Long Read: “Elizabeth Warren Is the Teacher”

ABC US News | ABC Business News

My favorite reporter, Mr. Charles P. Pierce, writing about my favorite politician — okay, I’m prejudiced, but this Esquire article is still a Great Read:

You cannot understand how she became a senator—hell, you can’t even understand how she became a public person—unless you understand the fact that, first and foremost, she is a teacher, having taught at Rutgers, and having been a professor of law at the University of Houston, the University of Texas, the University of Pennsylvania, and ultimately at Harvard Law School, where she was teaching bankruptcy and contracts in the fall of 2008, just as the global financial system collapsed and threatened the economy of the entire world. Her first great project as a young law professor in Texas had been to learn about how bankruptcy worked in this country, and more important, it was to learn about the people who found themselves in the process. It challenged her assumptions; she had thought she was going out to study the schemers who were working the system and the moochers who were cheating the people to whom they owed money. She learned from the people in the courtrooms that everything she knew about them was wrong, and then she set out to teach the country that everything it thought about those people was wrong….

She sees the country in a different way from most people. She has a natural way of expressing the idea of a political commonwealth by anchoring it in the individual pasts of individual citizens, by teaching history, as it were, to a country that has forgotten much of it. People are drawn to her not necessarily by her intelligence or by her willingness to speak truth to greed but by an ineffable feeling that she is reminding them of something they already knew. Somebody mentions to her that his family rose in this country because his grandfather was a cop, and his father a veteran who used the GI Bill to build a career as a public-school teacher. She rises partway from her chair, her lesson having taken hold.

“I love it. I love it,” she says. “But you and I grew up in the America that was investing in kids like us. That made education possible. Infrastructure. I gave this speech on infrastructure last night. Why infrastructure is important. Why it’s important to the economy, why it’s important to families, why it’s important to the earth, right? Why we’ve got to have that basic transportation infrastructure.

“And everyone gets this. But the choices Washington makes right now don’t reflect our values. The idea that billions of dollars would be left with billionaires through tax loopholes rather than spending that money on repairing roads and bridges? Rather than spending that money on helping our kids get through college? Rather than spending that money on NIH? And rather than a better future for all of our kids? That’s the debate we’re on the cusp of having.”…

Self-government must be an educational enterprise, with lessons learned over and over again, and that is what Elizabeth Warren is about these days. She is still teaching. She teaches because she has learned, and she has learned because she teaches. The great teachers are the ones who remain students at heart, who keep learning from their students, and from the world around them, and from their own drive to know even more about even more things, and who then are able to transmit that knowledge—and more important, the drive to know more—to their students. That is how teachers become immortal.

21 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    I think Warren is going to be Rachel tonight.

  2. 2
    The Dangerman says:

    I wonder which woman (Clinton or Warren) as a candidate would make Tea Partiers foam at the mouth more? As a single issue, Benghazi might not be able to be topped, but I think, overall, it would be Warren.

  3. 3
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    I like Pierce’s style in this type of writing. His sportswriter’s passion shows when he gets to profile a person that he truly admires.

  4. 4
    jl says:

    ‘stay focused on these issues”? Issues? We’re talking about issues? About issues?

    That’s not savvy. The beltway pundits will hate her ever more as time goes by.

  5. 5

    @The Dangerman:
    Clinton, definitely. They know Clinton, and have built up a mythos of her as the avatar of all their misogyny. I would rather not go into the list of traits they’ve assigned her, especially since that list says more about conservative issues with women than it does about Clinton. Warren is just a woman who supports an issue they’re against – helping people.

    EDIT – And to the OP, I’m sorry, Warren, but the issue of feeding the rich and strangling the poor aren’t really connected. They actually do want to gut the infrastructure. Conservatism is about hurting people, and only about helping anyone if it specifically lets that person hurt others more.

  6. 6
    mai naem says:

    @The Dangerman: Clinton, hands down. You’d hear the “Best of 90s Clinton” because you know, everything old becomes “vintage” and fashionable at some point. You would be “treated” to “Hilary’s Lover Vince Foster”, “Hilary the LesboWimmensLibber”, “Hilary: Bill’s Bimbo Pimple Buster” , “HilaryCare’s Gonna Kill You”, “Hilary’s X-rated Xmas Ornaments” , “Hilary Canned the WH Travel Agents”, “Beng Beng the Benghazi Drum” and that’s just Disc 1.

    The most they can do with Warren is she’s pinko liberal perfesser who’s into class warfare!! Harvard.Ivory. Tower Also. Too.

  7. 7
    The Dangerman says:


    @mai naem:

    I dunno; remember, I singled out Tea Partiers specifically (yes, I know they are a subset of Republicans that like to dress up in funny costumes) and their raison d’etre is taxes. I think Warren might light them up more than Clinton.

  8. 8
    Chris says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Clinton, until they get to know Warren/until Warren’s become as prominent as Clinton.

    They knew next to nothing about Obama either. Didn’t take long for them to conjure up a list of reasons to hate him. Birth certificate. Secret Muslim. Secret Weather Underground terrorist. Reverend Whatsisface. Death panels. Benghazigate. IRSgate. NSAgate. Healthcare.govgate.

  9. 9
    Cpl Cam says:

    X-rated xmas ornaments? They’re just called “pornaments.” I’ve been putting them on my tree for years…

  10. 10

    We need more people like Warren in positions of power, unfortunately we have more people like Brooks with prominent platforms, such as the opinion pages of the New York Times.

  11. 11
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @mai naem: “Best of 90s Clinton” Saw this without the context and thought: George!

  12. 12
    MomSense says:

    Watching the Warren intro now on Rachel’s show.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    catclub says:

    @Cpl Cam: I read the caption for a picutre in the local paper, the local community college cheer squad had won an award for their pom routine. Now did you read that as [p o m] or [p o r n]?

    Naturally I looked twice.

  15. 15
    rikyrah says:

    They hate Senator Warren, and would be furious if she ran, mainly because they don’t have a playbook for her. I love her and hope she stays in the Senate for decades.
    And I can’t stand Hillary.

  16. 16
    Digital Amish says:


    They knew next to nothing about Obama either. Didn’t take long for them to conjure up a list of reasons to hate him.

    Oh, I think a significant portion of them discerned enough about him at first glance to come up with a reason.

  17. 17

    @The Dangerman:
    The Teabaggers specifically are the Republicans who care least about taxes and are most blatantly making up shit to cover the fact that their position is based on primal hate. They’ve never followed or cared about tax rates or deficits until it was an argument that made them sound more adult than ‘A black man is trying to help poor people? Fuck that!’ To them more than anyone it will all be about the hate they’ve projected onto Hillary already, not anyone’s positions.

  18. 18
    StringOnAStick says:

    @driftglass: Nice Pshop, and nice to see you, Drifty!

  19. 19
    Steeplejack (tablet) says:

    Elizabeth Warren is going to be on The Daily Show tonight.

  20. 20
    Skippy-san says:

    Fucking Victor Davis Hanson has just written a really vile screed over at NR mocking Warren for pointing out these ugly truths. As is typical for him. he portrays himself as victim of some massive conspiracy-and gets all bent out shape about the Indian thing.

  21. 21
    Pococurante says:

    I saw her on yesterday’s Daily Show, was looking forward to hearing from her.

    Then watched her duck Stewart’s question regarding a bill she voted on that protected medical device makers at the expense of citizens. Even after he gave her plenty of warning he wanted her to reconcile her populist ideals with bringing home the pork.

    So now I’m watching her more critically. Didn’t take long after her election for ideals to start looking like rhetoric. :(

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