Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Elizabeth Warren and the Tragedy of Modern Liberalism

As utterly obnoxious–and insulting to voters–as the White House’s “war on women” was, there were moments when I actually felt a pang of sympathy for the loyal foot soldiers dispatched to pillage the news cycle. Carrying the banner of this base anti-intellectualism required a certain shamelessness that was off-putting, but at times strangely pitiful. One such example came after Rush Limbaugh insulted the 30-year-old liberal activist Sandra Fluke, and in response Neera Tanden, once an adviser to both Clintons and to President Obama and now president of the Center for American Progress, was reduced to tweeting this:

Outraged Rush is attacking all women thru Sandra Fluke? Pl sign CAP’s petition: http://cap.af/xNDJwc – I #standwithsandra & hope you will 2

That the Obama White House has taken men and women of repute and transformed them into Axelrodian snark artists long preceded Tanden’s tweet. But it caught my attention because it seemed to be the reductio ad absurdum of modern liberalism. Until, that is, Elizabeth Warren bailed her out.

Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate challenging Scott Brown in Massachusetts, was the subject of a rather bizarre controversy this week when it was revealed she claimed Native American heritage as her career in academia proceeded, only to drop the dubious claim once she reached the pinnacle of her academic career track: Harvard Law faculty. She has not handled the controversy well, to say the least. And the wreckage of her campaign’s attempts at spinning this make you want to look away.

But don’t. Because Warren is playing an important role in our political discourse: she is the ghost of liberalism future. Warren’s alleged use of affirmative action, if true, would have to be the most egregious abuse of the system at the expense of minorities we’ve seen yet. Elizabeth Warren is, as a white woman, statistically speaking very much a member of this country’s majority. The only category in which she is a true minority is wealth: Elizabeth Warren is very, very rich.

But Warren was not done making a mockery of a system she seems to have exploited, and in so doing risked discrediting. To call her on these shenanigans, she explained, is sexist. Hot Air has caught her repeating this claim, making it a pillar of her defense. First, her campaign spokeswoman said this: “Once again, the qualifications and ability of a woman are being called into question by Scott Brown who did the same thing with the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan. It’s outrageous.”

Then Warren waded into it herself, saying of Brown: “What does he think it takes for a woman to be qualified?”

The sad part about all this is that Warren is clearly intelligent and dedicated to her (redistributionist) cause. Back in August, Christopher Caldwell wrote a piece on her in the Weekly Standard in which he praised her earlier writing as “brilliant and counterintuitive work.” Though many on the right object to Warren’s politics, no one thought she was ill-equipped intellectually for the important debate on economic policy now sweeping the public sphere.

Yet in the age of Obama, this is how campaigns are run. Warren may have interesting things to say, but she, too, has become something of a liberal cliché. Despite her obvious smarts, she has reflexively fallen back on charges of sexism, even when they are so ridiculous as to make you cringe. If Warren, a rich, white, Harvard professor, is a victim, everyone is.

Why does this matter? Because it reveals that the left thinks affirmative action is a joke, another cudgel with which to attack political opponents at the expense of minorities who might, thanks to liberalism’s insistence on keeping students in failed school districts, actually put the policy to some good use. And because if Elizabeth Warren is unable to advance coherent liberal policy arguments, then there may be none to advance.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.