Elizabeth Warren, From Professor to Gadfly to Senator

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Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Elizabeth Warren is living proof that taking on the banks can be very good for your career.

Just a few years ago, Warren was a little-known law professor at Harvard University, focusing on consumer debt and bankruptcy issues. Today, she’s a U.S. senator from Massachusetts after unseating Republican Scott Brown. Her soaring trajectory is thanks to one thing: The Democrat spoke truth to power about Wall Street.

Anyone who has watched Warren will admit: The lady knows how to spin a yarn. Her trademark folksy phrases (she’s fond of “golly” and “tricks and traps”) have allowed her to go for the jugular without seeming shrill, catty or mean. In taking down the banks she talks up her Oklahoma roots, her brothers and how toasters have more safety standards than credit cards and mortgages.

Now she’s headed to the U.S. Senate, where (if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is smart) she’ll probably sit on the Senate Banking Committee and keep a watchful eye over the inevitable attacks on the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Her ascension from consumer-protection gadfly to TARP overseer to the Gang of 100 will no doubt leave many on Wall Street shaking their heads. But the truth is they have no one to blame but themselves. Their enmity toward Warren (which was shared by many on Capitol Hill) put enough pressure on President Barack Obama that he opted not to name her to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she essentially conceived and pushed for.

It could be that Warren would have had more power as head of the CFPB, which regulates consumer financial products and -- according to its critics -- has more power than any other regulatory agency in Washington. But if history is any guide Warren will be a force to be reckoned with on Capitol Hill.

Those Senate banking hearings are about to get really interesting.

(Deborah Solomon is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow her on Twitter.)

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