In Conclusion: On Corruption

From “The Golden Age of White Collar Crime by Michael Hobbes:

Over the last two years, nearly every institution of American life has taken on the unmistakable stench of moral rot. Corporate behemoths like Boeing and Wells Fargo have traded blue-chip credibility for white-collar callousness. Elite universities are selling admission spots to the highest Hollywood bidder. Silicon Valley unicorns have revealed themselves as long cons (Theranos), venture-capital cremation devices (Uber, WeWork) or straightforward comic book supervillains (Facebook). Every week unearths a cabinet-level political scandal that would have defined any other presidency. From the blackouts in California to the bloated bonuses on Wall Street to the entire biography of Jeffrey Epstein, it is impossible to look around the country and not get the feeling that elites are slowly looting it.

And why wouldn’t they? The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. In January 2019, white-collar prosecutions fell to their lowest level since researchers started tracking them in 1998. Even within the dwindling number of prosecutions, most are cases against low-level con artists and small-fry financial schemes. Since 2015, criminal penalties levied by the Justice Department have fallen from $3.6 billion to roughly $110 million. Illicit profits seized by the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly dropped by more than half. In 2018, a year when nearly 19,000 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes alone, prosecutors convicted just 37 corporate criminals who worked at firms with more than 50 employees.

Unquote.

But we had a presidential candidate focused on corruption.

From “Elizabeth Warren Was More of a Threat to the Money Power Than Bernie Sanders” by Charles Pierce:

… I’m not going to dwell on the sexism that so regularly cropped up during Elizabeth Warren’s now-suspended presidential campaign. Proud, accomplished women, writing about what happened to this proud and accomplished woman, already have done so thoroughly enough that what little I could add would have to walk a tightrope between repetition and presumption that I am not able to navigate. This one hurts them in ways I can’t even imagine….

Instead, and accepting that sexism and misogyny were marbled throughout everything about the campaign, I think what did her in was her ideas. She committed herself to a campaign specifically to fight political corruption, both the legal and illegal kind. As an adjunct to that, she marshaled her long fight against the power of money in our politics and monopoly in our economy. And, opposed to Bernie Sanders, whose answer to how to wage the fight is always the power of his “movement,” which so far hasn’t been able to break through against Joe Biden, she put out detailed plans on how to do it. That made her much more of a threat to the money power than Sanders, who is easily dismissed as a fringe socialist by the people who buy elections and own the country.

If I were Jeff Bezos, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how monopoly can distort an economy, I’d have been worried. If I were Mark Zuckerberg, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how the concentration of social media perverts our public ideals, I’d have been worried. If I were the folks at Comcast, and I heard Elizabeth Warren talk about how media concentration damages the national dialogue, I’d have been worried. I’d have been worried not simply because a presidential candidate was saying this, but because she was able to make people understand it, and because she was able to show people how she would do it. That would keep me up nights.

There always has been a touch of Cassandra to her career. As she said on Thursday, “Ten years ago, I was teaching a few blocks from here, and talking about what was broken in America and how to fix it, and pretty much nobody wanted to hear it.” Along with several other proud and accomplished women, whose advice was ignored by the likes of Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, Warren sounded the alarm on the mortgage crisis years before it crashed the economy. She was then brought in to help clean up the damage. There’s an obvious life lesson in there that I hope I need not explain. However, if she says something is breaking in the economy, listen to her next time, OK? This was most obvious in the campaign’s most curious episode—how she was “disappeared” from news coverage after finishing third in Iowa. This was the period in which an NBC poll refused to even include her because, basically, the pollster didn’t want to. Amy Klobuchar was included, but Amy Klobuchar wasn’t going around explaining how media monopolies gouge their consumers and marginalize certain issues and the people fighting for them.

However, this is not a country that is ready for what she called … “big, structural change”. This is a country fearful of any kind of change at all, a country longing for a simpler time—which, these days, does not mean the flush 1950s or the pastoral 1850s, but 2015. The election of D— T—- has lodged in so many minds a longing for the status quo ante that there’s no room for intelligent experimentation….

The problem is that the damage done by this administration* is so deep and lasting that the last thing we need to follow this president* is a humble president with a humble agenda. For example, Joe Biden has no desire to break the monopoly power, and Bernie Sanders doesn’t have the first idea how to do it. But it’s still going to be there, distorting the economy and perverting the public discourse, no matter who gets elected in the fall. You might be frightened by the idea of Big, Structural Change but, without it, the deterioration of the republic will continue apace. We have been rendered such a timorous people that even someone as open and lively and welcoming as Elizabeth Warren was considered too much of a risk.

Oh, and she wasn’t “likable” either. Remember? God, what a load of bollocks that is.

As if to prove that Fate is the ultimate troll, this story broke in The New York Times on the morning that Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign.

House Democrats say the bank found an ally in Eric Blankenstein, a political appointee high up in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created to guard against the abuse of mom-and-pop customers. Mr. Blankenstein, an enforcement official at the agency, privately offered reassurances to Wells Fargo’s chief executive at the time that there would be “political oversight” of its enforcement actions, according to a report issued Wednesday by the House Financial Services Committee. The report said the agency had promised that the unresolved regulatory matters, such as an inquiry into the bank’s aggressive practice of closing customers’ accounts, would be settled in private, without further fines.

