"Liz was a diehard conservative"

The story of Warren’s awakening—from a true believer in free markets to a business-bashing enforcer of fair markets; from a moderate Republican who occasionally missed an election to one of the most liberal senators in America vying to lead the Democratic Party—breaks the mold of the traditional White House contender and is key to understanding how she sees the world: with a willingness to change when presented with new data, and the anger of someone who trusted the system and felt betrayed.

Warren herself says that in her early academic work she was merely following the dominant theory of the time, which emphasized the efficiency of free markets and unrestrained businesses, rather than holding strong conservative beliefs herself. Still, she acknowledged in our interview that she underwent a profound change in how she viewed public policy early in her academic career, describing the experience as “worse than disillusionment” and “like being shocked at a deep-down level.”

Her conversion was ideological before it turned partisan. The first shift came in the mid-’80s, as she traveled to bankruptcy courts across the country to review thousands of individual cases—a departure from the more theoretical academic approach—and saw that Americans filing for bankruptcy more closely resembled her own family, who struggled financially, rather than the irresponsible deadbeats she had expected.