Editorial: Keep talking, Sen.-elect Warren
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Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after defeating incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race, during an election night rally at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Purchase photo reprints »
Elizabeth Warren made history Tuesday when voters decisively chose her over incumbent Sen. Scott Brown as United States senator.
Warren captured 54 percent of the vote, or 1.67 million to Brown’s 46 percent, or 1.45 million votes, making her the first woman to finally bust the glass ceiling hovering over this state’s political establishment. We’ve never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate or to the governor’s office. Among other notable statistics from Tuesday’s vote are that Warren was among 11 women elected to the Senate, she was one of four new senators elected in states where there had never been a women in the U.S. Senate, and a record number of women were sent to the United States House.
Those statistics are impressive, even if some people are also muttering “it’s about time” and “there’s a long way to go.”
Indeed, when pressed by reporters during a press conference Thursday, Warren said: “Let’s get serious here, this is 2012 and we’re talking about 20 percent of the United States Senate is female. That’s not an overwhelming number yet.”
Point taken. Yet Warren seems almost reluctant to embrace the history-making nature of her election. In her 13-minute victory speech in Boston Tuesday night, it took five minutes before she finally told her adoring, rambunctious supporters: “Despite the odds you elected the first woman senator in the state of Massachusetts.”
Maybe she doesn’t want to be known only as the state’s first woman senator. Fair enough, but she is that — and that is no small thing.
Warren’s resume offers plenty other credentials that make her notable, and having broken the proverbial glass ceiling, she’s now poised to make her mark in other ways.
Warren, a Harvard law professor, made a name for herself as the outspoken chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel after the 2008 financial crisis. In 2010, as part of the Obama administration, she developed the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
And as a candidate who persevered on a grueling campaign trail, she showed the state that she is strong, resilient, smart and a quick learner when it comes to electoral politics.
To her supporters Tuesday night she said: “You did what everyone thought was impossible — you taught a scrappy, first-time candidate how to get in the ring and win.”
She also reached out to Brown supporters, saying, “The message you sent was clear: We need leaders in Washington who are willing to break the partisan gridlock and work regardless of party. I know I didn’t earn your vote, but I promise I’m going to work to earn your support.”
In that comment, she acknowledged that if a strong part of Brown’s appeal to the electorate was his bipartisanship, than she’ll work for that too. When she does, she’ll be following in the tradition of Sen. Edward Kennedy, known for his ability to work well with Republicans, even while fighting tirelessly as a traditional Democratic standard-bearer.
She invoked Kennedy’s name as she noted, at the end of her victory speech, that Tuesday night marked 50 years — exactly — since Kennedy was first elected to the Senate. “We miss his passion, his commitment, his energy, his fight for working families. ... Tonight, I pledge to do the same.”
In her press conference Thursday, Warren surprised some reporters and political observers with what appeared to be terse, miserly answers to questions, later explaining her reticence by saying that as a candidate she’d been more discreet than she had as a person — and suggesting that as a new senator she’d be even more discreet than that.
“I’m trying to learn it,” she said.
Maybe so. And voters will likely understand that she’s new on the job, and give her room to get her bearings.
But we hope she doesn’t forget that voters elected her as the “scrappy candidate” she offered them. And we fervently hope that her attempts to be discreet don’t keep her distant from the people who elected her. We rather like her outspokenness.
Her already high profile — she’s on informal lists as a future presidential contender — will bring pressure to remain in the national political spotlight. As she assumes the mantle of senator, Warren should take yet another lesson from Kennedy’s playbook. Though no stranger to the national stage, he and his staff never overlooked the details of constituent service or forgot the people who elected him to office.
During her campaign, Warren reached out to voters in every nook and cranny of this state. We look forward to seeing her strengthen and deepen those ties as our senator — the scrappier the better, in our book.