For those of you who may be joining politics late, the CFPB is the agency created by Elizabeth Warren and Wells Fargo is her personal bete noire. (Here she is, telling its CEO that he ought to be clapped in irons.) My guess? She already knows about this bit of news and she’s gearing up—one might even say “planning”—to chew someone out over it. Stay buckled up, America. Senator Professor Warren is not through with you yet.

Unquote.

So Long Twitter and Senator Warren

I’ve closed my Twitter account, because I no longer require up-to-the-minute news and commentary on these subjects (and others): 

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Bernie Sanders
  3. House Democrats
  4. Senate Republicans
  5. The Supreme Court
  6. The Department of Justice
  7. COVID-19
  8. Voter Suppression
  9. Climate Change
  10. D—- Fucking T—- and His Crime Family

Here’s the invaluable Paul Waldman of The Washington Post to sum up:

Is it enough, as a presidential candidate, to have smarts and charisma, to have a clear and concise message, to even be the best debater, and most of all to be the best prepared to do the job effectively?

No, it is not. Which is why so often during this primary campaign, we’ve heard supporters of Elizabeth Warren ask plaintively, “Hey, what if we got behind the person who’d actually be the best president? Why not do that?”

They asked because the number of voters willing to do that was not what it might have been, which is why Warren has announced that she’s ending her bid for the White House.

There is a temptation to say the presidential primary process is brutal and unsparing but ultimately fair. It tests you in the way no other campaign can. If you don’t win, it’s because you didn’t have what it takes. Lots of it may be out of your control, but if you were a once-in-a-generation talent like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, you could have overcome any obstacle cast before you. Nobody deserves the nomination; either you win it or you don’t.

Which is true as far as it goes. But we can’t consider Warren’s candidacy without seeing sexism, both in fact and in perception, for the hindrance it was for her.

To be clear, sexism isn’t the only reason Warren will not be the Democratic nominee. There are many reasons. She had a few stumbles along the way, as every campaign does. There were some decisions she could have made differently.

But her campaign and the particular way it failed tell us a lot about how gender operates in presidential politics.

Let’s consider that Joe Biden is the likeliest candidate to be the Democratic nominee, despite the fact that he has run an absolutely abysmal campaign and is so erratic that sympathetic Democrats regularly tell one another, “I saw Biden give an interview, and he was completely coherent!” as though they were praising a toddler. Biden won a sweeping victory on Super Tuesday even in states where he did not campaign for a single day or have an organization. There has never in my lifetime been a winning presidential campaign that was so weak on so many dimensions.

And yet Biden is cruising toward the nomination. Why?

Because of a collective decision among a significant portion of the Democratic electorate that he is “electable,” i.e., that other people will find him inoffensive enough to vote for. As Michelle Cottle noted, one poll last year asked Democrats who they were supporting, and Biden was in the lead; when they asked who they’d rather see as president if they could wave a magic wand, Warren was in front.

You’ve probably heard that again and again: Voters saying Warren is the one they liked the best, but because they didn’t think she was electable, they were supporting someone else, most often Biden.

That perception didn’t just come of nowhere. Yes, people might be thinking of their sexist uncle or their “traditional” parents, but they also heard it again and again from the media, creating a self-reinforcing loop. Sure, Warren can put policy issues into terms people can understand like no other candidate; sure, she has thought more seriously about the powers of the government than anyone else; sure, her anti-corruption message resonates with all kinds of voters. But she just can’t win.

Then there are all the people who said they didn’t like Warren but couldn’t quite put their finger on why. Maybe it was her voice, or that she seemed too aggressive, or that she wasn’t “authentic” enough. Not because she’s a woman, though! I’d support a woman, I would! Just not her.

Throughout the campaign, Warren tried to find subtle ways to deal with a problem she couldn’t have been more aware of (just as Obama carefully crafted a strategy to deal with voters’ reaction to a black candidate). But nothing seemed to work in the face of the relentless obsession with electability.

Late in the campaign, she reacted to the question of whether sexism was hampering her by noting that just answering the question put her in an inescapable double bind:

“And, you know, there are only two answers and they’re both bad. The first one is, ‘Uh, yeah,’ in which case everybody says, ‘Oh, whiner.’”

“The second is to say, ‘Oh, no,’ in which case, at least every other woman looks at you and thinks, ‘What planet is she living on?’”

Yes, female candidates have been more and more successful at running for all levels of government; this was particularly true in the 2018 midterm elections. But the presidency is different. It’s about authority, and power, and command. And still, in 2020, millions of Americans simply cannot wrap their heads around the idea of a woman in that job.

So unlike Biden or any other male candidate, being better wasn’t good enough. Warren had to be perfect, and of course she wasn’t. As writer Jill Filipovic asked:

How many times, in how many contexts, have we seen a smart, competent, dynamic woman who is so head & shoulders above everyone else in the room get ignored or pushed out? How many times have we wondered – was I that woman?

