Elizabeth Warren’s new book isn’t just a memoir — it’s a full-throated endorsement of modern, populist liberalism and a scathing indictment of anti-government “magical thinking” by the tea party.
While the Democratic Massachusetts senator structures her new volume, A Fighting Chance, as a chronological tale of her life, she also uses her experiences to make strategic points and arguments about her political philosophy, which embraces government and the labor movement as forces for good.
“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that if ‘big government’ disappears, so will society’s toughest problems. That’s just magical thinking — and it’s also dangerous thinking,” Warren writes. “Our problems are getting bigger by the day and we need to develop some hardheaded, realistic responses. Instead of trying to starve the government or drown it in the bathtub, we need to tackle our problems head-on, and that will require better government.”
She recounts in the book, which is due out next week, that she believed she was doing that as she put together the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help protect regular people from the sorts of financial chicanery the banking industry was guilty of before the mortgage market meltdown.
And sometimes she ran headlong into those very people she feels are guilty of magical thinking, such as Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who won election in 2010 as a tea party candidate from Staten Island.
Warren met Grimm early in his first term. She figured that as an ex-Marine, former FBI man who investigated Wall Street crime and graduate of a public university, he’d be someone on the GOP side who would understand her focus on making government work better and holding giant financial institutions accountable for breaking the rules.
“When I launched into an enthusiastic description of what we were trying to get done at the agency, the congressman looked surprised,” Warren writes. “After a bit, he cut me off so he could make one thing clear: He didn’t believe in government.”
A stunned Warren asked him if that included the FBI. He allowed that he believed in the Bureau, “but not other forms of ‘big government’ and certainly not a consumer protection agency.”
Warren found that more than a little ironic for a guy who had spent most of his adult life working for or benefiting from government institutions. And he still was.
“Heck, he had even been quoted as saying that he wanted the government-paid health insurance when he joined Congress, because ‘God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation. That could happen to anyone,’” Warren writes, citing a New York Daily News interview Grimm gave.
The “could happen to anyone” remark actually is one of the larger themes in Warren’s book, whether its about health problems or financial ruin.
And she thinks it’s government’s job — as her book title suggests — to help give a theoretically injured Michael Grimm or anyone else a fighting chance.