Speculation about 2020 is kicking into gear after her latest spat with the Donald. The path is not a clear one—but the Massachusetts Senator continues to impressby Diane Roberts / November 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
“They call her Pocahontas,” said Donald Trump.
Actually, they call her “Senator.” He calls her Pocahontas. Good manners has never been among the president’s priorities, and Elizabeth Warren, elected to the upper house of the United States Congress in 2012, is one of Trump’s bête noires. Trump, who likes to hurl epithets at his enemies (“Rocket Man,” “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary”) heard that Warren once claimed some small degree of Cherokee ancestry and promptly took to referring to her by the only name of a female Native American he knew: Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of Tsenacommacah in what would later become the state of Virginia.
Warren is accustomed to Republican abuse. And at the moment it’s coming at her thick and fast as she tries to defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency dedicated to shielding ordinary Americans from the predations of Wall Street. Warren conceived of the agency in 2010 when she was merely a professor at Harvard and economic advisor to Barack Obama.
As an expert in bankruptcy law who’d long advocated for accountability from large financial institutions, she helped craft the Dodd-Frank Act, overhauling the US financial regulatory regime. Included in the legislation was her baby, the CFPB. Warren had hoped to become its first director, but Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm her. President Obama chose Richard Cordray, an Oxford-trained lawyer and former Attorney General of Ohio, to head the agency. Warren decided to run for office from Massachusetts, handily beating the incumbent senator, Republican Scott Brown.
Now she’s fighting for the survival of the CFPB. Cordray, eyeing a run for governor of Ohio, resigned on 24th November, giving Trump and the CEO suck-up wing of the Republican Party a chance to torpedo an agency they detest—Trump calls the CFPB “a total disaster.” As he has with other federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, Trump appointed an interim director who thinks the CFPB should be abolished: White House Budget Chief Mick Mulvaney, who calls the agency a “sad, sick joke,” and vows to overhaul it to “protect people without trampling on capitalism.”
“The Bernie Sanders wing of the party loves Warren”
Elizabeth Warren refuses to suffer this assault on her principal legacy in silence. She says the law states the interim director should run the CFPB until the senate acts on a formal nomination and tweeted: “The CFPB has returned $12 billion to working families who were cheated. That’s government that works for the people, @realDonaldTrump.” Indeed, it’s been, by all independent measures, quite a success. The CFPB demanded that credit card and mortgage disclosures be written in plain English instead of Old Accountantese and fined misbehaving financial firms $600 million, including $100 from Wells Fargo for opening fake accounts in real customers’ names. The CFPB is also popular, even with Tea Party types and other “forgotten Americans” Donald Trump promised to champion.
In reality, Trump’s “forgotten Americans” look suspiciously like Goldman Sachs’s upper management. He’s run a government by, of, and for the rich, a point Warren will undoubtedly make over and over in her 2018 senate re-election campaign. She will probably win, too—Massachusetts being a heavily Democratic state—then speculation about 2020 will kick into top gear.
The Bernie Sanders wing of the party loves Warren. During the debate over Trump’s nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to be United States Attorney General in February this year, Warren quoted the late Ted Kennedy and Martin Luther King’s widow Coretta in opposition to Sessions, whose record on civil rights is not exactly impeccable. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell famously cut her off for daring to impugn the motives of a fellow senator, piously mansplaining: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” McConnell’s words appeared, almost instantly, on T-shirts worn by college students, soccer mums, and grannies throughout the land. Many of them will call for Warren to run for president, certain she can succeed where Hillary Clinton failed.
But it’s unclear that Warren’s popularity with progressives will translate into national campaign success. Republicans will call her an “elitist,” hanging the egghead millstone of Harvard around her neck. Never mind that Warren grew up in a lower middle-class family in Oklahoma and went to university on a scholarship, Trumpists will label her as a creature of “Taxachusetts,” dedicated to godlessness and globalism. Much will depend on Warren’s fight to save the CFPB, currently subject to a court battle over the directorship, as well as Democratic wins (or losses) in the 2018 midterm elections.
Donald Trump will lose no chance to attack Warren, as he did the other day while supposedly honoring the Navajo code talkers of World War II. While Trump’s supporters applaud his lack of “political correctness,” every time he calls a senator “Pocahontas,” he raises her national profile and helps her raise money.