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The Republicans are trying to sink Elizabeth Warren by linking her to the Occupy Wall Street protests. But the nation's top financial reformer is not backing down.
The furor started when Warren told the Daily Beast, “I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do. I support what they do.”
The Republicans jumped all over what they view as an exciting new weapon in the contentious Massachusetts Senate race.
Check out ""Matriarch of Mayhem," the Massachusetts Republican Party's ad, which uses protest images and quotes taken out of context to imply that Elizabeth Warren advocates actual, physical violence.
Even among negative campaign ads, this is a new low.
You knew Wall Street and the Republicans were afraid of Warren and her idea for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. But you haven't seen the depths of their nightmarish fears until you've listened to the scary music and seen the video.
After plenty of shots of pierced protesters denouncing capitalism and getting arrested, the video cuts to an interview clip of the owlish Warren saying, "I have thrown rocks at people I think are in the wrong."
Text of a Warren quote appears next: "My first choice is a strong consumer agency . . . My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth on the floor." (The last part of the quote appears, helpfully, in bright red.)
Who is buying this stuff?
The Republicans hope that the language they use in their ad about protesters "bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies" and "redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience, and, in some instances, violence" will alienate middle-class voters in Massachusetts.
But here is the problem: The people they hope to alienate tend to agree with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Like Harvard law professor, finance expert, and former Republican Elizabeth Warren, they are more concerned about the actual damage Wall Street and its enablers in the government are doing to the economy and the working people of this country than some silly 1960s bugaboo about radical Marxist hippies.
In fact, some of the people who are most open to Warren's anti-Wall Street message are the Massachusetts voters who elected her opponent, Senator Scott Brown.
As the Center for Media and Democracy's Mary Bottari pointed out in a blog back in January 2010, the Brown campaign "successfully capitalized on the bailout blues" by making an issue of Wall Street in its own ads about "bailouts, broken promises, and . . . backroom deals."
Brown's opponent, Martha Coakley, shot back with her own anti-Wall Street ads, but it was too late. Brown claimed the issue first, and as polls showed voter anger at Wall Street was high, he surged ahead.
"Democrats ignore this message at their peril," Bottari wrote at the time. "They must pass meaningful financial services reform, reform that stirs up a Wall Street backlash, that truly puts an end to the high-stakes casino and prevents the next crash."
As Occupy Wall Street shows, this issue has only gotten hotter.
While Obama and the national Democratic Party can hardly claim to be true opponents of Wall Street, Elizabeth Warren is the real deal. And the Republicans' scary ads have not intimidated her one bit.
I've been protesting Wall Street for a very long time," she said in response to the controversy "I understand the frustration, I share their frustration with what's going on, that right now Washington is wired to work well for those on Wall Street who can hire lobbyists and lawyers and it doesn't work very well for the rest of us. That's what I'm talking about, that's why I'm running for office."
When I interviewed Warren back in 2010, she put it this way, "The banks lobbied Washington so they could write the rules that got us into this crisis. They then lobbied Washington to get the money to bail them out. And now they are lobbying Washington to write the rules so they can get us into the next crisis."
At the time, she had been drafted by the Obama Administration to be the government's watchdog on the massive $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. One Wall Street lobbyist denounced her Congressional Oversight Panel because it entertained outlandish ideas like nationalizing or liquidating the banks. The hatred of her by Wall Street and the politicians it paid for was so hot, Obama couldn't get her appointed to head her own brainchild agency--Consumer Financial Protection.
But that didn't make her back down. "Every single day that goes by I read another news report about . . . how large financial institutions have figured out ways to lie to people, to squeeze them for money, to make profits by tricking and trapping people rather than by offering a better product," she told me.
Bad feeling toward the banks was not going to die down, she said then.
"My view is that middle class America is acutely aware of how bad this economy is, and it is going to demand changes. I don't think politicians can afford to be complacent."
Those politicians would do well to listen to Warren--Republicans and Democrats alike.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "On Your Marks . . .The Walker Recall Race Begins in Wisconsin."
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