Candidates with great expectations talk of hard times
AMERICA:A former abuse victim and a strident left-winger are battling it out for the senate seat in Massachusetts
THE MOST hotly contested race for the US senate this autumn is for the Massachusetts seat that was held by the late senator Ted Kennedy for almost half a century.
Both candidates tell the requisite story of hard times and triumph over adversity. Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren (63) summarised hers in a warm-up speech for Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention on September 5th.
Warren was born in Oklahoma, where, she said, “I grew up on the ragged edge of the middle class. My daddy sold carpeting and ended up as a maintenance man. After he had a heart attack, my mom worked the phones at Sears so we could hang on to our house. My three brothers all served in the military.”
The incumbent, Scott Brown (53), recounted his dysfunctional childhood in Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks and Second Chances, published a year after Brown stunned Democrats by taking Kennedy’s former seat in a January 2010 special election.
Brown suffered his first beating at the hands of a stepfather at the age of six, was sexually abused by a camp counsellor at 10, and shoplifted to feed himself and his younger sister.
Warren attracted national attention in 2006, when she predicted the subprime and consumer debt crises that caused the financial meltdown in the film Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders. Her record of demanding accountability from Wall Street and corporate America have made her – forgive the cliche – a “liberal icon” associated with the Occupy movement.
“I live in LA, which is a celebrity culture,” James Scurlock, the director of Maxed Out, told the Washington Post.
“People get much more excited when you say you know Elizabeth Warren than if I knew Angelina Jolie or George Clooney. She’s like a rock star.”
Warren is about as far left as American politicians come, and she appeals to those who’ve been disappointed by Obama’s middle-of-the-road moderation. “For many years now, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered,” she said at the convention.
“The system is rigged . . . Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs – the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs – still strut around congress, no shame, demanding favours and acting like we should thank them.”
Obama appointed Warren to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But her strident rhetoric ensured Republican senators would prevent her being confirmed in the post.