Think back to Hillary Clinton, who after a lifetime of being bludgeoned and battered by every sexist preconception, trope and backlash, finally got within reach of the ultimate reward and opportunity only to have to face her exact opposite, an utterly unprepared buffoon and raging misogynist who was literally on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women with impunity. And even after getting 3 million more votes than him, she still lost.

Four years later, we had a presidential field full of talented and accomplished women, and surely, so many of us thought, one of them might prevail. Yet they fell, one after another, until only the most talented and accomplished among them was left. And in the end she too was judged inadequate….

Unquote.

The title of Waldman’s column is “Warren’s Wrenching Downfall Says Something Terrible About 2020”.

It’s many of us who were inadequate. Not her.

In Case You’re Wondering How Prepared We Are

So far, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US is low. But there are now confirmed cases in at least 32 (now 35)(now almost 50) countries. The number of new cases outside China has doubled every 5.5 days since January. 

Today, an official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said:

Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States. It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.

From journalist Judd Legum of Popular Information (a site worth visiting):

In 2018, the Trump administration ousted Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, who served as the Senior Director of Global Health Security. Ziemer was a member of the National Security Council, where he was responsible for coordinating “responses to global health emergencies and potential pandemics.” Ziemer was lauded as “one of the most quietly effective leaders in public health.” His work on malaria during the Obama administration helped save 6 million lives.

“Admiral Ziemer’s departure is deeply alarming,” Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) said in May 2018. “Expertise like his is critical in avoiding large outbreaks.” Beth Cameron, who served on the National Security Council in the Obama administration, said that Ziemer’s ouster was “a major loss for health security, biodefense, and pandemic preparedness” and noted that it “is unclear in his absence who at the White House would be in charge of a pandemic.”

John Bolton, who was serving as Trump’s National Security Adviser at the time, did not just remove Ziemer. He decided to eliminate the position, and “the NSC’s entire global health security unit.” Bolton also forced out Tom Bossert, a highly regarded expert who was Ziemer’s counterpart at the Department of Homeland Security. “Neither the NSC nor DHS epidemic teams have been replaced,” Foreign Policy reported in January.

Trump slashed funding for the CDC’s epidemic prevention activities, forcing the agency to end its work “in 39 out of 49 countries because money is running out” in 2018. The program, which started in 2014, was designed to “help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics.” Among the countries no longer included: China.

Trump has also tried to decimate funding for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which is tasked with fighting the spread of disease. Congress, however, has refused to comply. So the Trump administration has simply let the group slowly atrophy, failing to replace members who quit or retire….

Who is in charge of the United States’ response to the coronavirus? You might assume it is the CDC. You would be wrong.

There were several hundred Americans aboard a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, that experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 near Japan. The Americans were evacuated and, before they were flown home, 14 tested positive for the coronavirus. The CDC advised that these infected passengers should not be flown home with the rest of the group, arguing that they could infect the others.

The CDC, however, was overruled by the “State Department and a top Trump administration health official.” The decision was made even though to government “had already told passengers they would not be evacuated with anyone who was infected or who showed symptoms.” CDC officials were so distraught that they “demanded to be left out of the news release that explained that infected people were being flown back to the United States.”

At the moment, there is no “clear chain of command for pandemic response.”

… There are also serious problems with the system set up to identify new outbreaks.

The test developed by the CDC to detect the coronavirus has not been able to be verified as accurate by most labs. As a result, just “three of the more than 100 public health labs across the country have verified the CDC test for use.” This has “hampered CDC’s plan to screen samples collected by its national flu-surveillance network for the coronavirus.” These issues “could impede the U.S. government’s ability to detect scattered cases before they snowball into larger outbreaks”….

Inside the White House, the concern has been around how the coronavirus could impact T—-‘s reelection. Senior officials fear “a sustained outbreak could slow global markets and upend a strong U.S. economy that has been central to [his] political pitch.”

T—- has been eager to downplay the threat of the coronavirus in public, recently expressing confidence that the virus would dissipate in a few weeks when the weather gets warmer….

There is no scientific basis for [this] claim, which is based on the assumption that the coronavirus will follow the same pattern as the seasonal flu. Columbia University epidemiologist Stephen Morse called T—-‘s comments “wishful thinking” and warned against being “lulled by hopeful, but quite possibly wrong analogies.”

Unquote.

From Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut:

This morning’s classified coronavirus briefing should have been made fully open to the American people—they would be as appalled & astonished as I am by the inadequacy of preparedness & prevention.

We have a president whose main concern at the moment isn’t keeping people healthy. It’s how the spread of the disease will affect him. He’s also a pathological liar who doesn’t believe in science. Maybe this won’t be so bad, but that’s how prepared we are.

Loving Elizabeth Warren Means Having a Plan If America Breaks Your Heart

That’s not exactly the title of Monica Hesse’s article in The Washington Post. The Post’s title is “Loving Elizabeth Warren Means Having a Plan For When America Breaks Your Heart”. I’m not ready for the “when” yet.

