February 19, 2013

Sit Down and Shut Up? ‘No Thanks,’ Says Elizabeth Warren (Loudly)

Print More

Ignorance is bliss, but I’m going to go ahead and shatter your peace by helpfully hyperlinking this week’s Politico article about freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma). Essentially, a handful of hopefuls are claiming that Warren has a “quiet plan” to become a “silent senator.” The article also features some apt editorializing that summarizes her “conspicuously quiet entrance to Congress” as  “in part a bid to prove she’s not [a] carpet-bagging bomb-thrower.”  She didn’t comment, and they didn’t offer any evidence aside from what equates to “one time she was eating lunch and didn’t want to talk to a posse of reporters whilst doing so.”

Clearly writing about how Warren is sitting down and shutting up is not actually going to force her to do so –– that’s not the concern. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) says, at the behest of no one, “Your colleagues here are not necessarily as impressed with you as those on the outside might be. You’ve got to earn their respect,” and David Sirota of Salon magazine says “what’s important here is what Politico actually got right in its story: namely, that the assumption in Washington is, indeed, that silence is a virtue.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Warren is “expected to follow [that] fairly well-established model for making the switch from national figure to freshman senator: Keep your head down and stay out of the limelight. ”For this model, the proof is in the pudding for Democrats, as many powerful Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had unsurprising and unmemorable Senate careers, including some absurdly passive-destructive voting that basically never gets mentioned.

Except for by Elizabeth Warren, who, with regard to the bankruptcy bill, has called Hillary Clinton out on caving to big business and being “unable to afford a principled position,” accused Joe Biden of “selling out women,” and publicly called for political factions to stop screwing each other over –– as religious groups, women and liberals should all have a vested interest in protecting the financial interests of families. These statements seem fair, if a little tactless, yet critics are quickly trying to assign Warren the rep of a hot-tempered bully who prefers to “leave blood and teeth on the floor.”

More upsettingly, this hasn’t held true for Republican freshman Senators. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx) got to pose for a dramatic Godfather IV photo to accompany his profile in The New York Times which cites his oh-so-triumphant victory silence at the filibuster vote on Chuck Hagel’s defense secretary nomination saying, “He absorbed what he had wrought in his mere seven weeks of Senate service.” (Some men … just want to watch the world burn.) After what many sane people are calling a display of old-school McCarthyism, Cruz is still being called “a jolt of positive energy” and “Washington’s new bad boy.” Other newcomers –– like Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa) who advocates jail time for doctors who perform abortions and Sen. Rand Paul (R- Ky) who tosses around comments about the preciousness of rape-induced life/the First Amendment meaning that discrimination is technically fine –– are literally never called crazies, or “carpet-bagging bomb-throwers.”

What is this? No one’s sure. But Sirota mourns the fact that “there isn’t one liberal senator who has been consistently willing to use the Senate platform and legislative mechanics to truly challenge the status quo with the same scorched earth intensity as a typical GOP freshman.”

Until now, that is.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is Warren’s brain-child, despite the GOP’s successful bullying to her out of its head position. And she recently stepped up to defend the Bureau, unabashedly calling the Republican blocking of Richard Cordray’s confirmation as director a blatant attempt to dismantle the bureau and “fundamentally wrong” in its antagonism of democracy. On the campaign trail, she curb-stomped “class warfare” rhetoric in a speech that became a Lennon and Maisy-rivaling YouTube hit, emphasizing the existence of the “underlying social contract.” In her DNC speech, she declared, “The system is rigged. [Wall Street CEOs] wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs” and yet “they still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.”

Warren’s got the Progressive Campaign Change Committee basically paying her to be awesome, giving her a little bit of room to stretch and she seems, despite Washington’s best efforts to silence her, perfectly willing to accept responsibility for her opinions: “No one is fooled about what I believe. It’s out there… I call it the way I see it. I do that regardless of political party, regardless of how powerful someone is.” Write what you want about her “not being Jesus,” Paul Krugman, but she’s the closest thing in a political environment that values people who, quite simply, don’t do their jobs.  “Silent senator,” is a term to banish from the common vernacular, and it’s a risky precedent, but a needed one, to encourage freshman Democrats to use their time in the Senate to do stuff in the Senate.

Original Author: Kaitlyn Tiffany