February 05, 2018

New Republic: The Elizabeth Warren Model of Political Leadership

Before turning in the executive restroom key last week, outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen had one final task: bringing the hammer down on Wells Fargo. Responding to a litany of failures at one of America's largest banks, most notably the issuing of 3.5 million fake accounts to customers without their knowledge, the Fed announced sanctions against Wells, including restricting the bank's growth and removing four board members.

This is not nearly the punishment that Wells Fargo deserves. (I've said for months that the bank doesn't deserve to be in business anymore.) But compared to what the nation's banking regulators usually do (or rather, don't do) when faced with financial malpractice, it's a pleasant surprise and a small measure of accountability. And it's directly attributable to one woman: Senator Elizabeth Warren, who pleaded with Yellen for months to punish Wells Fargo. The incident shows that you can't always measure political leadership and success through a legislative scorecard.


None of that shows up on a legislative stat sheet. It doesn't reflect a "key vote" or a bill becoming a law. But being a member of Congress is about more than voting. If it weren't for Warren, Yellen wouldn't have been Fed chair to begin with; Warren engineered the opposition to Larry Summers for that position. She has used committee hearings and formal letters and pressure that nobody reads about in the newspapers to effect change.

This should be the minimum expectation of our political leaders. A member of Congress wields considerable power. They have a bully pulpit to set an agenda. They can pressure federal agencies to act. They can threaten to hold up confirmations or legislation until they get their way. Leveraging that power takes ingenuity and assertiveness. It takes wanting to do something in office beyond getting reelected. And if done right, it can nudge progress forward.

Read the full article on the New Republic website here.

By:  David Dayen
Source: New Republic