Quote:

Within three minutes of getting in line for an Elizabeth Warren rally, I’ve been handed a business card for a woman-empowerment organization called Brass Ovaries, and the founder, my linemate, has drawn me into a conversation about Warren that has begun to feel like the only conversation to have about Warren: the kind that’s about hope, and despair, and how it’s possible to love America and also want to throw it out the window.

“I went to one of her events before and I gave her one of my Brass Ovaries pins,” Michelle Johnson says. “And I started to explain how it’s about fed-up women — but she said, ‘Oh, I get it,’ and I said, ‘I knew you would,’ because Elizabeth always gets it, doesn’t she?”

This is the first part of the Warren conversation. It involves dreaming of a version of the country where leaders are excellent at explaining certain things, like the current shortcomings of health care and child care; and where they don’t need other things explained to them at all, like what it feels like to be an exasperated woman.

But Michelle, who plans to vote for Warren in her state’s Tuesday primary, also finds herself having a second, more maddening part of the Warren conversation. When she told her mother that she thought Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) would be a good running mate, her mother blanched. “America isn’t ready for two women on the ticket,” she said, then added that America might not even be ready for one.

That part is about fear. It’s about fearing a version of America that was certified as the real version four Novembers ago, when Hillary Clinton lost to D—- T—-. Or so people keep saying.

It’s a conversation that isn’t really about Elizabeth Warren at all; it’s about the rest of us.

There we were in New Hampshire, in the exhaust fumes of Iowa’s caucuses, which had been such a spectacular fiasco that Warren’s supporters in Keene now believed it was up to them to sort things out and, ideally, to sort things out for Warren. For all the chaos in Des Moines, one thing was clear: Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg wrestling through a tie with a quarter of the votes apiece.

And Warren, who had topped polls in October, had finished a distant third.

This alone didn’t faze her New Hampshire supporters. She’d outpaced the erstwhile front-runner Joe Biden, after all, who took his fourth-place finish as a “gut punch.” Plus, while Iowa was “a bunch of people running around in a gymnasium,” as one voter here put it, their state’s election was a civilized primary, and was also in the Massachusetts senator’s backyard.

But then a Boston Globe New Hampshire prediction came out. It had Warren polling at 13 percent in the Granite State. Behind Sanders. Behind a rising Buttigieg. In the loam with Biden.

Then Warren’s campaign announced that it was pulling ad dollars in Nevada and South Carolina.

Then it was time to really think about Elizabeth Warren. Which really means sorting through what version of America you believe in — the one where we are ready to vote a woman into the Oval Office, or the one where we aren’t — and whether it’s the believing, one way or another, that makes your version true.

“The thing is, I can picture her up there on the debate stage with T—-, and she’s debating him to pieces,” says Deb Wilson, a retired New Hampshire educator. “To pieces.”

“We need her,” says Wendy Keith, a social worker. “We need her so badly. We need someone that strong and that smart.”

“I think having a woman in the White House — I think she’ll care for us,” adds Esther Scheidel, standing next to Wendy.

“Of course, I’m not voting for her because she’s a woman …” another supporter chimes in a few minutes later, having overheard the earlier conversation…“Of course, I’m not voting for her because she’s a woman; I don’t even think of her as a woman,” another supporter chimes in a few minutes later, having overheard the earlier conversation…

It’s a preposterous, relatable, vexing statement. It’s impossible not to see Warren as a woman. Many of her policies were explicitly shaped by that identity, as she readily acknowledges. Is “not thinking of Warren as a woman” supposed to be a compliment?

What I think this man means is that ever since 2016, we have been trapped in a vague debate about electability, and whether it’s only men have who have it. In the fog of uncertainty over Hillary Clinton’s complicated defeat (she neglected Wisconsin, she used a private email server, she was a “nasty woman” slain by weaponized misogyny, she still won the popular vote), the debate has mutated into an abstract panic about whether any woman can get elected in 2020.

Trying to ignore Elizabeth Warren’s femaleness is an attempt to neatly sidestep the whole problem. To pretend that we have the capacity to vote entirely on merits. To behave as if each election can happen in a vacuum, uninformed by the elections and the hundreds of years of history that came before it.

Can you ignore that while Pete Buttigieg might be a millennial wunderkind, a female 38-year-old mayor of a midsize town would have a hard time being taken as seriously if she up and ran for president? Can you ignore that Bernie Sanders’s shouting is seen as righteous but if Kamala Harris ever raised her voice, it was seen as anger? How did Joe Biden automatically get to wear the cloak of electability for nearly a full year before Iowa tore it off?

…. These days, of course, people don’t say, “I won’t vote for a woman”; they say, “I’m scared my moderate father-in-law needs a man on the ballot to motivate him to the polls.”

This isn’t progress. This is treating the election as a psychic reading.

“I’m leaning toward Warren,” says Frank Brownell, a retired editor who relocated to Keene from Upstate New York. “I’m not a big Buttigieg fan. But I want to pick someone to win.” He sighed, deeply troubled. “Women have such a burden. I actually wish women ran the world.”

If he wished women ran things, I asked him, was there a reason he was still merely leaning toward Warren? Here was a woman he liked who was offering to run the country, and he literally had the chance to give her the job.

