Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), I have written, shouldn’t be underestimated as a political strategist or written off as an ideological twin of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). She has done three smart things in the early preseason of the 2020 Democratic presidential race.
First, she rolled out what is — remarkably — still the only comprehensive, Democratic anti-corruption platform. There is plenty in the multipronged plan for her base to like (e.g. limiting business lobbying), but also for those who hardly consider themselves to be progressives. “It’s time to ban elected officials and senior agency officials from owning or trading any company stocks while in office. They can put their savings in conflict-free investments like mutual funds or they can pick a different line of work,” she argued, for example. Why not? She wants to “strengthen the code of conduct for all federal judges — no stock trading, no payments from corporations for attending events, no honoraria for giving speeches, no lavish getaways and fancy hunting trips funded by billionaires.” Does anyone think that is a bad idea?
Second, she has demonstrated a level of seriousness about state organizing that we have yet to see from other potential Democratic opponents. The Post’s Matt Viser reported, “Her effort, which goes far beyond the fundraising and endorsement speeches in which prospective presidential candidates typically engage, has encompassed work in all 50 states and close coordination with more than 150 campaigns. The result is a wide-ranging network that includes those running for state treasurer in Nevada, state legislature in Iowa and congressional offices across the country.” Other candidates can do the same, but her focus and preparedness are impressive. In a race in which 20 Democrats could conceivably enter, it won’t be enough to deliver a killer stump speech.
And then there was her counter-punch Monday against President Trump, who has been deriding her claim to have Native American ancestry. Instead of simply complaining that he is being rude or disrespectful, Warren one-upped him. The Post reports, “Warren called Trump’s months-long bluff by releasing a DNA test that suggested she did have a distant Native American ancestor.” She put out a video, and then tweeted out a challenge.
She also demanded that he be transparent as well — about his taxes.
Trump and his surrogates tried to brush off the issue (after they dwelt on it for months), but Warren made her point. Trump talks a good game but doesn’t keep his word. He’s a cheapskate to boot. Does this make any difference? Well, if Democrats want to win as much as they say, then they’ll be looking for someone who they think can throw a punch or two. One can see former vice president Joe Biden doing that (and he has been increasingly aggressive in taking on Trump), but others are going to have to demonstrate some toughness and good humor.
Warren is doing exactly what you’d expect someone planning a presidential run would do. Her 2020 opponents will need to match her on substance, organization and anti-Trump jabs.
Read more from Jennifer Rubin: