As the Democratic presidential primary campaign heated up earlier this year, I have to admit that I was not, at first, convinced by Elizabeth Warren.
First, I was concerned when last fall, she promoted the results of a DNA test revealing that she has some Native American ancestry dating back six to 10 generations. From an outside perspective, it appeared as if she had appropriated a Cherokee identity in order to settle a political controversy, specifically President Donald Trump disgracefully referring to her as “Pocahontas.”
Second, I thought that she was a firebrand who shot from the hip a little too readily. It seemed inevitable that she would shoot herself in the foot. I surmised that her radical — verging on abrasive — approach risked driving some voters away.
Third, I worried about her relative political inexperience; she was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, which means that even South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has more elected political experience than she. I knew she was second to none when it came to financial regulation, but I doubted her command of domestic and foreign policy.
Now, I’ve reevaluated my judgment on all three counts, and Warren’s steady upward trajectory in the polls suggests that the electorate has come to a similar consensus. According to RealClearPolitics’ latest polling data, Warren now commands 16.9 % of support among likely Democratic voters — leapfrogging Sen. Bernie Sanders for second place behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
She’s done more than just prove me wrong. In fact, I’m convinced that she’s Democrats’ best hope. (For what it’s worth, I have adhered a Warren sticker to my laptop lid that would be a huge pain to peel off).
Regarding her DNA test and appar- ent appropriation of Cherokee ancestry, she made a big-time mistake. But rarely have I seen politicians address their mistakes as honestly and with as much humility as Warren did. She said that she has listened to and learned from Native communities, developing a historically extensive policy agenda to help Native Americans in the process. Together with Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), she has presented a list of policy proposals that would tackle issues from housing to the opioid crisis in Native communities. Warren has also called for expanding the ability of tribal nations to prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes on their land.
Importantly, however, Warren’s candidacy has become the gold standard for a policy-driven campaign. It should be taken for granted in a presidential race, but Warren actually has ideas, and hers are detailed, daring and ambitious — so much that “she’s got a plan for that” has become its own meme. (Some supporters joke that Warren even has a plan to fix their love lives). True, by flooding the market with reams of honest, meticulously detailed policy proposals, she foregoes the visionary, Aaron Sorkinian image that often commands the most attention in breathless, horse-race coverage, but she’s shaping the debate. Single-handedly, she has elevated the Democratic primary beyond a mere pissing contest over who hates Donald Trump the most. Even if she is not the eventual nominee, she’s done a public service.
No matter your politics, I encourage you to pull out your phone, get a snack and take an hour to give Warren’s plans a serious read, as they are far too numerous and nuanced to adequately recount in a single column. For just about every grave threat Americans face today — and there are many — she presents a reasonable theory about the root causes of the problem as well as a creative, comprehensive and thoughtful vision for how to solve it. Her plans focus on five primary objectives: ending corruption in Washington, rebuilding the middle class, strengthening our democracy, repairing the broken justice system and practicing a foreign policy that works for all Americans. And unlike some of her colleagues in the race, she has a plan to pay for everything on her list, as her Ultra-Millionaire Tax would yield $2.75 trillion over the next ten years, enough for the “big structural change” that she promises.
Warren’s compassionate, warm style and smart, policy-driven substance are a breath of fresh air amidst politics that often focus singularly on the orange visage of one narcissistic man. The country she envisions is also worlds away from that envisioned by our dysfunctional, dishonest, corrupt and self-serving president. I’d like to live in Elizabeth Warren’s America.