Elizabeth Warren Has Another Viral Hit
Elizabeth Warren has done it again. The senior Senator from Massachusetts sent another Senate speech viral, as she’s been wont to do since the early days of her Senate race and beyond. In the process, she’s shown exactly why she’s proved such a potent fundraiser and front woman for the unabashed populist left wing of the Democratic Party. (That’s a role explored by a New York Times front page story earlier this week.) The speech, delivered just before the government shutdown on Monday, has nearly 600,000 views on YouTube, fueled by press from friendly sites like Upworthy and Huffington Post.
She begins her speech focusing on the debate over mandating that employers cover birth control. But she eventually broadens her focus to rail against the House Republican strategy linking the federal budget to a temporary delay in implementing health care reform. None of her observations are particularly new—you’ll hear roughly the same points from Jon Stewart, or the New York Times editorial board, or your outraged second cousin on Facebook. But there’s a reason Warren is the face of the party’s liberal wing and your cousin Erma isn’t, and it’s all in the delivery. The money quote is this one:
These threats may continue, but they are not working, and they will never work, because this is democracy. And in a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t win their fights through elections, can’t win their fights in Congress, can’t win their fights for the presidency, and can’t win their fights in the courts. For this right-wing minority, hostage taking is all they have left, a last gasp for those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy.
It’s skillful because it casts the far-right Republicans as sore losers, and frames the debate as one between a radical wing of the Republican party and a bipartisan coalition of more reasonable people. It helps her brand because she portrays herself as a source of normalcy in a whirlwind of Washington crazy.
Speaking of which: Back in 2010, when Warren was still promoting the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. A Mother Jones reporter asked if she would be interested in running for Senate. “Are you asking me if after a year and a half here, I am more attracted to coming to Washington?” she asked. Yes, Mother Jones said. “That, or I can stab myself in the eye,” she replied.
Warren didn’t poke her eye out. She did decide to come back to Washington. It’s the talent of firebrands like her (or, on the other end, Republicans like Ted Cruz) that they can work in Washington but attract a base that’s disillusioned with what’s going on there. And this speech provides a great glimpse at how she manages to strike that balance.