Warren vs. Brown: The People's Seat

I vividly remember the first time I heard about Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. It was late June. I was sitting behind my desk at my summer internship, typing away at a letter, when MSNBC played a clip from one of Warren’s fundraising events for President Obama. In this soundbite, Mrs. Warren took aim at Mitt Romney’s claim that corporations are, in fact, people. “No, Mitt,” Warren chided. “Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they love, and they cry, and they dance. They live and they die. Learn the difference.” That was all I needed to hear. I was hooked. So, I took it upon myself to learn more about Warren and her campaign. I very much liked what I saw.

This election is not just about reelecting President Obama; it is also about preserving the slim Democratic majority in the Senate. My fellow Democrats: surely you remember the good old days of 2009, when Ted Kennedy still walked the halls of the U.S. Capitol? I know I do. His passing marked the end of the Democratic supermajority in the Senate as his seat went to Republican Scott Brown. Somehow, the famously liberal Massachusetts-state of the Kennedys, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis-had foisted upon the American public a conservative Senator. Sure, Brown’s campaign was enormously successful; people were so enamored of his truck-drivin’, folksy, regular-guy appeal that they forgot the fact that he owns six houses. But the “People’s Seat” was at stake, and Brown- allegedly a man of the people-was sworn in on February 4, 2010. The ramifications of his election were felt almost immediately, as his presence put the Affordable Care Act’s fate in jeopardy.

Surely, though, Brown hasn’t been all that bad? After all, the bill still passed. Brown votes with his party about 67% of the time, a number far lower than most Republicans. Recent statements by Brown, however, confirm his dedication to Republican policies and rhetoric on issues like the Bush tax cuts. When asked by radio host Jim Braude of Boston if he would vote to extend the cuts for those making under $250,000 per year, while raising taxes to pre-2001 levels on the wealthiest Americans, Brown said, “No… You’re talking about raising taxes on our job creators, our small-business owners.” And, as everyone knows, those poor job creators just refused to create any jobs before President Bush swept in with his benevolent tax reductions, didn’t they? Furthermore, in the center of the “Issues” page on his website, Senator Brown put a very simple phrase: “Repeal Obamacare.” In short, the “People’s Seat” has been filled by a man not of the people, but of the special interests and corporations dedicated to keeping money and influence in this country in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

Warren, on the other hand, is running a very different kind of campaign. She has pledged to defend the Affordable Care Act in the face of continued Republican opposition. Furthermore, she has pledged to strengthen the bill for American families suffering from bankruptcy due to their health problems. Warren’s true passion lies here: in the protection of the rights of the people. Her advocacy led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011. Republicans ran scared at the thought of Warren becoming the Bureau’s first director, and she was not put up for the position on the basis of fear of Republican opposition. The Director of the Bureau is currently Richard Cordray. When Republicans come at the organization from all sides, Warren’s voice will be sorely needed in the Senate to stand in its defense. Her goal, and, by extension, the goal of the Bureau, is to prevent more risky business dealings and practices that began the recession of 2008.

I am always amazed at the ability of members of the public to vote against their own self-interests. If the people of Massachusetts want healthcare reform overturned and control over their rights as patients returned to insurance companies, then they should vote for Scott Brown. If they want to perpetuate our deficit by hanging on to tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, then Scott Brown is their guy. If they want continued opposition to marriage equality, closing tax loopholes for big oil, the creation of American jobs, and the “Buffett Rule,” then they need look no further than Scott Brown. For those who want progress on these issues and a new voice for the American consumer, there’s Elizabeth Warren. Her Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has already begun investigating the affairs of credit card companies, as stated by Warren in her rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention. The latest polls from the Western New England University Polling Institution show Warren up by six percentage points (50% to Brown’s 44%). For the sake of the voiceless among us- those without a special interest group or lobbyist- let’s hope this is a sign of good things to come for Warren. After all, the “People’s Seat” is waiting.

On Super Tuesday, a Super Hard Decision for a Super Liberal

I would like to thank the Tenth Amendment and the beauty of the Massachusetts voter registration system for letting me and other liberal Democrats do fun things like vote in the Republican primary. Like the majority of voters in the state, I am registered as “unenrolled,” which means that I can decide which party’s ballot I want for the primaries. Because of ethical qualms, I am not joining the liberals-voting-for-Santorum bandwagon, but I did come to a decision after careful deliberation. Here is my process of elimination thought process, from the most to least despicable option.

Rick Santorum: Former Senator Santorum can’t wrap his mind around one of the most fundamental truths of the American tradition: that the separation of church and state is mutually beneficial and essential to the survival of both. A President Santorum just may eclipse the legacy of his Catholic predecessor. While President John F. Kennedy challenged his country to fight for social justice and scientific excellence, Santorum would set America dangerously far back on both of these fronts. Santorum stood behind the intelligent design education movement in Pennsylvania in the infamous 2004 Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, which threatened to undermine the quality of science education throughout the nation by incorporating religion into the public classroom. Denying the valiant efforts that female soldiers have made on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan and claiming that hardworking single mothers form the base of the Democratic Party because they need government handouts are just a few of his words of wisdom. In this race of terrible candidates, he is still last by many, many miles.

Write in—Chicken Madness: Sadly, only makes sense in GUSA elections.

