President Obama has struggled to find that language, only recently beginning to draw a clear contrast between his goal to revive the economy and put Americans back to work and the stagnation that is the inevitable result of the Republicans’ antitax, antispending policies.
While most other Democrats are afraid to talk about the need for higher taxes and are running away from the problem, Elizabeth Warren, the leading Democratic candidate for a Senate seat in Massachusetts, has engaged the fight and is beginning to rally supporters.
Ms. Warren talks about the nation’s growing income inequality in a way that channels the force of the Occupy Wall Street movement but makes it palatable and understandable to a far wider swath of voters. She is provocative and assertive in her critique of corporate power and the well-paid lobbyists who protect it in Washington, and eloquent in her defense of an eroding middle class.
It is an informed and measured populism, and it helps explain why she immediately became the leading Democratic contender in the race to challenge Senator Scott Brown, the Republican who is up for re-election next year.
Ms. Warren, a law professor at Harvard, helped to design the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because of her fierce advocacy on behalf of consumers, Senate Republicans and the financial industry made clear they would never allow her to run it.
She is a remarkably eloquent and appealing Senate candidate. “Washington is well wired for big corporations that can hire armies of lobbyists,” she said last month, soon after joining the race. “But it’s not working very well for middle-class families, and that’s what I care about.”
She is both knowledgeable and accessible when she explains the destructive credit-swap and subprime mortgage games that created the financial crisis. She draws a detailed map back to the early deregulation of the 1980s that began to rip the nation’s economic fabric — the same deregulatory fervor the Republicans are preaching today.
Her larger appeal, though, comes from her ability to shred Republican arguments that rebalancing the tax burden constitutes class warfare. In a living-room speech that went viral on YouTube last month, she pointed out that people in this country don’t get rich entirely by themselves — everyone benefits from roads, public safety agencies and an education system paid for by taxes. And those who have benefited the most, she says, need to give back more.
“You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God bless!” she said. “Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
Democrats should not be cowed by conservative taunts that the speech advocated “collectivism,” and use this argument to push back against the Republicans’ refusal to raise the taxes of people who make more than a million dollars a year — sometimes far more. Senate Democratic leaders say they plan to employ poll-tested phrases like “Tea Party economics” and “Tea Party gridlock” in their campaign for a jobs bill and beyond. They would be better off listening to Elizabeth Warren.
Link to original article from The New York Times Editorial