Elizabeth Warren sounds like a presidential candidate

Warren is a hero of the left—for creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and for removing Scott Brown from the seat formerly occupied by liberal icon Ted Kennedy. What’s more, she delivers a forthright, knowing and articulate critique of big business and government, from the left. But what makes her interesting as a potential candidate is that a decent chunk of her indictment involves the economic record under President Obama. And unlike the two presumed candidates for 2016, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Warren was never a part of the inner circle. They can’t very well run hard and comfortably against the economic record of the past six years. And they won’t implicitly take some swipes at the Obama administration.

The Wall Street, Council of Foreign Relations, and Davos types that have dominated Obama’s economic policy team regard populism as a dirty word. But Warren is forthright about her populism. She represents, in Senator Paul Wellstone’s phrase, “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.” And, as she points out, many of the populist critiques of the nation’s current economic and financial arrangements are quite popular.

The former Harvard Law School professor started her speech on Sunday with a shout out to “the operating engineers—my brother’s union for many years,” then launched into some good old-fashioned class warfare. “When important decisions are made in Washington, too often, working families are ignored,” she said. “Those with power fight to take care of themselves and to feed at the trough for themselves, even when it comes at the expense of working families getting a fair shot at a better future.”