“I’m going to vote for her,” he decided, then waffled. “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

His qualms weren’t with Warren. He loved Warren. His qualms were about everyone else, everyone else who might not be ready to vote for a woman. “I’m hopeful but I’m not hopeful. I don’t think America is what I always hoped it was.”

Here are some things that happen at Elizabeth Warren events: Warren sprints onstage, much tinier and slighter than she appears on television, to Dolly Parton singing “9 to 5.” She shares that she was her parents’ late-in-life baby, and her mother never stopped referring to her as “the surprise.” She talks about her first marriage, and then she jokes that it’s never good when you have to number your marriages. She tells a story about a toaster, and the toaster becomes a metaphor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she helped create, and the CFBP becomes a metaphor for how things can change, but only if you are willing to believe they can change.

You have to believe; that’s the key. You have to jump into the void of possibility. Ready or not.

She is optimistic and upbeat, almost comically so, as if she is Elizabeth Warren playing SNL’s Kate McKinnon playing Elizabeth Warren. She is empathetic in a way that could feel phony if you’re not accustomed to that sort of thing in a politician.

At one event in New Hampshire, a little girl approaches the microphone, accompanied by her mother.

“My name is Elizabeth,” she says.

“Your name is Elizabeth?” Warren reels back. “Oh wow! Double Elizabeths! I feel the power.”

“I’m seven years old.”

Warren pauses, deadpan. “I’m . . . not.”

“I want to know if you will close the camps,” the 7-year-old Elizabeth asks.

Here, Warren’s response grows impossibly soft and intimate, so soft that it feels almost indecent to listen to, like this has become a private conversation. The camps in Texas where they are holding children? Warren asks. The 7-year-old nods. Those camps.

“Yes,” Warren says. “Yes.”

And then people in the audience tear up because in that moment they did seem to believe things could change, that Warren was the best candidate, that others thought so too and just needed to be convinced that it’s safe to vote for her. That there’s nothing to fear in nominating this woman but fear itself.

“If everyone is trying to play that [electability] game,” offers Nancy Loschiavo, a Warren supporter, “then what has our country come to?”

But, Loschiavo hastens to add, she’ll absolutely vote for whoever the nominee is.

Everyone at the Warren events hastens to add that.

A survey had come out a few days before, asking each candidate’s supporters whether, assuming their own first choice dropped out, they would vote for whoever was the Democratic nominee. Some supporters professed a my-guy-or-bust attitude… But Warren’s supporters, more than anyone else, said they’d vote for whomever they needed to vote for.

One way to read this is that Warren doesn’t have crossover appeal: She appeals only to the folks who would have voted Democratic no matter what. Another way to read this is that her supporters are as practical as they are passionate: There’s an outcome they’d prefer, but if it doesn’t happen, they’ll move on to the next best thing. They’ve got a plan for that.

After talking to enough of her fans, I think it’s the second explanation. The second explanation, mixed with something deeper:

Loving Elizabeth Warren means planning for America to break your heart.

It means watching her tweet out an optimistic message after Iowa, and then watching how all of the early replies instruct her to defer to Sanders and drop out…

It means listening to people complain about her schoolmarmishness and quietly wondering what was so wrong, exactly, with sounding like a schoolmarm. What’s so wrong with sounding like a grandmother? What’s so wrong with her animated hand gestures, her cardigans, her preparedness, her laugh, her husband, her brain, her work, her femaleness, her voice?

It means hoping things will break your way, but accepting that they probably wouldn’t, because America never quite seems to work that way, does it?

America doesn’t just render a verdict on the acceptability of women and their clothes and laughs every four years; America does that every day, in a lot of different ways. That’s the reason Michelle Johnson feels moved to make “brass ovaries” pins, and the reason Elizabeth Warren doesn’t have to ask her to explain why.

“The biggest reluctance I hear is ‘Can a woman win?’ ” says Ron Jones, who … has been canvassing for Warren and had come to see her speak in a Nashua community college gym. “I point out that a woman has already won,” he said, referring to Clinton’s popular-vote victory.

“I tell them, look at other countries with successful female leaders,” says Harris. “I tell them, look at successful female CEOs.” … Or just look around you….

Inside the gym, attendees filled the folding plastic chairs, and when those were full, leaned against the walls, parkas draped over their forearms. Seatmates introduced themselves to each other and talked about why they liked Warren, and why there were still reasons to be hopeful, maybe.

“I just want someone to bring energy back,” M.K. Hayes tells the fellow New Hampshirites sitting next to her. “And with her, there’s no cynicism, but there’s urgency. With her, you can say, ‘I’m liberal and I’m proud.’ ”

Her husband likes Warren, too, but he’s not here today. He likes her, she explains, but he might not vote for her; he’s not sure it’s the practical thing to do.

“I am trying to get him to vote with his heart,” Hayes says. “I am trying to get him to have the courage to risk.”

The music in the gym gets a little louder. When “9 to 5” comes on, Warren sprints onstage. She talks about her family. She talks about her toaster. She says she is running a campaign from the heart, because she believes 2020 is “our moment.”

“I believe in that America,” Elizabeth Warren says, and then she tries to convince the audience that they believe in that America, too.

