Warren @NetRoots

Elizabeth Warren’s Netroots speech got off to an interesting start, as she took to the stage to a predictable burst of adoration from the crowd of liberal activists. The political thing to do would be to take in the applause, offer a few thanks, and let the cheers build to a crescendo. Warren seemed to have no patience for the whole spectacle, particularly as the chants imploring her to seek higher office began to build. In a tone more befitting an admonishing college professor than a Senator with a national profile, Warren cut off the crowd, imploring everyone to sit down and, as the crowd settled, said “Let’s get started.”

Though Warren is a Senator and a rising star in the Democratic Party who has generated quite a bit of national buzz, she hardly comes off as a politician in her speeches. She has a strong message that obviously resonates with the crowd, but the demeanor is less that of the politician seeking to sell a message than an advocate speaking for a cause. Although the depth of support for Warren’s non-existent presidential bid is generally overstated, her speech at Netroots provides a window into how and why she generates such enthusiasm.

The speech is laced with the values of progressive populism, repeated assertions that the political system is rigged for corporations and special interests, and, most of all, a determination to fight. At one point, she cited the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency she helped set up, as “proof of how democracy can work in the 21st century.” In an age when so much of the political oxygen and outrage is spent on denouncing the government, it sounds strange to hear someone citing an acroynmed regulatory agency as an example of democracy at work. She also touched on issues such as student loans, crumbling roads, climate change, and expanding scientific research.

Warren has expressed no interest in running in 2016 and is unlikely to emerge as the nominee if she does so, but it’s not hard to see why she has such appeal to the liberal base. While there isn’t any shortage of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, she’s also a tremendously wealthy insider who has spent much of the past two decades in Washington. For people who are concerned with income inequality and the increasing power of corporations and billionaires in the wake of Citizens United, Warren may offer a fresher and more appealing perspective. Furthermore, there is an opening for a progressive, populist voice amidst a political discourse that has been dominated for six years by Barack Obama’s slow-pulse liberalism and the anti-government opposition. Warren has the potential, regardless of whether or not she launches a longshot presidential bid, to emerge as a significant national voice.


Well, that’s fairly disconcerting…

A quote from Micheal Grunwald’s The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, a new book that details the often unseen impact of the 2009 stimulus/American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Also known as the Failed Stimulus to all on-message Republicans.

“Polls have found that most Americans see the stimulus as a giveaway to bankers, confusing it with the $700 billion financial bailout that passed before Obama was elected. I interviewed several congressmen who were under the same misimpression.”

This was a $787 billion piece of legislation.


The Prince of Orange Wields His Pen

Over the weekend, John Boehner ascended the venerable soapbox that is CNN.com to make the case for suing President Obama. The title of his op-ed, “Why We Must Sue the President,” reflects the idea that this lawsuit represents some sort of solemn obligation that House Republicans can hardly avoid. While there can be little doubt that Boehner sincerely believes that Obama has overstepped his authority, there is also little doubt that the Speaker knows this case is a political charade. Unfortunately, this latest invented crisis will cost taxpayer money, widen partisan divisions (if that’s possible) and plunge the country into another bitter political controversy.

The specifics of Boehner’s lawsuit are unknown, as his piece offered only vague charges that the President is “creating his own laws, and excusing himself from enforcing statutes he is sworn to uphold.” Presumably, this is a reference to Obama’s use of executive orders, which are frequently cited by conservatives as an example of his tyrannical rule. Executive orders, however, have been widely used by virtually every president since George Washington, and Obama has issued them at a slower pace than any president since Grover Cleveland. Although the constitution does not explicitly mention the executive order, the courts have upheld their use in several cases, and it is an executive power well within the boundaries of American political tradition.

One point Boehner fails to mention is that Obama’s alleged usurpation of legislative power comes at a time when the House has all but sworn off legislative action. Traditionally, the House is supposed to be a functional part of the U.S. government. Under the leadership of Boehner and his unruly Tea Party cadres, the house has continually distinguished itself through its inaction. Boehner to be jealously guarding a power he is determined not to use unless the platform of his party is enacted in uncompromised entirety. Given the fact that 66 million people voted for President Obama and his platform in 2012, this is a rather unreasonable expectation.

Beyond the platitudes about defending the constitution and legislative power, there is little substance in Boehner’s argument, and occasional hints at the political reasons for this measure. After charging that “the President has circumvented the American people and their elected representatives”, Boehner goes on to note that efforts by the House to address this problem have failed to pass the Senate. It seems odd that Boehner is circumventing the democratically-elected representatives in the Senate to sue the democratically-elected president in order to prevent the circumvention of elected representatives. Don’t bother trying to find the logic here, this is a political calculation.