As Senator-elect Elizabeth (“Ol’ Blood ‘n’ Teeth”) Warren prepares to accept her seat on the Banking Committee it is well to remember that she is not joining some version of the FDR 100 Days Democratic Party. I recalled this recently while reading a short New Yorker piece which recounted a Priorities USA Action ad called Stage.
The ad featured an Indiana paper plant worker who told of how one day he and some co-workers were told to build a stage. When it was built he and the workers from all three shifts were shuffled in front of the stage, where it was announced that Bain Capital had bought the paper mill and they were all fired. According to the ad, Mitt Romney made more than a million dollars on that deal.
But that isn’t the interesting part. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker characterizes the reaction: They “fielded bitter complaints from Democrats who were cozy with the private-equity industry.” Bill Burton of Priorities USA Action said: “When we first went up, there was a lot of pressure on us from people like Steve Rattner, Cory Booker, Harold Ford, and even President Clinton. The leaders of our own party were telling us to quit.”
Back before the Banking Committee appointment, when Wall Street was pulling out all stops to prevent “Ol’ Blood ‘n’ Teeth” from being appointed to the Banking Committee, MIT’s Professor Simon Johnson told the Sunday New York Times: “Not putting her on banking would make the Democratic Party look like a creature of Wall Street, which, by the way, it is,” Professor Johnson said. “But they don’t like to be too explicit about it.” Just after the election Professor Simon had cheered Warren’s victory in these terms: “Her victory matters not only because it helps the Democrats keep control of the Senate but also because Ms. Warren has a track record of speaking truth to authority on financial issues – both to officials in Washington and to powerful people on Wall Street.”
A reporter called the other day to ask my opinion of how Warren might do in the Senate. The premise was the institution has its ways and has made a practice of cutting celebrity freshmen down to size. As I told the reporter though, anyone who has been Harvard law faculty has had sufficient experience dealing with big egos. Wall Street may think anyone who doesn’t worship at the altar of Goldman Sachs is some sort of socialist, but capitalism works when it is open and fair and that is what Senator-elect Warren promises.
It is going to be fun to watch.