Unquote.

Colbert on Taking One’s Oath Seriously

Stephen Colbert is America’s most thoughtful supplier of late-night comedy. Last night, he gave a heartfelt thank you to Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to remove the “monstrous child in the White House”; excoriated Romney’s Republican colleagues for ignoring their solemn oaths to do “impartial justice”; and said some funny stuff too.

Note: The Romney family once took a trip with their dog in a crate on the roof of their car. More famously, Mr. Romney was defeated in the 2012 presidential election by Barack Obama, who Mr. Colbert definitely voted for.

Senator Warren Speaks

Selections from her Rolling Stone interview:

Did you grow up listening to country?
Yeah — Hank Williams. I thought everybody listened to Hank Williams. That was the kind of music we were around. That, and rock & roll. Remember, I have three older brothers.

I’ve heard two of them are Republicans.
Uh-huh.

Do you argue about politics?
Well, we have very different views about particular political issues when it comes up. And this has been true for a long, long, long time. When I talk with my brothers, it’s much more about what’s right in the country than what’s wrong in the country. We talk a lot about worry — that young people today have fewer opportunities to succeed than young people had years ago. It’s not true for everyone, but the notion that I could go to a college that cost $50 dollars a semester — that opportunity’s just not out there. That my brothers could go to the military without a college degree, and that was a pathway to a solid middle-class life.

You were a Republican for much of your adult life. Does that give you an advantage to understand conservative voters, to be able to tailor your message—
I would describe it not so much as tailoring as finding the part in the heart where we ultimately, as Americans, agree with each other. Much of the conversation that I now have publicly about corruption — how the rich guys are sucking up all the wealth and leaving everyone else behind — is a long-running conversation I’ve been having with my brothers for decades. They get it. My Democrat brother and my two Republican brothers understand that the rules for billionaires and corporate executives are not the same as the rules for their kids. And they don’t like it. And neither do I.

Your family had financial trouble when you were a kid. Obviously, it’s shaped your political philosophy, but I’m curious how it impacted your personal relationship with money.
I’ve always been afraid there won’t be enough money. Always. I’ve always saved. I’ve always watched the prices of everything. And I’ve always worried about the rest of my family, worried about making sure everyone is OK.

Your dad was the breadwinner before he had a heart attack, and your mom had to go to work to provide for your family. You often describe your mom as encouraging you to get married rather than pursue your education, almost setting you up to end up in the same position she was in.
I think she would have described it as “Be very careful about the man you marry.” That was the pathway to success, not “Go create a path for your own financial independence.” Now, it took a lot of courage for my mother at 50 to take on her first full-time job. But it was never something she was happy about. She didn’t say, “What a great and fulfilling opportunity that was!” She saw it as work born of necessity, because she had to take care of her family and she wanted me to be safe. And to her dying days she still believed that the best way for a woman to be safe was to be married to a man who earned good money.

One of the things that I’m struck by is that, in just the past five years, you went from advocating for incremental changes — I’m thinking of the Buffett Rule, which would have lowered student-loan interest rates, versus the wealth tax, which would wipe out student debt altogether. Did you make a conscious decision to get bolder, or was it a function of the political climate?
I’m actually going to argue with you on the premise of the question. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is big structural change. For a decade, a handful of consumer advocates and researchers had seen what was happening with deceptive mortgages, cheating credit-card companies, and really horrible payday loans. And every one of them had a little piece of the solution. “Let’s change this rule on mortgages. Let’s put in a new protection on credit cards. Let’s do something different about regulating payday loans.” My idea was to build an agency that would fundamentally change the relationship between the government, credit issuers, and tens of millions of customers. The government would act very much like the Consumer Safety Commission and say, in the same way that you can’t sell a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of burning down your house, no one gets to sell a mortgage that has a one-in-five chance of costing a family their home.

Is it hard for you to see what’s happened to the CFPB under [this president]?
No. I mean, look, do I dislike his current director? Yes. Because she [Kathy Kraninger] has made clear she is on the side of the lenders, not the consumers. Mick Mulvaney did everything he could to try to hobble the consumer agency. But here’s the great thing about how that agency worked: When it’s got a good strong director, it’s nimble, and can move forward fast, and that’s exactly what it did in the first five years of its existence. And when it’s got someone who is trying to sabotage its work, it holds steady. It hasn’t gone backwards. The rules haven’t gotten easier. The agency still does its supervisional work, which is way out of the headlines. So I think, if anything, what Mulvaney has shown is you can try really hard to break that agency, but it hasn’t happened.

The slate of plans you’ve proposed would be financed by a wealth tax — an idea that wasn’t in the mainstream before you proposed it. What was the moment that made you decide to target accumulated wealth, and what gave you the confidence Americans were ready for this idea?
The truly wealthy in this country aren’t making their money through working and producing the kind of income that ordinarily gets taxed. Instead, they’ve built great fortunes that now have their own money managers and PR firms to protect those fortunes and make those fortunes grow, and, boy, are they growing — they are growing faster than incomes all around this country.

