaged conversation between those on the inside and those on the outside.

    What must be avoided at all costs is a mental attitude that radiates a type political purity which has historically tended to deteriorate into Jacobin and Bolshevik tendencies–a type of “Saint in Arms” stance.

    What must be described, preserved and encouraged is a mental attitude capable of creating a self-organized, pluralistic social formation(with inside and outside participants) that can serve as a new foundation for a democratic polity.

    1. and i

      “It strikes me that any hope of building a future democratic political movement must be based on a candid and engaged conversation between those on the inside and those on the outside.

      What must be avoided at all costs is a mental attitude that radiates a type political purity which has historically tended to deteriorate into Jacobin and Bolshevik tendencies–a type of “Saint in Arms” stance.”

      Something like this would be my preference.

      “King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the Kingdom of France; you, William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk; John, Lord of Talbot; and you, Thomas, Lord Scales, who call yourselves Bedford’s lieutenants, do right by the King of Heaven.

      Hand over to the Maiden, who is sent here by God the King of Heaven, the keys to all the towns which you have taken and violated in France.

      She has come here in the name of God to support the Royal family. She is quite prepared to make peace, if you are willing to do right, so long as you give up France and make amends for occupying it.

      And you, archers, soldiers both noble and otherwise, who are around the town of Orléans, in God’s name go back to your own lands. And if you will not do so, await word of the Maiden, who will go to see you soon to your very great misfortune.

      King of England, if you do not do so, I am a commander, and wherever I come across your troops in France, I shall make them go, whether willingly or unwillingly; and if they will not obey, I will have them wiped out.

      I am sent here by God the King of Heaven – an eye for an eye – to drive you entirely out of France. And if they are willing to obey, I shall have mercy on them.

      And do not think otherwise, for you will never hold the kingdom of France from God the King of Heaven, the Son of Saint Mary; King Charles, the true heir, will hold it, for God the King of Heaven wills it; and this has been revealed by the Maiden to him, who shall enter Paris with a fine contingent of troops.

      If you do not believe the tidings sent by God and the Maiden, wherever we find you we will strike against you, and will cause such a great clash of arms there that not for a thousand years has France seen one as great, if you do not do right.

      And firmly believe that the King of Heaven will send greater force to the Maiden than you would be able to bring against her and her good men-at-arms in all of your assaults. And in the fighting we shall see who has the better right.

      Duke of Bedford, the Maiden asks and requests that you will not cause your own downfall. If you will do right, you could yet come in her company to where the French will do the noblest deed which has ever been done for Christianity.

      And reply if you wish to make peace in the city of Orléans; and if you do not do so, you will shortly contemplate your great misfortunes.

      Written this Tuesday Holy Week.”

  46. ken locke

    Yves, The question of who Warren is must preceed what should she do from here. Strangely enough, I think she resembles Melcolm X. Like him, she seems to have that very rare talent of narrating concretely and genuinely the experience of the middle class (particularly that vast region where the working class overlaps into the middle class; Melcolm obviously did this for the urban black under-class).
    I believe that a people do not get mobilized until a leader accurately and incisively reflects their experience, like a mirror, undistorted by ideology. Such a leader must possess a rich biography and an even richer and rarer blending of poetic and politic perceptions. It may be that Warren is this kind of historic person.
    If she is then she should break from the Democratic party (like Melcolm broke from the Black Muslims) in order to develop a broader view and maintain an independent pulpit to sharpen her skills and deepen her dialogue with the middle class around its intuitive sense of being abandoned and used as swag for the financial plutocrats. In other words, if she is such a rare individual, she will continue to develop and not be captured by the snares and engines of our present clever and seductive but inately degenerative school of leadership.

  47. What A Joke

    I wonder if the unemployed/foreclosed upon are reading the gossip columns about what Liz’ll do next.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      No, the no SSI or no unemployment direct deposit is catching all of the attention from the debt ceiling gambit, something about rent and food being lost. Personalities on parade is on the entertainment HOLLYWOOD news shows, NOT THE DC ROLL CALL TIP SHEET and with younger, hotter looking, half naked babes.

  48. Snotty Harvard

    John Nichols is lame, no doubt about that. His sewage style is vapid, shallow even effeminately unattractive.
    But seeing he’s paid by the New Jack Times, it makes sense. Just like Gubbmint, incompetence floats to the top. Ass kissing sugary sweet terror-by-keyboard idiocy sells copy (moves bytes). Fraud by media, it’s how the country gets ‘er done.

  49. abprosper

    More on topic, Warren is a terrific, smart, honorable person and as such will not be allowed to get anything done on the Senate.

    The people there being as they are can’t risk real reform. It might cut into the banksters money

  50. tz

    Meanwhile today is another Ron Paul moneybomb – for someone who would end the wars, stop the corporatism, and the rest and might be the best choice in 2012.

    But I suspect all the “progressives” including those who aren’t yet apostate would still vote for Obama over Ron Paul if that is the contest.

    Kucinich has not announced, but I doubt the incumbency machine fueled by the *-industrial complex would allow any any chance on that side.

    You want change? hope? reformation? r3volotion? You aren’t going to get it from the Democrats.

  51. kievite

    I think that “Elisabeth Warren as a potential presidential candidate” problem should be analyzed from the point of view theory of “inverted totalitarian” (aka “managed democracy” or “Democracy Incorporated”).

    Inverted Totalitarianism does not mobilize its populations (the way communism and the Nazis did) but try to keep them quiet with Reality TV and consumer culture; it does not require unanimity among the people, but fosters a splintering of public opinion into multiple warring factions. The end result is a fake democracy, masking totalitarian control of corporate elite.

