This one’s not for you, Republicans. Please move along quietly. You’ve had your fair share. This one’s for Democrats, who are about to be bathed in barrels of ink long spilled, to such poor effect, on you.
Revealing an unsuspected appetite for bedlam, Republicans have taken a wrecking ball to the Republic. Democrats promise to restore good order and sanity. And so begins history’s perhaps most high-stakes, consequential race for the White House.
Elizabeth Warren was first to bolt from the starting gate, with a veritable multitude of candidates expected to trot out in her wake. Voters once again will be tasked with winnowing ill-suited careerists and knaves from candidates of sounder mind and mettle.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former San Antonio mayor and Obama administration Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii jumped in after Warren.
Other possibilities include senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, occasional Democrat Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California (who declared this week), Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware.
At this writing they’ve not announced, though Biden, two-time unsuccessful presidential candidate, let slip that he’s the most qualified to be president. He has a point, if experience and likeability count.
But we’re still at that star-struck stage where there’s sideline chatter about other possible saviors, such as the winsome young three-term U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas. Though it must be said that reasonable minds would do well to ask: “What makes a promising presidential candidate of someone who cannot even win an election in his own state against the execrable Ted Cruz?”
O’Rourke has been dinged, perhaps fairly, for his inordinate fondness of defaulting to the “let’s have more debate” mode to solve thorny issues — such as the immigration mess in his district — instead of offering actual policy proposals.
What about Jay?
Jay Inslee, our governor and a former Congressman, announced last week in the Washington Post that he’s considering entering the fray because the next president must make climate change the nation’s top priority.
Inslee is right. Issues we’re now fighting about will become worse (immigration, for one) or irrelevant, without a rapid, full-bore “Manhattan Project” effort to switch to clean energy. Inslee, 67, deservedly earns good marks nationally for his climate initiatives. But he’s been unable to get carbon reduction legislation passed in his own state.
Gabbard, 37, is a major in the Hawaiian National Guard who served two tours of duty in the Middle East. She led opposition to Hawaii’s gay marriage legislation and irritates some Democratic colleagues with unpredictable behavior.
Gillibrand, 52, an attorney and former moderate Democrat, apparently had a head-spinning change of heart when she moved from the House to the Senate.
In the House, Gillibrand campaigned against amnesty for illegal immigrants and pledged to protect gun rights. In the Senate she moved from getting an “A” grade from the National Rifle Association to an “F” and became the first senator to call for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. She now champions liberal causes, positioning herself as an advocate for women’s equality.
But back to Warren, the Massachusetts senator, prominent Harvard bankruptcy and commercial law professor and mother of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She would become president at age 70.
Warren too had a change of heart: until 1997, she was a Republican. But she concluded that the Republican Party is no longer fiscally conservative and that Congress has gifted the financial system and corporations with license to disempower American citizens.
Mind, this woman is a capitalist. It’s just that she prefers fettered capitalism to the unfettered kind that triggered the 2008 financial collapse and, some economists warn, is poised to do it again. She wants structural changes in our economic system, a shift of power from predator to prey. Not to put too fine a point on it.
Wall Street fears Warren because she insists consumers are entitled to legal protections and fair treatment. But really. Isn’t that un-American? Hello?
Warren hails from “the ragged edge of the middle class” and, at 64, was a latecomer to politics. She hasn’t spent her life plotting career moves that would position her to become president of the United States. She’s been consistent, rightly warning that the financial system is rigged to promote inequality, is dangerously corrupted and has to be fixed. In this, she’s the real deal.
She quite accidentally became a national figure after she was asked to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel during the 2008 financial meltdown. She turned out to be a powerful public speaker who excels at connecting with ordinary people.
Predictably, critics dismiss Warren’s candidacy with the “angry woman” put-down. Undeniably, she’s a fighter. Very scary, even in Year of Our Lord 2019.
In a saner world we’d welcome a presidential candidate who’s actually expert enough, and tough enough, to confront the economic misrule that’s weakened the nation and taken such an unfair, heavy financial toll on American taxpayers and their families.
The Democratic Party has been seriously complicit in abetting the Republican-led shift of power and wealth from families on Main Street to titans on Wall Street. Democrats abandoned the people they claimed to represent. And the nation has reaped the whirlwind.
Who knows? Elizabeth Warren’s improbable candidacy may turn out to be a gift of redemption for the Democratic Party.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.