Rep. Katie Porter (D., Calif.) has become a minor celebrity among mainstream journalists and other politics-obsessed white professionals who voted for Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic primary.
The deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is a recurring guest on MSNBC after making a name for herself by hectoring business executives and Trump administration officials. She is the star of numerous YouTube clips with titles such as, "Katie Porter goes megaviral with MUST-SEE takedown during hearing," "Katie Porter ROASTS greedy health insurance providers," and "Lawmaker reveals trunk full of rice during questioning of oil executives."
Porter's niche group of admirers would probably describe her as a powerful advocate for working families, a thorn in the side of evil corporations, and so relatable OMG have you seen her Twitter bio? It says: "Minivan-driving single mom, law professor, consumer advocate [car emoji] [nerd emoji] Usually carrying a whiteboard, always bringing the receipts." How fun!
Her supporters (the well-to-do, impeccably credentialed white professionals) might be more reluctant to admit that perhaps the main reason they like Porter so much is that she reminds them of themselves (obnoxious know-it-alls) and how much better off the country would be if they were in charge of everything. It's the same reason why they like Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Liz Warren (Porter's former law professor and mentor), whose failed presidential campaigns made clear that while Ivy League grads may run the Democratic Party, they don't get to choose the nominee in national elections.
Porter grew up in Iowa, the daughter of a "farmer-turned-banker," which sounds more down-to-earth than "banker." Her mother founded a media empire for the quilting community. Porter's résumé is as follows:
Prep school: Phillips Academy (Tuition: $57,800 per year)
College: Yale University (Tuition: $62,250 per year)
Post-graduate: Harvard Law School (Tuition: $70,430)
That works out to $691,500 worth of elite education. No wonder our nation's journalists are so fond of her. Porter, 48, has an estimated net worth of $1.6 million. She listed no student loan debt on her 2018 financial disclosure, which detailed assets ranging in value from $1.1 million to as much as $3 million. Her liabilities include two mortgages worth between $300,000 and $600,000. The lawmaker's mother, quilting titan Elizabeth Porter, is listed as the lender for one of the mortgages.
Nevertheless, she persists in playing the part of a working class champion and "minivan-driving single mom." Never mind that Porter's congressional salary of $174,000 is nearly four times higher than the median income for single mothers in the United States. The law professor, who was awarded tenure at the University of California-Irvine in 2011, rarely mentions her considerable wealth when railing against the number of millionaires in Congress and how "expensive" it is to run for political office.
Porter recently made headlines by complaining about the rising cost of groceries and chiding her Democratic colleagues for neglecting voter concerns about inflation. Perhaps the economy is so bad under President Joe Biden that even millionaires with multiple Ivy League degrees are struggling to make ends meet. Maybe it's all part of the act. Porter has a history of bending the truth to pad her "everywoman" credentials. For example, she once falsely claimed to be the "only single, working mother of young kids" in Congress.
Whether or not she is actually struggling as much as ordinary, less-credentialed non-millionaires to put food on the table, Porter's attempts to empathize with voters frustrated by the soaring cost of food and other necessities suggests she is not as out of touch with reality as her admirers in the media and other left-wing circles. At the very least, she knows how to read the polling data. (Elite education has its benefits.)
Porter's popularity as the angry lady with the whiteboard in those viral videos has helped her amass an impressive $18 million campaign war chest heading into the 2022 midterms. She is rumored to be eyeing a Senate run in 2024 to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), who will turn 89 in June but has yet to announce her retirement despite the party's increasingly public anxiety about her dementia-addled brain.
First the Democratic "rising star" will have to win reelection in a brand new "lean Democratic" district. Porter is running in an open primary against four Republican candidates. Win or lose, she will continue to be a fixture on MSNBC and the other liberal networks. Her cult following among politics-obsessed elite professionals will continue to grow until she is inevitably persuaded to run for president someday.
(Fact check: Katie Porter will never be president.)