Ron Paul: While Dr. Paul’s plans to reduce national defense spending and his advocacy for personal liberties seem to jive well with Democratic ideals, several elements of his campaign platform would seriously undermine the progress we have witnessed throughout the Obama years. Why, exactly, someone who plans to destroy essential components of the national government (i.e. the Federal Reserve) wants to be president is an irony beyond comprehension. His “America first” attitude does nothing but reinforce the psychology of the past. There is something to be said for redesigning the way that foreign aid is distributed to ensure that it doesn’t fall into the hands of dictators, but Dr. Paul insists that it be ceased entirely. Sorry, developing nations throughout the world, the 1% of the United States federal budget you take is really giving the government bad street cred among upper class Americans. He’s all for personal liberties, unless you’re a fully-grown woman with her own conscience and body. Dr. Paul’s stance on abortion is extremely hypocritical and ignores an important part of the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Roe v. Wade determined that decisions about abortion are a right reserved to the people, not the states, as Paul believes they should be. I explain my opinion of Dr. Paul to my libertarian friends this way: he is an ideology, not a candidate. A very ignorant, entitled ideology that is a poor reflection of what American society should be.

Mitt Romney: To be honest, if I had to pick the next president from this bunch, I would undoubtedly choose my former governor. He really wasn’t all that bad, and as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, the first universal healthcare law in this country would not have been possible without him. He is, in my very subjective opinion, the most genuinely good person in the group. He hasn’t had multiple affairs to the best of public knowledge, ripped apart minority groups while threatening to unify church and state, or insisted that America stop aiding struggling nations. I can’t bring myself to vote for him for the simple fact that I can’t participate in his winning Massachusetts. The only thing that would be more embarrassing than losing Michigan would be losing the state where he was once the head executive. Senator Scott Brown epitomizes a Massachusetts Republican—fiscally conservative but socially moderate—and Romney fits this description far better than his main rival Santorum. He will win here today, but my conscience will be clear.

Newt Gingrich: Picking Newt Gingrich is like taking a really difficult multiple-choice test. All of the answers seem wrong, but it’s better to guess than to do nothing. Considering how many people have died for the right to vote, how many still risk their lives trying to, and how much gratitude I owe to the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, I feel morally obligated to exercise this right. To be fair, I’ll give Newt credit where credit is due. Unlike most GOP politicians, Speaker Gingrich actually worked with Democrats to get something remarkable done in balancing the budget with Clinton.

So, Newt it is. I was so hoping that Jon Huntsman would still be hanging on at this point, but, unfortunately, he couldn’t quite master the art of Rush Limbaugh-style advertising: saying crazy, insulting things to make yourself popular. It’s fitting that my polling location is an elementary school, because sometimes I feel like I’m voting for president of the third grade.

Mitt's Massachusetts

There are many misconceptions about the Bay State. We don’t all go to Hahvahd, have a Kennedy in the family, or drive like crazed NASCAR racers. Likewise, the idea that Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial stint was some kind of anomaly, a one-time lapse in the otherwise solidly blue judgment of the good people of the state, is entirely false. In fact, before the current Democratic Governor Deval Patrick defeated Romney in 2007, Massachusetts hadn’t elected a Democrat to the office since Michael Dukakis exited in 1991. While the state may have an overwhelmingly Democratic delegation in both the state and national legislatures, Bay Staters know a powerful executive when they see one. Romney’s 2002 victory was greatly aided by his tremendous success in rescuing the Salt Lake Olympics, only further adding to his reputation as an intellectual businessman. As ironic as it sounds, I would argue that Romney had an easier time winning in the nation’s bluest state than he would in a national contest against President Obama.

Massachusetts exemplifies progressivism and enacted several of its most liberal and forward-thinking reforms during the Romney administration. The legalization of same-sex marriage and the passage of a universal healthcare law—the greatly sensationalized “Romneycare”—may not be the defining moments of most Republican gubernatorial terms, but Massachusetts just isn’t quite like anywhere else. The state legislature at the time Romney was elected was 85% Democratic, which put an obvious check on the governor’s power (FactCheck.org). The state’s voters had called for an effective administrator, not a political game changer. The judiciary and legislature’s liberal compositions are precisely what made Romney so electable; left-leaning independents and even many Democrats felt comfortable voting for a divided government, because that’s exactly what they wanted to do. A history of electing Republican governors signifies a desire to preserve some sort of balance in the state house. The conservative governor’s veto could, however, be easily overruled by the party that has enjoyed such a stronghold over the state for decades. Gingrich and the rest of the Republican Party are incorrect to assume that Romney was electable because he is a “liberal” or even a moderate. He is a conservative, and everyone knew it. We just had plenty of liberals actually making our laws.

The national Congress, however, is extremely partisan. Neither party enjoys the dominance that the Democrats do in Massachusetts. Whichever candidate wins the presidential election will have significantly more power than Romney ever did as governor. This time, Romney is no longer just a good businessman, but also a political figure with the potential to make real changes. The electorate, therefore, has to more closely examine his stances on social, foreign, and economic policy. His conservatism may not be more pronounced than it was while he was governor, but it is now a more important factor in the decision. Unlike in Massachusetts, voters on the national scale don’t have the luxury of forcibly creating a bipartisan government that functions effectively with one party controlling the executive and the other the legislative. While Romney has attempted to distance himself from “Romneycare,” the truth is that the law would never have been passed had he not been as invested in its creation as the liberal legislature was. Cooperation will not be so easy when Congress will almost certainly be split down the middle.

What I believe will ultimately hurt Romney the most, however, is not the false perception that he is a Massachusetts moderate, but rather that he is more Nantucket than working class Worcester. Senator Scott Brown’s statewide and national popularity comes from what Romney lacks: a sense of empathy with the common American. While Massachusetts may have few reservations about electing those whom others perceive as elitist—John Kerry and the Kennedys being the most notable examples—the rest of the country does. Romney can dress down in blue jeans all he wants, but it may take campaigning around the country in a pickup truck like Brown did across my small state to actually make a dent in his reputation.