Elizabeth Warren was walking around Milwaukee a week and a half ago, listening to a community activist and a 22-year-old whose parents are undocumented immigrants. They told her the history of bilingual education in the neighborhood around Walker Square Park, and how the blocks have changed over the years. “Talk to me about housing,” Warren said. “Where are the teachers drawn from?” The group walked past a sign for the oldest Latino-advocacy agency in the city, and a gentrification signpost: a store called Antiques Addict.
Warren was in Wisconsin to speak at a Latino political conference. She used the day to release her immigration plan, the latest in a stream of plans proposing how to revamp the system, in ways that go far beyond what Washington wisdom deems possible. The neighborhood walk felt as if Warren’s campaign was merely banking B-roll footage for future ads, while a bunch of reporters tripped over curbs and fire hydrants watching the candidate interact with locals. We ended in a parking lot, beneath a mural of a bald eagle facing a dove under a rainbow, with an olive branch in their beaks, a lightning bolt striking the section closest to the dove.
Two days later, in Philadelphia, I showed Warren a photo of the mural. We were sitting down before her speech to the liberal-activist Netroots Nation conference, where she has been a hero for years. I asked her to explain what she said she saw in Milwaukee: “Power, but also change.” She moved in close to my iPhone and pointed to the eagle. “Look at how much power there is. And yet, notice the dove is not afraid.The eagle is static; the dove is more dynamic,” she said. “The lightning bolt is not the most prominent, but it is the piece that says, ‘It all changes.’ And it changes fast and powerfully when the moment comes.”