Pablo Puig, Staff Writer

Of the—sigh—19 candidates still vying to be the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee, Elizabeth Warren has seen notable growth in support and satisfaction among American voters. 

Though several long-shot candidates have proven more popular than initially expected, most have yet to gain the groundswell, be it in polling numbers or basic name recognition, that suggests genuine viability. In contrast, other main contenders, such as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, have thus far failed to expand their appeal beyond an original base. Polling shows Biden declining, despite remaining the frontrunner, while Sanders’s numbers have held steady after a mild decrease since announcing his 2020 candidacy. 

Meanwhile, Warren’s national numbers have followed a trendline of consistent increase. According to CNN, her average vote share in polls taken before the June Democratic primary debates was only 12%. Her first bump came in July, post-debates, bringing her to 16%. Next, September and its own debates; prior to these, Warren stood at 18%, but afterward, she saw a five-point boost. Currently, she’s holding at a 23% average vote share, while the latest Quinnipiac poll from Sept. 25 has her beating Biden. 

But why? How is it that two career politicians, each with decades in Congress and national profiles due to prior presidential runs, have come to be rivaled and outright surpassed by a first-time candidate with only six years of Senate experience? 

For starters, her career before elected office speaks volumes. Among the most influential professors in the fields of bankruptcy and commercial law, Warren taught at several universities, including Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. She even began her political involvement through that scholarship and her public advocacy on financial matters, next being brought on as an advisor to national institutions and as overseer of congressional measures, such as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010. This demonstrable experience and competence was key to her successful runs for Senator of Massachusetts in 2012 and 2018, and continues to be pivotal in her current presidential campaign. 

Warren’s passion and commitment to economic matters seem to stem from two defining experiences. 

First, in childhood, her family endured financial hardship, losing their car and nearly their home as well, after her father survived a heart attack that brought debt and a pay cut. Hearing her speak of that time, its impact on her is unmistakable. “A minimum wage job saved our house,” Warren said in a speech at the Economic Policy Center, describing her mother’s response to the family’s hard times, “but more to the point, it saved our family.” 

But her current political trajectory is best understood with another moment, this time from adulthood. While doing on-the-ground research into how people respond to laws, Warren found that, contrary to her expectations, the legal framework for bankruptcy was poorly designed and abuse of the system was, in fact, rare. She’s since described the ensuing blow to her prior beliefs as “worse than disillusionment” and “like being shocked at a deep-down level.” This realignment culminated in her switching affiliation to the Democratic Party in 1996 and offers insight to Warren’s fact-driven attitudes and proposals on any policy area. 

Indeed, “She has a plan for that” seems to have become an unofficial slogan for Warren supporters, one to rival, “Nevertheless, she persisted”, a motto drawn from Senator Mitch McConnell’s comments after silencing her during the Senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. And thus far, both seem appreciably accurate. Not only has Warren truly persisted in the face of daunting obstacles, she’s offered extensive plans on all notable subjects now in public discourse, even addressing problems that few, if any, view worthy of discussion; a recent press release from her Senate office concerned, of all things, bond ratings and her taking the Securities and Exchange Commission to task for their apparent dereliction of duty to crack down on inflation of these. Among other plans, she’s offered proposals for rebuilding the middle class, strengthening American democracy, striving toward equal justice under law, curtailing Washington corruption and stabilizing foreign policy. While there is genuine room for concern, such as her unclear positions on health care, Warren’s record is a testament of progressive efforts, and her own website sums up the whole campaign as about “putting economic and political power back in the hands of the people.” 

However, this focus on economic affairs has made her no shortage of enemies. Beyond the unsurprising contempt and disapproval of Republicans toward her efforts, Wall Street has cast itself against Warren since her days as a professor. Anonymous Democratic donors recently claimed they would either refrain from donating this cycle or even support Donald Trump if she became the nominee. Silicon Valley has also taken an adversarial approach due to her expressed desire to “break up Big Tech”, with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg saying he would sue if her antitrust plans were implemented. 

But Warren seems to take such opposition in stride, having harnessed such comments into “approved messages,” apparently evoking FDR’S attitude when confronted with organized money’s antagonism: “They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.” 

As in every arena, politics inevitably brings enemies and allies. Warren seems to have picked hers wisely.