Does Elizabeth Warren Matter Politically?

<a href="">New America Foundation</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

A friend emails to express skepticism about the potential appointment of bailout cop Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (I added the bits in brackets):

Why do people [e.g. Paul Krugman and Newsweek and our own Reid Cramer] keep saying that appointing Elizabeth Warren would be a “political winner” with independents, or even liberals? If one percent of the population knows her name, I will be shocked. She’s an unknown wonk who would be attacked just like [Medicare head Donald Berwick] was. Literally the only people who will be disappointed if she isn’t nominated will be the people saying EVERYONE will be disappointed.

What am I missing?

There’s definitely an element of truth to this. Even liberal populists can get caught up in the DC circus and forget that the things they care about aren’t even mentioned at most dinner tables. There’s no doubt that Warren is highly, and perhaps uniquely, qualified for the position. (The banks’ vehement opposition to her nomination suggests as much.) But despite her Dr. Phil appearances (they’re old pals) and best-selling books, I doubt many Americans know who she is.

In the long run, the administration’s will be well-served by an efficient and well-run CFPA with a hard-charging director. Warren could be that director. But no one should pretend that Barack Obama or the Democrats are going to get a big boost in their approval ratings for appointing a Harvard prof to run a bureau many Americans probably don’t haven’t even heard of yet. The economy is bad. Until they fix that, no amount of Warren magic is going to save them.

(Reid Cramer disagrees, though.)


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend