Elizabeth Warren? We Have Good News and Bad News

The Senator from Massachusetts Brings a Lot to the Table – Not All of It Good

A Good Early Start in Washington

I confess to having been something of an Elizabeth Warren fan for quite a while. Her performance in bringing the Consumer Protection Agency into being was nothing short of heroic. She clearly knew her stuff. She would have been a great first Director and should have been. Those about to be regulated were in mortal terror of her. When she decided to run for the US Senate, it seemed a long shot at best, but she ran a solid campaign to win.

With that as background, I have been interested in how her campaign for the presidency is going. Rather a modest start, but she built steady progress with a punishing schedule of small and large events. Her campaign is mostlywrapped around her now famous I have a plan for that theme. For a period, she led in Iowa. The fact she fell back is not necessarily signs of failure. This is usually the pattern in primaries, for pretty well all candidates of both parties.

Have plans, she does indeed. I can’t say I agree with all of them, but most strike me as pretty darn solid and well thought out. They have sufficient detail to evaluate. They reflect both good research and careful thought. Even her maligned wealth tax seems at least worth trying. The fact that this plan scares the hell out of people I enjoy seeing nervous is a bonus.

Some Concerns

The downside of this candidacy seems to me to have three components.

One, she tripped badly over the one plan that she should have seen coming. She finally came out with a Medicare Plan for All, that promptly got her beat up by a lot of people from several angles. It is not fair that she got beat up far more than Sanders, who has been short on details, implementation, and costs. But she painted a target and folks shot at it pretty well. Both Biden and Buttigieg dented it heavily. To her credit, she made some good adjustments, but that got less play.

Two, one of the things to watch is how a candidate handles adversity. My view was that she did not handle the Medicare for All attacks very well. In an unrelated matter, she attacked Buttigieg for “wine cellar donations from the wealthy.” It was not like her, it was a poorly conceived attack, and Buttigieg gave back better than he took from her. It had the smell of a desperation move. Two challenges in recent days, neither handled very well.

Three, she is trying to share Sanders’ base. Good luck with that. She could make the case that she is a far better candidate for the progressives than Sanders. She has a shorter but better record of accomplishment than does Sanders in Congress. But she is loath to attack, in part because so much of his following is as personal as it is ideological. But both candidates cannot survive. She needs to make the case to progressives or convince moderates that she is practical. Otherwise, she will get squeezed out. That risk is real and may be playing out right now.

What Does the Future Hold?

That would be a real loss if she got squeezed out early. I disagree with her on Medicare for All. I think free college for everybody is a goofy, wasteful idea. And there are other areas of disagreement.  Still, I find her to be a person of deep substance. Her crisis management worries me. However, her organizational skills, passion, and intellect are real assets. She wants to fight for the right things and for the right reasons. Perhaps too much of a fighter? I sense a lot of people want progress, but they want the political temperature turned down a bit, too.

Two recent NYT articles do a good job of highlighting some of her strengths.

One makes the case for her as eventually becoming the unity candidate for the party: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/13/opinion/elizabeth-warren-2020.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage&te=1&nl=david-leonhardt&emc=edit_ty_20200114?campaign_id=39&instance_id=15184&segment_id=20308&user_id=ac07397ace636f62b93fbb2817109921&regi_id=74078930emc=edit_ty_20200114 

The other calls out her political vision that has much in common with FDR, and he worked out pretty well: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/12/opinion/fdr-warren-2020.html?te=1&nl=david-leonhardt&emc=edit_ty_20200113?campaign_id=39&instance_id=15146&segment_id=20279&user_id=ac07397ace636f62b93fbb2817109921&regi_id=7407893020200113

She could be credible on the either spot on the ticket. This is true, even though big money across the political spectrum would line up to attack her. Even Democratic big money donors are worried she really does think they need to contribute more in a very big way. Turns out their altruism has some pretty definite limits when it gets personal. I think she would eat Trump for lunch in a debate.

We will know in a very few weeks if anything like that is going to happen. What say you, dear readers?

    Bill Clontz

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3 replies to Elizabeth Warren? We Have Good News and Bad News

  1. I think Warren and others should avoid attacking the rich for being rich. Yes, we hope they will share and help those in need, but demonizing rich people for thriving under capitalism is not helpful.

    • That is a good point to make. Attacking a whole class of people has bad results, and a lot of those folks surely feel threatened by Warren. On the other hand, given how bad the economic imbalance has become, a wealth tax is a proposal that has some merit, although they are difficult to carry out. Last poll I saw on this said something like 68% of voters like the idea in principle, so it surely has some legs. We should be able to make this a redress and not a punishment. Interesting times, we are in.

  2. I think the wealth distribution imbalance is really dangerous to the republic and to the world. Some economists say that the global wealthy need to give over about 40% of their wealth for the world to successfully get us off carbon and reach the developmental goals of the IPCC. It hink that is a worthy set of causes, and not retribution, but a healthy correction.

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