Warren once called herself a 'Political Conservative'

As professor Diana Sclar sat with a young Elizabeth Warren over lunch one day at Rutgers Law School in Newark, Warren said something surprising.

She called herself a “political conservative.”
That was a rare sentiment in the early 1970s at Rutgers, where Warren, a 24-year-old mother raised in Oklahoma, had stepped into a cauldron of liberal activity.

In the North Jersey city still reeling from unrest, students called it “the People’s Electric Law School” and they treated authority with irreverence, or disdain. Some referred to the 1967 Newark riots as “the uprising,” and when Sclar passed around a seating chart in her class on property law, it came back with a note: “property is theft.”

Sclar didn’t ask what beliefs prompted Warren, her student, to describe herself as a conservative, and Warren has said she didn’t have a serious political identity then. But Sclar remembered being stunned that the future senator approved of IBM’s conformist culture, where Warren’s husband had to wear a white shirt every day.

“She said, ‘Oh no, I think that’s perfectly appropriate,’ ” Sclar recalled.

It would be decades before Warren became a Democrat, let alone the liberal firebrand now seeking the presidency by promising “big, structural change.”

But many of her former classmates say Warren’s time at the liberal hotbed in North Jersey must have influenced the politics she now embraces.

“There was, I wouldn’t say `revolution’ in the air, but a lot of people were interested in pursuing careers to change the country, to try to change the world, to address systemic issues that we still have today,” said Louis Raveson, a Warren classmate who now teaches at Rutgers Law and has supported her Senate campaigns.


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