WATCH: Elizabeth Warren Changes Her Story About Being a Registered Republican Again
Massachusetts Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren made a few significant changes to her story about her past membership in the Republican Party, refusing to say what “attracted” her to the party and claiming to have been a registered Democrat at times during the period in question.
One under-the radar aspect of Warren’s past is the fact that she was a registered Republican until at least 1996, and the few times she has been asked about it over the years, her answers have evolved and shifted.
One common early theme for Warren was to use her Republican past and subsequent conversion to advance the idea that she is driven by data, rather than ideology, as she did in a May 2009 interview for NPR’s Planet Money podcast.
Challenged about the makeup of her TARP oversight panel, Warren said “I get about people who have agendas in this sense that they work in an industry, they get paid. You know, my agenda is I spent 30 years doing research. I was a registered Republican, if we want to just start there. I’m somebody who believes in free markets.”
In 2011, Warren was trying to quell fears that she was a “hardened leftist,” and told The Daily Beast that she’d been a Republican until well into her forties.
“I was a Republican because I thought that those were the people who best supported markets. I think that is not true anymore,” Warren says. “I was a Republican at a time when I felt like there was a problem that the markets were under a lot more strain. It worried me whether or not the government played too activist a role.”
That’s been a very consistent part of Warren’s answer, but in that same 2011 interview, Warren also refused to say whether she had voted for Ronald Reagan for president, saying “I’m not going to talk about who I voted for.”
She also claimed to have voted for candidates of both parties over the years because, she said, “There should be some Republicans and some Democrats,” that no one party should “dominate.”
Warren projected the same nonpartisan image in a 2011 speech to the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, saying that “I’ve belonged to different political parties … and to no political party at all,” and that “What’s really driven me for all my life is this question about the economic survival of America’s middle.”
In another 2011 interview, Warren again refused to say whether she’d voted for Reagan, saying even her husband “doesn’t know who I voted for, and he sleeps with me.”
Shortly before her victory in the 2012 Senate race, Warren was asked why she’d left the Republican Party, and said “Ask the Republicans. I mean come on, there’s been change in that party.”
Asked why she registered as a Republican in the first place, Warren said “Well, I was a longtime registered independent, and then in Pennsylvania, which is where I was living before, and registered Republican to be able to vote in a Republican primary,” but said she couldn’t remember which candidate she’d registered to vote for. Gone was any mention of markets.
She was also asked “Have you voted Republican here in Massachusetts, have you voted for Republican Governor?” and said “So I’m going to tell you something really clear, I’ve never told [husband Bruce Mann] who I voted for, and I guarantee I’m not telling you.”
In a 2014 interview on ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos, host George Stephanopoulos said to Warren “it might surprise a lot of your supporters to know that you were a registered Republican as recently as 1996,” which Warren tried to dispute, saying it was 1994. Stephanopoulos corrected her, and asked, “What drew you to the GOP and why did you leave?”
“I was with the GOP for a while because I really thought that it was a party that was principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets,” Warren said. “And I feel like the GOP party just left that.”
“They moved to a party that said, ‘No, it’s not about a level playing field. It’s now about a field that’s gotten tilted,’” Warren added. “And they really stood up for the big financial institutions when the big financial institutions are just hammering middle class American families. I just feel like that’s a party that moved way, way away.”
Warren was back to claiming independent status in a 2018 interview, and was suddenly less concerned about the sanctity of her vote. She told The Intercept that she was a registered independent until she registered as a Republican in 1987, and insisted that she voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980, but still did not say if she voted for Ronald Reagan — or anyone else — in 1984.
She was also back to not remembering why she registered as a Republican, but also revealed that she’d voted for Gerald Ford in 1976, and named Arlen Specter as the Republican she’d been unable to identify in that 2012 interview.
Then, earlier this year, Warren told Politico that Ford was the only Republican nominee for president that she had voted for, and was back to claiming she was “just never very political” and “just never thought much about the political end” to explain her Republican past.
About a week later, during a CNN town hall, Warren was asked if she’d changed her beliefs from when she was a Republican, and replied that “when I was a young mom and struggling to try to keep up with my job and get dinner on the table and take care of a couple of little kids and launch my career, I didn’t think much about politics.”
She said that after years of research on bankruptcy, “I looked around in the middle of that fight and I realized all the money was on one side and all the hurting was on the other. And that’s when I jumped in politically. I got in that fight, and I fought it for 10 years. And by the end of that fight, I fully understood that every single Republican stood there for the banks and half of the Democrats did. So my party was the party that at least we got half of them to stand up for working people, and that was the big change for me.”
Now, Warren has added a couple of wrinkles to her conversion story.
In a recent interview with CBS affiliate WHBF’s “4 the Record” program, Jim Niedelman asked Warren again about her time as a Republican, and specifically, about what “attracted” Warren in the first place.
“When was that?” Niedelman asked, and added “How long were you a Republican? And what attracted you to the party in the first place?”
“Nah, it was a long time ago,” warren said, adding “It was about voter registration. I think I was sometimes registered as an independent, sometimes registered as a Republican, sometimes registered as a Democrat.”
“The truth is I just wasn’t very political, you know I was raising a family, teaching school, doing my research,” she continued. “But the time came when I got deeper into my research and saw how the big banks were cheating people and boosting their profits to do it, how they targeted seniors and people of color and folks in our military, and I saw how the Republicans were always there to defend the banks. And shoot, a bunch of the Democrats were too, but at the end of the day, if you had somebody who was willing to stand up against those banks, they were a Democrat. And, boy, for me that was it. Picked a side and got in the fight.”
This appears to be the first time Warren has claimed to have been a registered Democrat prior to 1996, and the heaviest she has leaned into her claim of not having been political prior to her conversion. That characterization is belied by the recollections of multiple classmates — one of whom said that she and Warren “talked politics a lot, taxes and welfare and such,” and that Warren “was a diehard conservative in those days” — as well as her own extensive history of citing her strong belief in markets as the reason for her membership in the GOP.
Watch the full interview above, via WHBF.
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