by Brent Budowsky
Shortly after she was nominated by Massachusetts Democrats to run for the Senate seat once held by the indescribably missed Edward Kennedy, Elizabeth Warren pulled out her cellphone and listened to a voicemail recording from Kennedy, which she saved for inspiration, about the consumer protection agency they battled together to create.
To understand why Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is the fastest-rising new star in the Democratic Party, the de facto leader of the progressive movement in America and a great hope for Democrats to lift their turnout in the coming midterm elections, read her new book, titled A Fighting Chance.
There are Kennedy stories in A Fighting Chance, and anecdotes about her life and experiences that reveal why Warren’s appeal extends beyond conventional liberals and inspires many in the heartland who seek a fighting chance in a fair economy.
Warren’s book reads like a family dinner discussion. Her dad was a maintenance man and her mom worked the phones at Sears. One day, while Elizabeth was growing up in Oklahoma City, she noticed that the family station wagon was gone. She asked her mom why the station wagon had disappeared. The answer came: “We couldn’t pay. They took it.”
Warren knows from experience and writes with warmth that every day in America there are boys and girls asking moms and dads why the family car is gone, why the family home was taken away, why Mom or Dad has lost a job, and why so Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, desperately struggling to make ends meet.
Warren combines qualities associated with both Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. She might be the closest embodiment on the political stage of the moral teachings of Pope Francis on matters of economics, finance, social justice, poverty and reform.
Warren’s good name and inspiration will be a powerful weapon for Democrats to bring out voters in a midterm election in which they face a major turnout challenge. Her book tour will bring her message to a large national audience. Her campaigning for Democrats in 2014 will motivate a disillusioned Democratic base to vote. Her prodigious fundraising from small donors and wealthy liberals is now in the service of her party through her donations to candidates and causes she believes in.
Warren’s large message resonates powerfully with a vast constituency of Americans who believe Washington is corrupted by a game that is fixed and a deck that is stacked against them.
In her chapter about “the bankruptcy wars,” Warren describes her service on a commission designed to help consumers by reforming bankruptcy laws, which led to legislation that was hijacked by banking lobbyists, whom her ally, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), once famously said “own this place.”
A Fighting Chance explains how Warren, Kennedy and Durbin won many fights against anti-consumer bankruptcy legislation that, at one key moment, then-first lady Hillary Clinton opposed and then-President Bill Clinton vetoed. It tells, finally, after much battle and many campaign donations, after a political game that Warren correctly describes as rigged, how bankers won and consumers lost that round in a battle she continues today.
In her chapter about “bailing out the wrong people” Warren brings her readers into the back rooms of bailouts and bankers, where as chairwoman of the congressional panel overseeing the bailout she battled those who advocated helping banks that cheated on mortgages while punishing homeowners who lost their homes.
In the chapter about “an agency for the people” discussing the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, her revisiting of the day President Obama told her she could not lead the agency she invented is priceless (and revealing), and her conversations with Holly Petraeus, a wonderful woman who battles to end financial abuses against military families and troops whom Warren brought to the bureau to lead the effort, should be required reading for every patriot.
Warren’s moment has arrived. In a nation whose economy resembled the Grapes of Wrath for too many, Warren now escalates her dream to bring economic justice to all.
A Fighting Chance tells true and important tales about the great scandal of our age, the corruptions that engulf Washington today, and the battles of good people to reform them. Its author and protagonist stands for the integrity and spirit that Americans hunger for in public life, which could someday bring her from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other.