Elizabeth Warren: Savior of a Fallen System?

Elizabeth Warren is a neoliberal in the service of the oligarchs and plutocrats: the few and the wealthy! She stands in a long line of neoliberals who join the contemporary liberal populist parade. Long gone are the New Deal and Great Society days when at least a few social programs were enacted for some. Of course, those programs of the New Deal were generally dependent on race.

Warren is a good friend to Wall Street as a recent article in the Guardian documents. (“Progressives, trust your gut: Elizabeth Warren is not one of us,” November 24, 2019). Her half-hearted consumer protection policies, her readiness to abandon a bonafide single-payer health insurance program for all, and her neoliberal stands on the coup attempt in Venezuela and actual coup in Bolivia point in the dangerous direction of the bipartisan agreement about regime change and trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of deaths in over two decades of endless wars. Climate destruction stands alone as an issue while the political and economic structures stoke the flames of profiteering and collusion in service to fossil fuels. Imagine a candidate elected as president who will actually challenge the economic and social systems addicted to fossil fuels? The latter is possible, but this is by far a society and a government that acts with abandon in its perceived God-given right to despoil the planet. The contemporary US is truly exceptional, and therefore, huge corporations and the government do what they damn well please. Elizabeth Warren would put an acceptable face among the Democrats as they act as the good cop on the environmental beat.

A hopeful theme in the senator’s environmental plan has minority communities at the heart of her policy (“Elizabeth Warren debuts ambitious plan to tackle environmental racism,” Guardian, October 9, 2019). Soon, as climate destruction escalates and becomes irreversible, American exceptionalism won’t protect anything or anyone.

Here are the major points of Nathan Robinson’s critique in the Guardian:

Warren spent much of her life as a Republican…

She taught corporate lawyers and defended large corporations…

She accepted donations from billionaires…

She applauded Trump when he said that the US would “never become a socialist country”…

In the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she brought in Wall Street bankers as financial foxes to guard the consumer henhouse…

Some left populist! Warren talks a good line on taxes, regulating Wall Street,, establishing a single-payer healthcare system, expanding childcare, and giving power to workers. But like most campaign promises, inauguration day would see at least some of those promises evaporate into thin hot air. And President Warren would have to get those policies enacted in an increasingly reactionary political, economic, and social environment.

I don’t like what I’ve seen in my interactions with Elizabeth Warren as one of the senator’s constituents. My first interaction involved attempting to get the senator’s help in a semi-official review of the famous Strubbe tape recorded as events unfolded on the campus of Kent State University on May 4, 1970 during an antiwar demonstration.  Richard Nixon had expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia, and students and other protesters across the nation rebelled on campuses and on the streets. That war had long since been waged in Laos as one of the most vicious air wars in history.

Only public officials can request that the National Academy of Sciences analyze a tape such as the tape recorded at Kent State in Ohio in 1970. Despite phone calls and a written request to the senator’s staff charged with issues involving science, I never received any acknowledgement of my request, and no action was ever taken. Who cares about dead and wounded kids in Ohio from so very long ago? Very few of us do.

As a stakeholder of the Kent State massacre said to me a few years ago: There are already two forensic sound experts who have uncovered the order to shoot at unarmed students by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. But official scientific acknowledgement of the Kent State massacre would have given history the final word.

Inquiries made to the senator about issues related to the endless wars the US is involved in were answered by a nod of support for the War (read wars) on Terror. Of late, as the senator entered the race for President of the US, her point of view toward issues of war and peace seems to have improved. Could the latter be an empty recognition of her base’s political leaning on these issues? Could this policy move be a harbinger for real change?

In terms of war, the senator may want to look presidential if elected. How long before the use of force takes place? The defense of the world’s economic order and the projection of US power stands in the balance. It would take quite a bit of resolve to change the US propensity of war over diplomacy.

The success of the economic order in the US depends upon the maintenance and propagation of economic inequality and racism. It also stands on maintaining the inequality of the larger world’s economic, political, and social systems. It’s doubtful that one person (even a person with enormous power and influence), along with advisors, can shake up, or even mitigate the worst excesses of the system, but it is possible.

In good news for the Warren campaign, the senator has gained support among minority voters according to an article in Politico.

The late antiwar protester Philip Berrigan said that if elections could change anything, they’d be “illegal.” That’s essentially how it’s turned out in the US with the ugliness of the political, economic, and social systems (for some) vomiting up Donald Trump in 2016. It’s probably too late to change this regime, except perhaps in the streets, the last place where democracy may live. The political left in the US really can’t seem to get its shit together anymore, with the exception of some small bursts of energy. The far right seems much more adept at carrying out its reactionary programs and putting ugliness on the streets and into policy.


Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).