    The elite consists of representatives of finance, military, energy, government and ideology (which includes but not limited to religious organizations with political aspirations, like evangelicals).

    Out of those Elisabeth Warren can count only on support of a small part of ideology sector and may be small part of government who understand the danger of “Bushism”. In this case her best chances might be appropriation “change we can believe in” grass-root campaign from “Obama Inc” and direct attack on financial sector corruption (the theme of corruption can bring some independents and even moderate conservative voters). How viable is her candidacy within those constrains I don’t know, but clearly the charge of “no experience” can be levied pretty effectively against her as a Presidential candidate. From this point of view attempt to get first to the senate looks like a safer bet. Like “andi” mentioned:

    It was my impression the idea of her running for senate was put out by the Obama administration as a consolation prize to their shrinking base, and to get rid of her for a while. I never though much of it, it’s now repeated mainly by bots.

    They fear her.

    The quote “You can’t cheat an honest man” [WC Fields?] explains a lot about the dynamic between Warren and the Obama Admin I think. They try to manipulate her, and she goes all curious on them. Hard for these little freaks to deal with.

  52. Lyle

    Let Warren go on the stump and tell folks that the ethics of the financial services industry is worse than that of used car salespersons. Everyone in the industry tool lessons from the used car salespersons. So don’t trust them any further than you can throw them. If you don’t understand it get help from outside. This is the real message that is needed that in todays world you should trust very very few people.
    Of course politics is divided right now over whom you trust least the left business, the right government. I say trust neither any further than you can throw them.

  53. tdraicer

    One important thing I see as pretty consistently missing in analysis of how we got where we are (and by implication how we get out) is Obama’s skin color. Progressives flocked to him because of his historically historic father, but more importantly, it is the fact that most black Americans (for understandable but still wrong-headed reasons) continue to support Obama that keeps the remaining liberals in the Democratic Party virtually silent. Since the GOP embraced the Dixiecrats in the 60s, the fact the Democrats were the party with blacks in it was seen as its badge of honor, and that “black equals liberal” was taken as given.

    Well the identity politics trap snapped shut with Obama, and the result is that liberal critics who would be roasting Hillary alive if she were President and behaving like Obama, are mealy-mouthed at best with him. To ignore that factor in liberal lameness imo is to miss a key element, and invite a similar error in the future.

  54. Jackrabbit

    ** Originally posted in today’s Links section **
    I think there may well be more to the Warren story.

    Obama could have made a recess appointment. He didn’t. I imagine that he came up with some excuse like that it would be against his basic philosophy of governing (consensus, “reaching across the aisle”, etc.) so in his view recess appointments are a last resort after the Senate has not acted.

    He might have also “reasoned” that the time leading up to a last-minute nomination was Warren’s chance to convince her critics that she was suitable. But her critics, of course, were simply hoping that she would self destruct, and when she didn’t they used the time to formulate their opposition to the leadership structure of the new Agency. Yet the time may have also also allowed for the “development” of an alternative – Raj Date.

    AFTER the GOP articulated their “concerns” it was clear that any (Warren!) nomination would go nowhere until they were addressed. So why NOT nominate her then? I wonder if maybe Obama DID talk with her about a nomination? Tying up Warren for months as she waited for a Senate confirmation that would never come would keep her safely “in the tent.”(*-see below) And a Warren nomination would’ve also thrilled “the base.”

    IF Obama offered her the nomination, then either she rejected it (seeing the futility of accepting the poisoned chalice) or it was shot down by Geithner because Warren had proven to be too good at moving herself/her agenda forward, or there was a different strategy afoot – installing Raj Date as Director?

    I see Richard Cordray as Warren’s choice. I think Geithner would have preferred Raj Date (Harvard MBA, Deutsche Bank, Capital One) – who was floated as likely to be Obama’s pick for weeks before. Then, a week after a “rumor” that Geithner might leave the administration, Cordray is picked.

    One can only speculate at this point, but its not hard to imagine that Date was “suggested” as an alternative once Warren had some to understand that GOP intransigence would mean that she would never be Director of the Agency. But if Geithner (and the FIRE industry) liked/supported Date, then one could imagine that some deal (as part of the debt ceiling talks?) might’ve been struck that allowed Date to ultimately become Director of the Agency.

    Why DIDN’T Warren accept Date? She must have pushed HARD for Cordray, who doesn’t have the same credentials, and who – if seen as a Warren protege – would have the same problem getting Senate confirmation as Warren. Prehaps the more that Obama/Geithner pushed for Date, the more suspicious Warren felt.

    So I wonder if there were machinations behind the scenes that will come out at a later date. Was Warren offered the nomination but turned it down (dodging a “bullet” that would’ve sidelined her for months *)? Why didn’t she accept Date as the nominee? Did she simply push for her own guy or did she suspect that GOP resistance might vanish once an industry-acceptable candidate were offered?

    Does any of this shed some light on her thinking about whether to run for Brown’s Senate seat? I just don’t see her as being too keen on being a politician. While she may navigate the political system to achieve an end, I don’t think she is comfortable with compromising her principles for self advantage. I think that this is reflected in her refusal to go along with a Date nomination.

    * Note: I believe/suspect that the acting head of the Agency until a nominee is confirmed is the Treasury Secretary and that Warren’s position as Advisor to the Treasury Secretary and President terminates upon a nomination (whether that is Warren or someone else).

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