But what was the moment for you, specifically, when you decided to take this on, when you decided this could catch on in America?
I had a conversation with some tax specialists who showed me how much more money there was tied up in great fortunes than in annual incomes. In other words, they showed how much more money a two-cent wealth tax would raise, even though it’s only on the top one-tenth of one percent.

A wealth tax is a tax on accumulated fortunes, not on [the income of] people that are going out and working every day. It’s time for us to look at those fortunes and think about the kind of country we want to be. Do we think it’s more important to keep [the people who own] those fortunes from paying two cents on the dollar or to have the money to invest in an entire generation?

How would you implement your agenda if the Supreme Court blocks the wealth tax? When you were developing the plan, was that a possibility you discussed?
I went at this the other way: I talked to a lot of the country’s top constitutional scholars, and they were confident that the wealth tax fits within Supreme Court precedents and that, if someone raised an objection, [the tax] could be drafted in a way to meet any challenge.

You’ve described yourself as a capitalist at heart — you believe in markets. But you’ve got a plan that would end the market in health insurance, and to a certain extent, student loans. Was your faith in capitalism shaken by the outcomes those markets produced?
I have always understood that some markets just don’t work. We invest in public education because a market for first grade will not get our children educated. We invest in roads and bridges because a market for infrastructure won’t open up the opportunities we need to make this economy grow. So I believe in markets, but there are two important limits. One is, there are some areas that are not market-driven, and health care is one of them. Second, markets without rules are theft. So even in places where markets can work, the government has a role to play in making sure that the rules create a level playing field and that those rules are consistently enforced.

President Obama said recently that Democrats’ plans need to be “rooted in reality.” Do you think that’s a fundamental misreading of this political moment?
I think of the fight I’m waging as very much rooted in reality — the reality that someone crushed by student-loan debt can’t buy a home, or start a small business, or make much traction of any kind in building some financial security. People with young children, or who are considering having babies, are caught right now in a reality that child care is wildly expensive, and often not even available at any price. A plan for universal child care is rooted in their reality.

One of your earliest forays into politics was battling Joe Biden in the Nineties over bankruptcy reform. There was a big difference back then in your two worldviews. Do you have those same differences today?
Our differences are a matter of public record, and I haven’t changed any of my views. The fundamental problem I see in Washington today is the influence of money. The giant corporations who can spread it around, the billionaires who can buy influence, the lobbyists who are there every day to advance the views of those who pay them well to attend every meeting. It’s why my campaign starts around this question of how power is distributed. Our government works great for those with lots of money and not so much for anyone else. And that’s been a problem for a long, long time.

Did you get the sense that he ever grasped your criticism of the bankruptcy bill?
I don’t want to go back and relitigate 15 years ago.

I’m curious whether you think more Americans are in debt today because of that bill that Biden championed.
Let me say it the other way: A lot fewer people can get the help they need today because of the change in the laws. That’s what the research I did with my co-authors [showed]. There’s been so much work on this, too, about families caught in financial hell who can’t get any help because the bankruptcy laws were tightened to the point of suffocation back in 2005.

A year out from the election, head-to-head polling shows Biden beating [the president] in some battleground states, and you losing to him. More than 40 percent of those who said they would support Biden but not you also said women who run for president “aren’t very likable.” What do you even do with that information?
I think about the last three years, and the role that women have played in politics. Plain old electoral politics. Look, I went to [his] swearing in. I thought it was important. I know others decided not to. I come from a witnessing tradition: I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I wore my Planned Parenthood scarf wrapped around my neck to keep me warm, and watched as he was sworn in. I remember flying back to Massachusetts that night and thinking, “They could take away health care from tens of millions of people by next Friday.” The Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. What have we got left? What are we going to do? And, chewing on that as I went to bed that night, got up early the next morning, and then went to the Women’s March and saw exactly what we could do. We could come together, and we could raise our voices, and we could make change. I spoke at the Women’s March on Boston Common and I realized: This is how we’re gonna do it.

It’s women who have been in the fight for a long time, but it’s also women who are coming into the fight for the first time. And friends of women: men who were completely taken aback by what had happened in 2016. Do you remember the coverage on this? You have to really kind of go back and remind yourself. [After] the Women’s March, everyone says, “Well, yeah, but will they still be here in a month?” And the answer was: Yeah! Now there are more women who are in this, and more people who are turning it into action, not just a protest. You’re seeing all over the internet: You don’t like what’s happening? Get out there and run for office! If you don’t wanna run, find someone who does wanna run and go help ’em. Go volunteer! Go knock on doors. Be a campaign manager. And that’s what happened. And then we had the wins in Virginia in 2017, and rolled into 2018. Women have changed the political landscape. In Nevada, to see a women-majority state Legislature. And women responsible for the election of other women and of good, strong, progressive men. Sure enough, one of the first things that happens in the Nevada Legislature is gun-violence legislation passes. Real change. The wave of 2018 is about a changing democratic landscape. 2019 has given us the first stirrings of that. So the battle now becomes: Is America a democracy that is going to be run by the billionaires and the people who suck up to the billionaires, or are we going to be a democracy built on a grassroots movement, on people who engage and say my personal life is at stake here?

