Jeffrey Toobin for The New Yorker: The Professor

September 10th, 2012

The New Yorker
by Jeffrey Toobin
September 17, 2012



ABSTRACT: PROFILE of Elizabeth Warren. Last summer, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, held a series of houseparties around Massachusetts to test support for a possible run for the United States Senate. At one such event, held at the Andover home of veteran Democratic activist M. J. Powell, Warren was asked if she was engaging in class warfare. She replied, “No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.” The writer terms Warren’s speech a “rousing defense of the welfare state.” Warren was unaware she was being filmed, and footage of the speech was posted to YouTube several days later. Warren declared her candidacy for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Scott Brown. “The Warren-Brown contest has become the highest-profile, and most expensive, statewide race of the year.” Warren represents a genuine ideological challenge to Brown, and to her party as well. “Warren is neither a Clintonesque triangulator nor an Obamaesque conciliator. She is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition, and her candidacy is a test of whether that approach can still appeal to voters.” Warren, sixty-three, has modest roots. She was married at nineteen and had her first child at twenty-two, becoming a school-teacher for special needs children before starting at Rutgers School of Law in Newark on her daughter Amelia’s second birthday. Warren has co-authored two books on bankruptcy which use “empirical research to demonstrate the precariousness of contemporary middle-class life.” In the mid-nineties, Congress decided to overhaul bankruptcy laws for the first time since 1978, and Warren was asked to be an adviser on a bankruptcy commission. This is where Warren’s real political education began. In 2008, Warren served on the panel overseeing the bank bailouts, known as TARP, where she directed “plainspoken questions” to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. “The more enemies Warren made in the capital, the more popular she became elsewhere.” The Massachusetts campaign has so far been, by contemporary standards, high-minded. Warren says the 2012 election question is “What is the role of government?”