Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s nascent 2020 presidential campaign platform has drawn comparisons to former President Theodore Roosevelt — perhaps not by accident.
Toward the end of an interview Friday with MSNBC’s Ari Melber, the Massachusetts Democrat was asked to pick her “dream running mate” and was given the choice of any person living or dead.
“Teddy Roosevelt,” Warren responded without hesitation.
“A Republican?” Melber asked.
“Yes,” Warren replied, noting that the 26th president, a progressive reformer, was unlike the Republicans of today (he also left the GOP to run for president as the nominee of the so-called Bull Moose Party in 1912).
In the wake of the release of her plan to break up big tech companies, Warren explained that she admired Roosevelt’s bravery as a “trust buster” who broke up oil, railroad, meatpacking, and cigarette monopolies.
“He took on the trusts, and he didn’t care how many people were going to be mad about it,” Warren said.
“And he did it — this is what’s amazing — for the right reasons,” she explained. “It wasn’t just that they were big. It wasn’t just that they were dominating an economy. It wasn’t just that they were putting farmers out of business and competitors out of business and small companies out of business. It was that they had too much political power.”
During the interview, Warren said that both the political and economic power of modern tech companies — such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google — was the reason she is proposing legislation to break them up. According to the senator, the tech giants’ economic might allows them to suppress competition, while their political influence enables them to “shape the rules in their favor.”
Warren suggested Roosevelt would be the ideal individual to help her reshape those rules.
“It was the very fact of that political power that caused Teddy Roosevelt to say ‘I’m going to be a trust buster,'” she told Melber. “Man, I’d like to have that guy at my side.”
However, it isn’t solely Warren’s anti-monopoly proposals that tie her to Roosevelt. As early as 2015, the 69-year-old senator’s own brand of progressive populism has elicited comparisons to the Bull Moose Party and the early-20th century Progressive Era. In 2014, she invoked Roosevelt in a speech calling out Wall Street lobbyists for pushing to nullify a new rule on derivative transactions. Warren has also called for breaking up big banks.
Earlier this year, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman also saw shades of Roosevelt in Warren’s proposed wealth tax on the extremely rich, which she says would fund expanded social programs, like universal child care. As president, Roosevelt called for more progressive taxation on both income and inheritances.
“Do ideas this bold stand a chance in 21st-century American politics?,” Krugman wrote. “The usual suspects are, of course, already comparing Warren to Nicolás Maduro or even Joseph Stalin, despite her actually being more like Teddy Roosevelt or, for that matter, Dwight Eisenhower.”
A poll last month found that Warren’s wealth tax proposal was supported by a vast majority of voters — Democrats and Republicans alike. Bull Moose Party members would presumably feel the same.
“I believe in shaping the ends of government to protect property as well as human welfare,” Roosevelt said in a 1910 speech. “Normally, and in the long run, the ends are the same; but whenever the alternative must be faced, I am for men and not for property.”