I have a dream about America — and about its leaders — which I inherited from our founders.
My dream is that the people we elect will be men and women of substance whose life experiences have made them strong, compassionate, courageous and wise. This should be especially true for United States senators who, given the luxury of a six-year term, can use that time and privilege to champion their constituents’ — and their country’s — long-term interests.
In this age of electoral flimflam, there are not many candidates who measure up to this vision and who are willing, as Edward Kennedy used to say, “to take on the great challenges of the day.” But fortunately here in Massachusetts, we have such a candidate in Elizabeth Warren.
Elizabeth Warren has all three of the vital qualities we need in a U.S. senator: conviction, foresight and tenacity.
Her life experiences forged her convictions. Molded by the challenges of her childhood, she has never lost sight of what parents need to provide for their sons and daughters. Since her days as a schoolteacher and young mother, she has never forgotten the difficulties faced by so many families to find work and financial security. Rising to the top of a profession dominated by men, she knows in her bones why everyone’s skills must be recognized and rewarded. All those experiences have given her a mixture of personal warmth, enduring compassion and steely conviction essential to bold public service.
The second vital gift for a leader is the ability to look into the future and take notice of problems before they become crises. Elizabeth Warren saw earlier than anyone that middle class families were bending and buckling under the strain of shrinking incomes, expanding debt and rising bankruptcies. She looked into the distance and saw that the American dream itself was at risk. She was outraged that in addition to all the structural problems and inequalities in our economy, many banks, insurance firms, and credit card companies were building financial booby-traps of small print to harm average consumers. And she sounded the alarm — relentlessly, compellingly, and, in the end successfully. As a U.S. senator, she would know how to protect the American people
The third attribute of a strong public advocate is the willingness to take on opposition, no matter how fierce it may become. After the banking industry all but wrecked the American economy and was then rescued by taxpayer dollars, it was Elizabeth Warren who chased down those who had received bail-outs and made them explain their failures. In her determination to protect American families from complex forms of theft, she conceived and helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The lobbyists for the financial industry did everything they could to block her ideas, attack her reputation and overturn her achievements. A weaker person might have given up in the face of such powerful and determined opposition. But Warren persisted, and with the help of President Obama she created a powerful force for consumers that protects millions from the schemes the financial industry continues to try to sneak by the American people.
Warren’s personal vision and political courage align brilliantly with the tradition of national leadership which senators and governors from Massachusetts have offered for nearly 250 years. And these qualities contrast deeply with what we have learned about Scott Brown, a man whose career testifies to the triumph of style over substance in American politics.
The images he has relied on (the barn coat, the pick-up truck) and the tactics he has used (the insulting Native American critique) are designed to distract us from the harsh truth that he has blocked health care reform, undermined the reality of climate change and advocated without shame for the financial interests of big business. Far from an engine of leadership, he has been the caboose of the senate.
On what issue has he offered visionary solutions? In what manner has he challenged the right wing forces that are undermining the middle class? On what question has he shown conviction, tenacity, and foresight? The sad answer is: none.
Whoever wins on November 6 will serve at least until January 2019 — and perhaps far longer. A vote for Scott Brown means handing control of the Senate — its committees, its votes, its approval of nominees — to a party that would drag us back. A vote for Elizabeth Warren is a vote for the future, as well as an endorsement of that dream of public leadership which is the greatest gift of our past.