MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
One of the masterful characteristics of Elizabeth Warren is her discipline when it comes to progressive advocacy. She knows how to stay on point.
Of course, progressives rightfully love Bernie Sanders. He is the professor of underscoring the narrative of economic injustice in the United States with facts. His multi-hour filibuster of the Senate in December of 2010 was a tour de force, offering up a true State of the Union address. Bernie is the progressive Jeremiah, the articulator of a righteous public policy path.
Warren may or may not be more progressive than Sanders (we really don't know a lot of her positions on issues that are non-economic, particularly foreign policy), but she is a figure who is focused, disciplined, passionate and has a compelling narrative. On television, Sanders looks like a rumpled liberal professor with whom you nod your head in agreement, but it is not clear that he is breaking through to the middle and working classes. (It should be noted that Sanders was a regular BuzzFlash reader in our early years and always receptive to interviews.)
Warren, however, is a radiant media presence. She has the ability to convey a confidence in her convictions that makes her assertions all the more credible to the viewer. On the verge of finishing up an extensive media exposure tour for her new book, A Fighting Chance, Warren brings a frame to the conversation of economic injustice that is compelling not really because of her academic background, but due to her common-sense phrasing of financial struggles experienced by the 99%.
Born into what became a lower-middle-class family in Oklahoma, Warren, at 16, won the high school debate championship in the Sooner State - and with it, an eventual debate scholarship to George Washington University. She didn't need to create what Mark Leibovich, author of This Town, recently called an "adversity narrative"; Warren lived it.
Then she became a lawyer and began to see how middle-class people were entering bankruptcy due to predatory financial practices. That changed her life, and since then she has been concentrating on legal and economic reform to assist those struggling for survival on increasingly limited incomes. With her daughter, Ameila Warren Tyagi, she wrote a book in 2004, The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are Going Broke.
By focusing on one or two issues at a time, Warren understands the modern world of mainstream and even progressive media. If a political figure or activist is too broad in their agenda, their multiple messages do not generally make it through the atomized and dispersed media prism. However, by repeatedly focusing on one issue, such as making college more affordable for most US students - and specifically, the issue of the interest rates charged on federal student loans - Warren is adopting a meme that is repeated in so many media appearances that it is penetrating through the media filter to the public.
During her short time in the Senate, not only has she championed various student loan initiatives favorable to those in need, but she is also doubling down and proposing that post-graduates paying interest rates that are higher than current rates should have them lowered to current rates.
Warren understands that you have to keep hammering away at the same rock in order to break it open, before you can move onto the next one. With few politicians in Congress not on the corporate campaign-funding payroll, changing systemic problems requires a concerted strategy that does not digress.
Warren doesn't appear to have an interest in joining the DC/NY insiders’ club. She has a few rocks to break on behalf of those who are struggling economically - and thus far, she's shown that she knows how to handle the axe.
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