Nourafshan: A complicated win for Democrats


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Among the most interesting outcomes of the 2012 election was Elizabeth Warren’s victory over Scott Brown for a Massachusetts Senate seat. Warren, a Harvard law professor and architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is poised to become a major force in the Democratic Party.

What is less clear is whether Warren will be able to implement her progressive vision, which would require support from her Republican colleagues in the Senate.

Warren is an avowed liberal, and this is largely what drives her popularity. At a time when there is little overlap between the parties ideologically, it is quite likely that Warren’s far-left views will alienate Republicans rather than invite compromise. Scott Brown, on the other hand, was among the few remaining moderate Republicans in the Senate with a willingness to work across the aisle. Brown was the deciding vote to pass the Dodd-Frank bill, for example, which imposes regulations on financial institutions, much to the chagrin of other Republican lawmakers.

Democrats may have won big in the 2012 election, but they are still several votes shy of a filibuster proof super-majority; with moderate Republican senators like Olympia Snowe retiring, replacing the few remaining moderate Republican senators such as Scott Brown with very liberal Democrats such as Warren may lead to even less cooperation between the parties.

Between 2008 and 2012, Republicans behaved more like a parliamentary party than a political party in a Democratic system; this led to unnecessary gridlock and controversy surrounding legislation that has historically passed with wide measures of bipartisan support. Perhaps the major defeat in the 2012 election will serve as a wakeup call to the GOP that it will be held accountable for shameless political posturing, which has taken precedence over sound policymaking since President Obama took office.

It is also worth noting that for incumbent Republican senators, there is an established animosity toward Warren: It was this group, after all, that prevented Warren from becoming the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a regulatory agency that she designed. Republican senators opposed her appointment largely because of her aggressive approach to regulating financial institutions during a time of shaky economic recovery. While it will be interesting to see how Sen. Warren fares with her Republican counterparts; it’s a safe bet that some among the GOP ranks deeply regret the decision to prevent her from becoming the head of the Consumer Bureau: As a senator in the majority party with a large national support base, Warren is well-positioned to catalyze reform in a number of policy areas, greatly expanding the power she would have otherwise wielded as the head of a regulatory agency.

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