Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) formed an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States on Monday, becoming the first major Democratic Party contender to do so.
Warren, who won re-election to the U.S. Senate for a second term in November, is has been a darling of the left since starring in a viral video in 2011 in which she defended federal taxes.
At the time, the newly-elected Republican majority in the House of Representatives, propelled by the Tea Party’s agenda of limited government, was fighting President Barack Obama’s effort to raise taxes as an alternative to cutting spending.
Warren, speaking to voters on the campaign trail against incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), described private success as a function of public spending (via MSNBC and YouTube), and taxes as a form of social responsibility:
I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.’ 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. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
The video made Warren an instant star.
Earlier, Warren had been plucked from her job teaching bankruptcy law at Harvard — where she was a popular, if stern, professor, known for turning off the wireless routers near her classroom to ensure students paid attention — to serve in government.
She chaired the Congressional Oversight Panel, in charge of overseeing the government’s bailout of Wall Street, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and won some respect from conservatives for holding U.S. Treasury officials accountable for poor management decisions.
Later, however, she lost some of that cachet when she proposed the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency that lacked congressional oversight, and which many conservatives contended had been established in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Republicans in Congress blocked her appointment to lead the new agency.
She parlayed that defeat into her successful Senate campaign. But along the way, conservatives discovered that Warren had likely exaggerated her claims of Cherokee heritage, which she had made at a time when Harvard Law School had been under severe pressure to hire and promote female and minority faculty members.
Critics took to calling her “Pocahontas,” after the famous 17th-century daughter of a chief near Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent European settlement in North America, a popular figure in U.S. history and popular culture. Donald Trump took up the nickname and uses it regularly to mock Warren.
Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, pretended to be a Native American in order to advance her career. Very racist!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2016
In defending her, the media often called Trump’s use of the nickname “racist” or a “slur.”
Earlier this year, Warren herself muddied the waters by taking, and publishing, a DNA test that determined she may have had 1/1024 Native American ancestry.
Though she and her supporters touted the results as proof of her family lore, critics noted that it may actually have proven the opposite, since she had no more Native American ancestry than the typical white American.
She declined to run in 2016, deferring to Hillary Clinton, who was expected to win but lost to Trump.
Warren’s entry into the race marks the beginning of the 2020 campaign in earnest. She will compete for the support of the party’s vocal left wing against likely candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and others.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.