Washington, Oct 31 (AFP/APP): Born into a modest, conservative family in pioneer heartland Oklahoma, erstwhile Republican Elizabeth Warren has emerged as a new hope for progressives seeking to oust President Donald Trump one year from now.
The 70-year-old former schoolteacher, lawyer and consumer advocate has rocketed to the top tier in the crowded Democratic nominations race, impressing voters with her copious policy plans and blunt talk about ending the corporate stranglehold on government.
Now as a sitting US senator — and potentially the next president — she seeks to modify the rules of an economy that she says favors big business as well as wealthy, well-connected Americans.
“If we are going to make change in this country, it can’t be one statute over here, a couple of little regulations over there,” Warren said in mid-October at a rally in Norfolk, Virginia.
“What we’ve got to have in this country is big, structural change.”
That message has resonated with a leftward-tilting Democratic base frustrated by a system that has locked America’s working class in financial inertia, even as Trump has claimed major economic successes during his presidency.
With one year to go until the country votes on November 3, 2020, Warren’s assuredly liberal plans — for ending rampant inequality, rebuilding the middle class, breaking corporate monopolies, protecting women’s reproductive rights and canceling student loan debt — have already taken concrete form and are published on her website.
She has risen from about five percent support when she launched her campaign on New Year’s Eve 2018 to 22 percent today, six points behind frontrunner Joe Biden in the latest RealClearPolitics poll aggregate.
The small crowds that greeted her at early campaign events now number in the thousands.
And she has become a fundraising juggernaut, raising $24.6 million in the third quarter, far more than Biden, despite eschewing corporate money and wealthy fundraisers.
– Outright ‘capitalist’ –
She has also eclipsed Bernie Sanders, the liberal senator who authored the universal health care bill that Warren backs.
Sanders embraces his socialist label, but in distancing herself from her good friend, Warren insists she is “capitalist to my bones,” a characterization she hopes can win over moderates.
Warren often appears stiff on television, but her personality shines through on the campaign trail.
She struck an inspiring, folksy image in Norfolk, taking the stage to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” an anthem of America’s working women.
Wearing sneakers and a pumpkin-colored cardigan sweater, she joked about her ex-husband and spotlighted her humble roots growing up “on the ragged edge of the middle class,” where at age 12 she watched her family struggle after her father, the sole breadwinner, suffered a heart attack.
Her mother managed to keep the family from bankruptcy by working a minimum wage job, but today, Warren warns, such modest salaries can no longer keep families afloat, and minorities are particularly vulnerable.
“Today, there are fewer paths to America’s middle class and even fewer second chances,” Warren said in her debut campaign ad, which aired Saturday.
In a voice that often quavers, the ad features her attacking the system she says Trump is perpetuating.
“We have a government that works for the rich and the powerful and leaves everyone else behind. It’s corruption, pure and simple.”
– ‘From the ashes’ –
As her popularity has expanded, so has the criticism. Democratic rivals have attacked her lack of clarity on how to pay for Medicare for All, estimated to cost $14 to $34 trillion.
Centrists such as Biden say the exorbitant cost is unworkable. Warren says she will release details soon.
One way she proposes paying for her policies is through a two percent tax on the super-rich that would bring in $2.75 trillion over 10 years.
Until the 1990s Warren was a Republican. She says it took time for her activist political views to take root, but she eventually abandoned the Grand Old Party when she felt it was cozying up to Wall Street.
A specialist in bankruptcy law, Warren sounded the financial alarm long before the 2008 crisis. She was called on by Congress to oversee implementation of the financial sector bailout plan, before President Barack Obama tapped her to create a watchdog agency protecting the rights of financial consumers.
For years Trump has hounded Warren over her exaggerated claims of Native American heritage, going so far as to mock her with the racial slur “Pocahontas.”
But in mid-October, after Warren made clear the attacks did not diminish her, Trump signaled he had newfound respect for his rival.
“She rose from the ashes, and I give her credit for that,” the president told Fox News.