Elizabeth Warren and Pragmatism

Like it or not, the status quo changes when you go from being a candidate to having the responsibility of governing. And while it may be effective during a campaign, you can't always bluster your way to success through use of the so-called "bully pulpit."

Governing effectively in today's environment requires pragmatism, and this is a concept that incoming Senator Elizabeth Warren clearly understands well.

In her first interview with The Boston Globe since winning the election, she has revealed her governing philosophy.

“Here’s how I see this,” Warren said. “My job is to be effective on behalf of Massachusetts, and so what I’m trying to parse through is the difference between how much of this is about your own initiative, how much it’s about finding other bills that are really what you’d like to see get done and offering to be helpful, [and] how much it’s looking for the little cracks that are windows of opportunity.” [...]

“I’m not patient,” she said, as if to assure supporters she won’t be tamed. “I’m not patient.”

But she said she will choose her tactics carefully, keeping quiet when it suits her objective and making noise when she sees the need.

“I don’t think those are inconsistent,” she said. “I want to use every tool in the tool box because I want to help get things done. And sometimes the best way to do that is quietly, let everyone else take credit and, sometimes, it’s to be willing to stand outside and call everyone out over it. I’m open to any part of that.”

If that sounds familiar, it's because that is exactly how President Obama has governed.

President Obama has enjoyed his share of major success stories such as passing the Affordable Care Act, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the end of the Iraq War, but for each of those there have been dozens of smaller victories that, when compiled, reveal a much more progressive government than if you look at each one individually.

The president has also been outspoken when he needs to be, and quiet when he doesn't. He has employed soft-power the way any responsible diplomat would when dealing with hostile opposition, both figuratively and literally, and he has publicly called out his opponents when the right opportunities have presented themselves.

The way Elizabeth Warren describes her governing philosophy tells me that her very public praise of the president during her campaign was more than just a formality or a tactic. It tells me that she understands incremental change is better than no change, and that if she wants to be an effective Senator, she must deploy herself accordingly.

It takes an enormous amount of political capital to change anything in Washington. It's my hope that Warren's most staunchly liberal supporters will recognize this and let her operate in her own way to accomplish her goals, but the cynic within me says that may not be in their nature.