But is there anything you can do to address that underlying dynamic?
I do it every day. I go out and meet people every single day, and shake hands, and talk to people about the things that touch their lives. [I’ve met] more than one couple in the selfie line, where she says, “I dragged him here,” and then he says, “But I’m all in now.” I’ll take that.

There is a perception that you made a tactical error on Medicare for All — that this wasn’t your signature issue, but you were under pressure to provide details on how you would pay for it. Do you think you made a mistake?
I’ve spent most of my adult life working on the question of why people go broke. Health care, housing, child care, and sending a kid off to school have created huge pressures on middle-class families. Combine that with largely flat incomes, and it’s pretty easy to see how tens of millions of people across this country are deep in debt and living just one financial bump away from collapse. It’s important to me to talk about all of those issues, and that’s what I’ve done. Not just since I’ve started running for president, but throughout my career. One of the exciting parts of running for president is I get to talk about not just what’s broken, but what we could do to fix it.

What do you think is the single biggest challenge facing the country right now?
That our government works better and better and better for a smaller and smaller group at the top and is leaving everyone else behind. That is shrinking opportunity for tens of millions of people and ultimately undermines our democracy and our entire future.

If you could implement only one of your plans, which one would it be?
It’d be anti-corruption, because then everything else would change.

Is there a specific piece—
All of them, because that’s the thing with corruption: Money doesn’t make itself felt in Washington in just one way. It’s in hundreds of ways, and thousands of ways. It’s the obvious — around lobbying and the revolving door with Wall Street and with the defense industry — but it is also in very subtle ways. The United States Supreme Court has no rules of ethics, so justices can take freebie vacations with groups that will repeatedly appear in front of those same justices to argue cases. That is thinly disguised influence-peddling. Think of it like water that’s flowing everywhere. It’s not like you can say, “Oh, there’s one, and if you stop it here you’ll stop the whole thing.”

What do you think it’s going to take to break down the cynicism and loyalty that Republican elected officials, and also Republican voters, have for [the president]?
I think that it’s going to happen in pieces. It will start right now in the run-up to the 2020 election. It’s important to reframe the conversation away from [him]. [He] wants everything to be about him. The 2020 election is partly about [the president], but only partly. It’s about things that have been broken in this country for decades. [He] is just the latest and most aggressive symptom. It’s about talking about what’s broken and showing the people we can fix it. It’s about optimism that the vote counts. That we can make something happen.

And then the second part is to start delivering on that promise. And when we do, that’s when the world really starts to change. When I get to sign the bill that cancels student-loan debt for 43 million Americans, the whole world takes a click in a different direction. Millions of young people, Democrats and Republicans, who have only seen the government as on the other side — as a debt collector — suddenly it’s a government that’s on their side. I think the student-loan debt forgiveness will be a pivotal moment in reframing the tension in this country away from the tired old left-right, and toward the fundamental question of who this democracy works for.

I’ve read that you get dressed in four minutes. Are there other things you do to cut down on decision fatigue?
I wear my hair the same way all the time. I buy the same kind of shoes, I buy the same pants, and the same tops, a narrow range of sweaters, and a narrow range of jackets.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen, and if nobody will get physically injured, then give it a try.

What’s one piece of financial advice that you think everyone should know?
Debt is really dangerous — far more dangerous than you think.

Is there anything you wish more people understood about you?
That everything I do — good, bad, and indifferent — comes from the fact that I care. All of it.

Last question: You named your golden retriever after George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart’s character in It’s a Wonderful Life. So I have to ask: Bailey’s Building and Loan, good bank or bad bank?
Good bank. I haven’t watched the movie in years—

I think there are those who would argue it’s a subprime mortgage lender
Actually, I disagree with that. He wasn’t trying to extract value out of those folks. He just used a different method for determining who was creditworthy. In fact, I’m surprised that you asked that question. He didn’t try to do accelerated mortgages that were going to cost people their homes or suck thousands of dollars of value out of every transaction. They were trying to help people build some wealth! It’s why we named our dog Bailey. And Bailey is a very good boy.

R1335_FEA_WARREN_Cchild

If You Want To Feel Even Worse About the 2016 Election

Or imagine how good it will be to get rid of this president, you can watch Howard Stern’s long interview with Hillary Clinton. He’s a very big fan of hers, so he gushes a lot, but as human beings or leaders go, she beats the Toddler hands down.

For the most important part of the interview, go to the brief Russian Meddling & 2020 Election section in part 4 further down the page.

This is part 1.

Part 2

0:00 – Therapy & Religion

4:24 – Family & Upbringing

15:39 – College Years & Obama

20:35 – Meeting Bill Clinton

Part 3

0:00 – Favorite President

5:08 – Falling in Love 

12:55 – Investigating Nixon & Meeting MLK

18:32 – Becoming First Lady & Public Scrutiny

Part 4

0:00 – Life in the Public Eye

9:33 – Economy & Bin Laden Raid

18:31Russian Meddling & 2020 Election

Part 5

0:00 – “The Book of Gutsy Women”

12:17 – Nelson Mandela

21:01 – The Beatles & the Rolling Stones