Rep. Ilana Rubel of Boise, the assistant Democratic floor leader of the Idaho House, has not taken sides in the Democratic presidential race — other than to say that anyone in the field is better than President Trump. But Rubel says she would have no reservations about supporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts if she were to become the nominee.
That’s because she has known Warren for 22 years, and not as a political figure. Back then — long before Warren became a household name in national politics — Rubel took courses from “Professor” Warren at Harvard Law School. And Rubel remembers her as a “phenomenal” professor.
“I had her for what would be deemed as really boring classes back in the day — secured transactions and bankruptcy,” Rubel said. “Both are classes where you are really digging into long and complex code, with a million sections that many people would glaze over. But she had a knack for getting into how those sections would impact consumers and drive poverty. She showed how the language could affect hard-working people.”
Twenty-two years ago, nobody in Rubel’s law class — including the professor — had any idea that Warren would be running for president, or even the U.S. Senate. Rubel had no idea about Warren’s political leanings, nor did she care. Rubel only was thinking about was getting through a couple of mind-numbing, yet somewhat entertaining, law courses.
One thing that Warren had back in the day was passion — which is in full display on the campaign trail.
“She was compassionate about protecting the little guy against the corporate machines out there. That was the focus of her legal scholarship,” Rubel said.
Republicans, and especially fans of Trump, cringe at the thought of Warren bringing her “progressive” agenda to the White House. Rubel wishes that Democrats overall would be more focused on beating Trump than promoting a liberal platform. But Rubel would not be nervous about a Warren presidency.
“I’d hope that she would be a good one,” Rubel says. “She has a tremendous eye for detail, and I think she would read everything in front of her and listen. She will take on the corporations and banks.”
But Rubel also sees a pragmatic side to Warren, who often is lumped with Sen. Bernie Sanders — a self-proclaimed socialist. “She understands that corporations need to make money.”
Early polls show Warren either leading, or running neck-and-neck with former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination. Rubel says she can support either candidate, but wouldn’t be surprised to see someone else at the victory podium.
“The question is who is the most likely to beat Donald Trump,” Rubel says. “Candidates are talking about issues, but those are secondary to taking back the White House and restoring integrity to the highest office in the land.”
As for the impeachment investigations, “I desperately hope Republicans in the end will put country before party. Up to now, Republicans have decided that the only way to stand up to Trump is if they are willing to retire and walk away from their political office forever,” she said.
“I’m really stumped as to how one can defend a president who wants to use his office for personal profit and tries to steer an international convention to his personal property. What’s happening in Syria is really hard to defend — throwing our allies completely under the bus and turning them over to human-rights abuses.”
Then, there are allegations of a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine — military funding in exchange for the country investigating Biden and his son.
“If the shoe were on the other foot, and something like that came to light with a Democratic president, there’s no doubt that Republicans would open an impeachment inquiry within minutes,” Rubel says. “I would question the truthfulness of any Republican who would say otherwise.”
Rubel probably is correct there. And she’s on the right track with thinking that Democrats would be better off focusing more on beating Trump and less on an agenda that only the party’s left-wing faction can appreciate.
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Chuck Malloy, a longtime Idaho journalist and Silver Valley native, is a columnist with Idaho Politics Weekly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.