Commentary Magazine


Mythologizing Elizabeth Warren

Noam Scheiber’s story on Elizabeth Warren’s prospects for the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries has touched off this week’s non-Chris Christie related 2016 speculation. Politico followed, with an interesting story on how Warren could push Hillary Clinton to the left even if she couldn’t defeat Clinton for the nomination. Further, if a Tea Party populist like Rand Paul were running a serious campaign on the Republican side, the election would turn up the heat on Wall Street.

But it’s doubtful Wall Streeters are worried yet; Warren is unlikely to run, and any rhetorical shifts Clinton made during the campaign would of course be meaningless, and everyone would know it. The truth is, if you want to understand why the Democratic Party is far more likely to support Clinton (if she runs, of course) than someone like Warren, there are two recent stories that are better indicators of where the “soul” of the party, as Scheiber terms it, are. First, from the L.A. Times:

Under the chandeliers at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, guests sipped white wine and sampled Vietnamese spring rolls as Hollywood’s power players gathered for yet another fete celebrating Hillary Rodham Clinton, this time for her work with women and girls in Third World countries.

President Clinton, a surprise guest, had popped into Friday night’s VIP reception upstairs to greet industry heavyweights including Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone and Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate’s motion picture group. Hillary Clinton was greeted at the gala with a standing ovation and seated elbow to elbow with Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose fundraising network could help lay the groundwork for her presidential campaign.

I’ll leave aside any jokes about the fact that Hillary’s husband was a “surprise guest” at Hillary’s party, according to the Times. The “soul” of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party can be found wherever the Hollywood elite have the champagne flowing and the checkbooks feeling heavy.

The other story demonstrating why it’s difficult for someone like Warren in the current Democratic Party is from Politico, and it’s a rather amazingly honest depiction of modern liberalism’s “soul”:

A look at the politics also helps explain why the momentum has stalled on New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to remove the chain of command from the prosecution of sexual assault cases, considered the most controversial proposal to curb the problem. Women’s and victim advocacy groups want to use the vote as a litmus test that would tie any senator who opposes it to Chambliss’s remark and create a damaging political narrative in the same vein as Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment in the 2012 Missouri Senate race.

But so far, that strategy has produced few results.

Crafting legislation that is ostensibly to help victims of sexual violence but is designed to get politicians talking about rape just so they can be drummed out of office is a perfect example of the utter cynicism that characterizes today’s Democratic Party. Then there’s this:

Some Democrats have even portrayed the vote as one for or against rape victims.

“Especially with some of the Republicans seeing what happened to Todd Akin, people will be running scared on this,” said one Senate Democratic aide who works on defense issues.

This is the kind of campaign Democrats want to run. They want to collect money from special interests to fund advertising campaigns portraying their opponents as “pro-rape.” For that, they have turned to the Clintons. Theirs is the politics of grievance and the ideology of power.

But the larger mistake that hopeful liberals make is assuming that Warren would run an issues-based, reformist campaign. But that’s not her style either. Indeed, that was the tragedy of her Senate campaign, as I wrote in May 2012. Warren is whip-smart with a strong handle on the particulars of the issues and, as a former Harvard Law professor, a gift for crafting a crisp argument. But she doesn’t use any of this in political campaigns.

When she ran for the Senate against Scott Brown, it was revealed she claimed dubious minority status to get ahead in her career–egregious enough for a rich white woman already. But then when called on it she claimed it was sexist to hold her accountable. Why rely on an argument when you can tar your opponent as a sexist? Why engage in a debate when you can disqualify your opponent? That’s the liberal way.

So she pressed the “war on women” narrative, threw in some quite garbled arguments about “Big Oil,” pronounced herself a victim, and called it a day. So when Scheiber says the Democratic Party’s “Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren,” as the headline of his article announces, he’s right. But it’s not because the left’s soul is the champion of the downtrodden. It’s too busy collecting checks from the One Percent and trying to get the opposition to mutter the word “rape” on camera.

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