Warren, Weld and Moulton: Massachusetts’ role in the 2020 election


File photo by Chris Triunfo

Elizabeth Warren celebrates her re-election to the U.S. Senate at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in 2018.

Paige Stern, news correspondent

As the 2020 presidential election nears, the Democratic primary field is growing larger by the week, with more than 10 candidates already in the running. Massachusetts often has a reputation for offering presidential candidates, and 2020 is no exception.

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis said Massachusetts’ role in the upcoming election will likely be no different than in elections from the past.

Massachusetts seems to supply more candidates for the presidency than any other state in the country, and this year is no exception,” said Dukakis, who is now a political science professor at Northeastern. “It will also be providing hundreds of volunteers and thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates.”

Currently, there is one Massachusetts Democrat officially running for the 2020 election: Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The two-term senator from Cambridge announced the launch of an exploratory committee on New Year’s Eve, making her one of the first public officials to formally consider a run at the Oval Office.  Less than two months later, on Feb. 9, she officially launched her campaign at a rally in Lawrence, where she spent a lot of time last year following the Columbia Gas explosions.

Since then, Warren has spent time in Iowa to get a head start for the caucuses that are just under a year away. Though there are several candidates currently running around Iowa trying to find support, it’s hard to forecast anything at this point, Dukakis said.

“Nobody is ahead or behind in Iowa at this stage,” said Dukakis, who was the Democratic nominee for the 1988 presidential election and lost to George H. W. Bush. “Most polls are much too premature and reflect recognition more than anything else at this point.”

Having run a presidential campaign of his own, Dukakis can say from personal experience what it means to be running before the election has truly begun.

“When I started, I don’t think I even registered a point in the Iowa polls,” he said. “On caucus day I was one of three leading candidates there and ultimately won the nomination and beat Bush one in Iowa by ten points.” Bush, however, won the election with a sweeping 426-111 electoral college vote.

Warren is campaigning against corporate power and government corruption. In several interviews and speeches, the senator has conveyed the public’s lack of trust in the current administration, and described how corporate America has thrived as its leaders pocket profits while leaving scraps for the lower-middle class.

When she spoke at the National Press Club in August 2018, Warren opened her speech with the polling question, “Do you trust the federal government to do the right thing all of the time, or at least most of the time?” Warren then informed her audience that in 1958, the 73 percent of Americans answered “yes” was, and that number dropped to 18 percent  in 2018.

True to form, in the fall of 2018, Warren introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act. The policy would ban past presidents, vice presidents, federal judges, members of congress and cabinet secretaries from lobbying, and require presidential candidates to provide at least the last eight years of their tax returns. The policy aims to restrict the influence of financial interests in federal lawmaking. The act has been referred to the Committee of Finance and awaits further movement in a Republican-controlled Senate.

Warren’s current stance on foreign policy includes bringing home troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, while cutting the defense budget to invest in diplomacy. She also seeks criminal justice reform and the decriminalization of marijuana, as well as gun law reform and abortion rights. She has said that if they pay taxes, undocumented immigrants should have access to government-subsidized healthcare.

However, despite her ambitious campaign, Warren has continued to face the same obstacle she faced back when she ran for Senate in 2012.

In 1989, Warren changed her ethnicity from Caucasian to Native American on a University of Pennsylvania School of Law payroll form. She claimed to be a distant descendant of the Cherokee and Delaware Tribes. Thirty years later, these claims continue to follow Warren throughout her political accession.

Warren has expressed to the press that her matriarch family members revealed her roots to Native American tribes in the 1980s as this generation of her family were aging and dying.

Many aggressive responses to Warren’s statements are based on the idea that she may have achieved as many influential roles as she did, including teaching jobs at Penn and Harvard University, thanks in part to her claims of Native American ancestry. However, investigative reporters from the Boston Globe, after conducting more than 100 interviews with her colleagues and every person who had a role in hiring” Warren, clarified that she was viewed as a white woman in the processes.

After she took a DNA test to confirm her heritage, many Native American leaders argued that since tribes have their own regulations of citizenship it cannot be up to a DNA test to decide what it means to be Native American.

Northeastern political science professor William Mayer said this issue could hurt her electoral chances.

“She does have some baggage,” Mayer said. “I think the whole way she has dealt with her purported Native American heritage will hurt her. Many Democrats will feel that she’s a risky candidate to nominate for the general elections. But it’s hard to say at this point how far that sentiment will go.”

Two other Massachusetts politicians are considering joining the race: former Gov. William F. Weld and Rep. Seth Moulton.

Chris Triunfo
Seth Moulton, who represents Massachusetts’ sixth congressional district, addresses a crowd of constituents in Salem.

Weld announced Feb. 15 that he is organizing an exploratory committee to potentially seek the Republican nomination for the presidency. The first Republican to announce a campaign against Trump, the 73-year-old is considered a moderate member of the party who previously ran for vice president as a Libertarian alongside former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in the 2016 election.

As for sixth-district Rep. Moulton, all that is known about his potential campaign is that he is looking into it.

“I’m thinking about running for president … I’m going to take a very hard look at it,” Moulton said in an interview with Buzzfeed News.

Dukakis, on one hand, “[doesn’t] think Seth will be a candidate,” while Mayer said that he could run, but that “he has no chance,” and doesn’t know what he’s thinking.

“Members of the House of Representatives almost never do well in presidential nomination races,” Mayer said.

It’s too soon to tell where Massachusetts will stand this upcoming election. With Bernie Sanders’ recent entrance into the race, the 2020 Democratic nomination seems open to any candidate.

“We are going to have a lot of candidates,” Dukakis said. “The Iowa caucuses are a year away. The political landscape out there will look a lot different than it does now.”