I’ve been excited about Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy since the day she announced her campaign. It seemed to my tiny lady brain that that campaign was built on a salient diagnosis of the political industrial complex, and a package of plans that aim to dismantle the system which consolidates wealth and power in the hands of a few corrupt officials.
Unfortunately, I can no longer ignore the claims of hypocrisy waged against her. I’m sorry to say I have a creeping suspicion that Elizabeth Warren has proposed a platform of big, structural change because she is trying to get attention.
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There was fresh cause for concern on Sunday, when I spotted a Politico headline announcing some breaking news on Twitter. “NEW:” it read, “Sen. Elizabeth Warren disclosed receiving $1.9 million from private legal work since 1986, including earnings from large corporate clients.”
$1.9 million, I thought. That’s practically $2 million.
I was desperate to make sense of the idea that the candidate trying to take on corporate greed might herself be a raging Scrooge McDuck. After using three different calculators, and sobbing on the phone to my high school math teacher, I was able to determine that $1.9 million over 36 years amounts to $55,000 a year. Still, the point remains: Can we trust a woman who has made money for her work?
Warren released the list of clients she’d worked with as part of an escalating battle of transparency with Pete Buttigieg. Earlier this month, she’d called for the mayor of South Bend to open his private campaign events to the press, “so that anyone can come in and report on what’s being said.”
Warren and Buttigieg make for distinct foils. She has sworn off campaign donations from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists, denying special access to wealthy donors and refusing to ask billionaires to launch PACs on her behalf. In October, she went one step further, rejecting all big donations from big tech. Explaining the decision, she wrote on her website that she will refuse “contributions over $200 from executives at big tech companies, big banks, private equity firms, or hedge funds.” (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is so terrified of Warren that in leaked audio obtained by The Verge, he called her candidacy an “existential threat,” and said he will “go to the mat and fight” if she is elected. This stands in stark contrast to Buttigieg, who reportedly emailed Zuckerberg about who to hire for his campaign.)
Buttigieg has since conceded to Warren’s criticism over his campaign’s lack of transparency, vowing to open his fundraisers to reporters. Although, as I ponder the sincerity of Warren’s attacks on the candidate from Indiana, it is hard to ignore the reality of her hypocrisy: She used to take donations from big donors before she stopped doing that.
I remember seeing the story on the front page of the New York Times about this “open secret.” In print, the paper of record ran the article with a photo of Warren’s face ensconced in shadow, as if shrouded in the literal darkness of dark money. When I first read the piece, I wanted to agree with a quote from Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has endorsed Warren. “There’s a perverse incentive system for public officials,” he said. “If candidates continue the big-money status quo, you don’t get called a hypocrite. But if you stick your neck out, take chances, challenge power, and try to change the system step by step, you get criticized for not taking every step possible all at once.”
Now that I am reckoning with the scope of Warren’s alleged transformation, I have to wonder — wouldn’t it be easier to respect her if she continued to profit from the corruption she seeks to dismantle?
My research into the true nature of Warren’s soul turned up devastating results. The final nail in the coffin of my naiveté was an op-ed published by Nathan Robinson in The Guardian. “Progressives, trust your gut,” the title read. “Elizabeth Warren is not one of us.” The piece recalls that Warren was a Republican until she registered as a Democrat in 1996.
The supposed cause for this shift is well known. Warren identified as a moderate economic conservative before studying medical bankruptcy. Over the course of her academic inquiry, she and her team sought to unpack the underlying causes of financial distress. Warren would have us believe that the results of that in-depth empirical research transformed her, first ideologically, then politically.
Before being elected to the Senate in 2013, she proposed and established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has returned almost $12 billion in refunds and cancelled debts to 29 million consumers. This woman really wants us to believe that a hard-fought epiphany was the inciting incident for a meaningful evolution that led to decades of progressive advocacy work with a pragmatic impact. The audacity of this sort of blatant opportunism is impossible to stomach.
In April 2017, Warren said she was troubled to hear that former President Barack Obama had accepted $400,000 to talk at a Wall Street conference that coming September. She had previously countered Obama’s claim that “the system is not as rigged as you think,” writing that, “In fact, it’s worse than most Americans realize.” In response to Obama’s speaking gig, Warren asserted that money is “a snake that slithers through Washington,” and to that, I must ask: How would she know about the nature of slithering, if she were not herself reptilian?
It is with a heavy heart that I must withdraw my support of Elizabeth Warren. Maybe I could respect her, if, instead of reforming her behavior, she had seen the results of her research to its natural capitalistic conclusion, using her bankruptcy expertise to start a subprime loan company featuring a slutty Mr Monopoly as its logo. At least then her motivations would be clear.
In the end, it is obvious to me that the only way Warren could have maintained the illusion of authenticity is by not running for office at all. Asking people to believe in a woman who is vying for power to change an imperfect system, without herself being perfect, is a ridiculous display of hypocrisy that simply cannot be ignored.
I will need some time to choose a new presidential candidate, but right now I am considering Mike Bloomberg.