"Why wait," says Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. After Warren campaigned on her knowledge, credibility, and passion on the critical topic of inequities in the financial industry, "we'd be disappointed if she didn't do that."
"She's doing exactly what we expected her to do," says Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), whose nearly one million members were a huge fundraising source for Warren's campaign. "She is breathing new oxygen into the room around banking accountability."
Method behind it
Warren clearly relishes being a US Senator, and is getting early rave reviews. "She brings a new perspective to the Senate," says Thomas Quinn, partner at Venerable LLP, and a lobbyist on financial issues. "We have so many lifetime politicians. She brings a real detailed knowledge of the issues, especially with banking."
But it is probably not her dream job. That was the one she had briefly, running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) she helped create in 2010. A senator is just one of a hundred, in a slow-moving body where being right means very little.
She talks a lot about finding the "tools in the toolbox" available to her as senator: "In the first couple of months, it feels like I can see where it's possible to make a difference."
For an example of how this works, look at what happened earlier this month, after Warren broke out the "too big for trial" line.
PCCC quickly sent video from that hearing to its members; the clip shot around social media. An accompanying petition, calling for stronger prosecution of financial industry scofflaws, has gathered more than 50,000 signatures. That, and the accompanying media attention, brought a lot of pressure to bear on the regulatory agencies and prosecutors. Warren notes with pleasure an early-March American Banker magazine headline, warning that boards at financial institutions "must brace for tougher enforcement environment."
But in addition, that PCCC petition contained a check-off box, to be marked by those who have personally been helped by the CFPB. That question was included, according to Green, because Warren suggested in an earlier meeting that they begin preparing for the upcoming battle over Richard Cordray's re-nomination as the bureau's director. Republicans are explicitly trying to block Cordray because he is effective at running the bureau; they want to see it de-fanged, or at least run by someone uninterested in actually protecting consumers from abuses of financial corporations.
"We thought we'd find 10 people" through the check-off box, Green tells me. Instead, they have collected more than 1000 personal stories, which they are now prepared to use in the campaign to persuade senators to back Cordray.
Green calls this collaboration with Warren an "inside/outside" strategy of pressure and persuasion. Warren calls it "putting wind in our own sails."
"In this case, putting wind in sails for accountability by the big financial institutions," she says. "And that's a good thing. That's a very good thing. I believe it's what the American people want, and frankly it's what will make the banking system safer."
Not going rogue
That powerful following is not limited to PCCC-type lefties – plenty of other groups, including EMILY's List, have similar citizen armies devoted to Warren.