"Don't follow her lead. She's the problem." — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
History comes down to one moment, say historians William Strauss and Neil Howe (authors of The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy). And that singular moment is a portal to the many moments for up to a hundred years ahead. From the formless, form suddenly emerges and if I could identify a starting gate, I'd pick the Friday speech, famous now, of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn Washington, the road almost never taken Senate poised to battle over Biden's pick of big bank critic Treasury says more rental aid is reaching tenants, preventing evictions MORE (D) — orator and master of her craft — on the floor of the Senate. It was a great little speech but more important to our times, a vivid and rare expression of gunslinger political instincts and natural-born leadership, pure and true. You could boil it down to five seconds; those five seconds when she talked about the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, calling it an imperfect bill. Her grip tightened on Citigroup as she spoke, which she identified by name 21 times in less than nine minutes:
"Dodd-Frank isn't perfect," she said. "It should have broken you into pieces."
Unlike the cant and bluster constantly swelling through the chambers in the last days of one of the most unpopular Congresses in recent history, she spoke with simple and natural candor, with fierce conviction and unadorned courage. She conjured the spirit of President Teddy Roosevelt in his war against the trusts.
Chroniclers might find comparison by dialing back to S.S. McClure and McClure's magazine, and to his warrior journalists at the turn of the 20th century, dubbed "muckrakers." Especially Ida Tarbell, one the best and most effective journalists who ever worked in America. Tarbell, reared with plain folk in the heartland like Warren, advanced the breakup of Standard Oil in 1911 with her series, "The History of the Standard Oil Company." Some close family member might place Tarbell’s autobiography, All in the Day's Work, under Warren's tree this Christmas, if she hasn’t read it already; having just read Warren's own offering, A Fighting Chance, I think she might find herself again in it.
It runs so close in spirit to Warren's rage against Citigroup on Friday, as if Tarbell's unpretentious and real spirit had awakened again and come and found her. Through Tarbell and her McClure's magazine colleague, Lincoln Steffens — whose arrangement was to interview Teddy Roosevelt in the mornings while he was shaving — you could see the 20th century opening. Those on hand Friday might have seen a new progressive era opening today as well.
Even conservative radio commentator Laura IngrahamLaura Anne Ingraham90 percent of full-time Fox Corp. employees say they're fully vaccinated: executive Texas lt. governor faces backlash after claiming unvaccinated African Americans responsible for COVID-19 surge Fox News requires employees to provide vaccination status MORE appreciated her comments and appeared to wish she had made them herself.
Compared to what some Republican presidential contenders are offering, like "big omnibus bills," Ingraham said, "Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, can say, 'I fought against the big banks.' I mean, what position would you rather be in? Warren’s position or, like, Paul Ryan's position? Mr. Budget Hawk!"
Mr. — or Ms. — Deeds has come to town. Conservatism may now have to redefine itself, Ingraham suggested.
Miles Mogulescu, writing at The Huffington Post, may have hit the bull's-eye: "Early Friday evening Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to the Senate floor and gave a plain-spoken, barn-burning speech that could make history and put her into serious contention to be the next [p]resident of the United States."
Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.