Elizabeth Warren Needs a Version 2.018

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/05/23/elizabeth-warren-needs-a-version-2-018/


Even with the knowledge that it was meant to be an occasion for celebration, they still needed a coping mechanism against the anticipated overcast, overearnest, and overwrought monotony. So, they put their fully formed, still sober minds to work, realizing there would be no safe spaces from which to escape. They created in advance The Elizabeth Warren Drinking Game.

Simultaneously honoring and mocking “Massachusetts’ favorite Senator,” UMass Amherst’s theblacksheeponline.com instructed The Class of 2017 to “rip a nip” if Warren “says and/or mentions” during her commencement address any of the following:  How She Started Law School with a Two-Year Old Daughter; Student Debt; W.E.B. Du Bois; The Disappearing Middle Class; Female Leaders; “It’s time to fight back”; and, The Donald. Seriously.

They weren’t disappointed.

Within the first two minutes of her remarks, with the jigger up but without the trigger warning, Warren said, “know this: Fireball is a nickname that Donald Trump uses on Twitter, not a beverage to be consumed by distinguished college graduates.” Soon thereafter, as if on cue, “Anyone here have a student loan?”

A Dr. McGillicuddy’s is a terrible thing to waste.

After admonishing newly minted alumni to “do a little studying,” Warren said something remarkable in an otherwise unremarkable speech:  “I’m not trying to win Miss Popularity.” For next year’s Massachusetts senatorial contest, however, she will need enough popularity to win reelection, and voters, with a sense of humor the senior senator lacks, may need to play the eponymous drinking game to survive what might be an insufferable campaign. To win, Warren, always in professorial mode, may have to retool and reboot herself into Version 2.018.

In “Why Is Elizabeth Warren So Hard to Love?,” Boston Magazine exposes vulnerabilities she must overcome even before giving presidential consideration in 2020. The senator is the “de facto leader of the anti-Trump resistance,” certainly, but also “possibly the most deeply polarizing figure in the state.” A January WBUR poll revealed that only 44 percent of Massachusetts voters thought Warren “deserved reelection.” The poll also showed that Warren’s favorability rating was at 51 percent while Governor Charlie Baker (a bi-partisan moderate Republican and not a Trump fan) was at 59 percent. Should he seek reelection next year, both will appear on the same Massachusetts ballot in 2018.

“The people of Massachusetts,” observes the magazine, “expect their senators to be national leaders but also local champions who deliver for the state.” Notably, when Warren announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate in September 2011, she didn’t mention Massachusetts at all. Six years later, when was the last time Warren spoke favorably about Massachusetts? Then again, when was the last time Warren spoke about Massachusetts, period? We are reminded that she “doesn’t aspire to be a bi-partisan uniter,” and, at her core, she’s “an advocate for her specific issues, not a master legislator or dealmaker.”

Joylessly, it seems, Warren continues her national advocacy for progressive causes.

The progressive stage she commands is, however, a motley concourse of contradictions. That stage is also shrinking given that the elections of 2012, 2014, and 2016 were national repudiations of progressivism. And Democrats retaking Congress in 2018 would reflect a one-time anti-Trump sentiment, not a revival of progressive populism so adored by Warren. Last month, a Washington Post-ABC poll found that 67 percent of all respondents believe that the Democratic Party “is out of touch with the concerns of most people.”  

Warren’s new book, This Fight Is Our Fight (worthy of a quart of Dr. McGillicuddy’s) is a personal woe-is-me tale of hardscrabble, borderline-cruel, mega-unfair Americana, where everyone is a victim; in page after page after page, she constantly, unabashedly ties together tired progressive themes (financial regulations, student loan debt, big corporations). Ironically dedicated to the people of Massachusetts, it is full-bore regurgitation, not inspiration. Precisely in print what students feared would be presented in parlance.

A current tour of modern progressivism is not a refuge for Warren. Or voters.

Her signature achievement (“I proposed the government set up the consumer agency…”), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by the massive Dodd-Frank legislation in 2010, and described by one conservative as “progressive authoritarianism,” was found to be “unconstitutionally structured” by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last fall. Defiantly, Warren writes, “the CFPB works.” Today, Republicans intend to slowly dismantle Dodd-Frank. Nevertheless, who will remind Warren that President Bill Clinton, in the late 1990s, began in earnest financial deregulation?

Warren doesn’t like financial institutions or the federal government making profits from student lending (pages 119-128) in the $1.4 trillion in student loan debt market. “Why,” she ponders, “isn’t every one of these elected officials who voted to keep raking in profits by overcharging on student loans facing an angry mob back home?” Although not disclosed in her book, who will remind Warren that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010, another progressive project, fueled the federal government’s takeover of the student loan market?   

For five years, Warren asserts, Verizon, Boeing, and General Electric paid “nothing in net federal income taxes.” Imagine her horror, then, upon learning that GE would relocate its global headquarters to the progressive sanctuary of Boston. Who will remind Warren that, at the May 8th ground-breaking ceremony along Fort Point Channel (dubbed Innovation Point), GE Chairman Jeff Immelt was flanked by both Governor Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh?

A recent New Boston Post story, “Elizabeth Warren Attacks, Left, Right and Center,” reflects the loneliness of being a populist crusader. Warren builds no coalitions, she bulldozes them. Everyone is targeted.

Obama is criticized for plans to deliver a $400,000 Wall Street speech. Trump is engaged as her social media sparring partner. Last November she “broke with the rest of Massachusetts’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation to oppose a medical research spending bill she claimed constituted a rich hand-out to the pharmaceutical industry.” The bill included a two-year allocation of $1 billion to combat opioid abuse. Supported by large bi-partisan margins, it quickly became law with Obama’s signature.

For now, Warren is far from reimagining a new operating system. Until then, voters may cope just as citizens did nearly a century ago with a practical reflex from the first oppressive progressive era:  bathtub gin.



James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times