Elizabeth Warren proposes “Big Structural Change”, but is she consistent enough on what constitutes “Big Structural Change”?
Senator Elizabeth Warren is an extremely accomplished woman. She’s served in the Senate since 2012, she holds three higher education degrees, and led the charge in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau(CFPB) before she was even an elected official. Her case for the 2020 Democratic nomination is simple, she has the knowledge, relationships, and experience to get things done and uplift the working class to the quality of life that they deserve. It is quite the compelling case and the polls have reflected that. Back in August, Warren had seemingly consolidated her support and was the first person to pass former Vice President Joe Biden in a nationwide poll. Since then, however, she’s fallen in the polls to third place and seems to be losing steam. The question now is why?
Elizabeth Warren formally launched her campaign on February 9th, 2019. Though her polling numbers weren’t great she was within striking distance and certainly had in-roads for the nomination. This is based on her experience in the Senate and relationships within the Democratic Party. She showcased her policy wonkery with the slogan, “I Have a Plan for that”. The policy proposal page on her website is truly impressive; maybe even better than any past Presidential candidate. Ranging from a wealth tax, the environment, student debt forgiveness, and healthcare Senator Warren definitely has truly impressive plans. This is probably the biggest reason that she saw a huge surge in the polls throughout the summer.
Elizabeth Warren rose in nationwide polling all the way to number one. This can largely be attributed to her dedication to the issues that matter most to voters and very friendly media coverage. However, with that front runner status came attacks from her opponents. Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg all took shots at her during the fourth Debate in October. This was hardly surprising. In fact, it’s precisely what should be expected in a Presidential race. The most effective attack seemed to come from Buttigieg. Mayor Pete challenged her on her support for Medicare for All and how she didn’t have a detailed plan for it. This was so effective because, as we established earlier, Warren was viewed as the candidate with a plan for everything. This attack is only one half of the fall that Warren has seen; she still had a chance to respond.
Pivoting from Medicare for All
From the day she announced to the first debate, Warren established herself as a populist candidate with a focus in economic oversight and consumer protections. This meshed well with her reputation and past work in establishing the CFPB. Along with that, she was a co-sponsor of the Medicare for All Bill in the Senate. However, as shown above, many on the progressive left along with “centrist” Democrats had deep skepticism on whether or not she was truly for it. Senator Warren proved us right. Back in November, Warren formally backed away from Medicare for All. Well, sort of. Her new plan calls for a public-option; then after three years another vote to get Medicare for All. This plan is a clear attempt to thread the needle between Pete Buttigieg’s plan “Medicare for all who want it”, and Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan. Elizabeth Warren is essentially trying to please everyone with her healthcare plan; as a result she’s only succeeded in making everyone unhappy.
After these events, Warren has seen a rather steep fall from her former front runner status. The popular reasoning among the media establishment for Warren’s slide is her support of Medicare for All. This sounds good, but it does not tell the whole story. No one claimed her support for Medicare for All was a liability when she was leading in the polls just a few short months ago. No one made that claim because it was obviously contrary to the truth. Now that she is falling in the polls how can supporting single payer healthcare be the cause of that fall? Bernie Sanders has seen a significant surge in recent weeks, and his signature policy is Medicare for All. How is it that Bernie has risen while supporting Medicare for All, yet Warren has fallen despite her support of it? The answer is quite simple. Warren’s campaign is losing steam because of her failure to pick a side when it comes to healthcare, and, more broadly, in the overall schism currently occurring in the Democratic Party.
Democrats at War with themselves
The Democratic Party is, to put it plainly, in the midst of a Civil War. The progressive wing of the party wants bold universal proposals while the “centrist” wing of the party wants more conventional and pragmatic approaches. The progressives believe that the party cannot be afraid to stand in stark contrast not only to Donald Trump but also to the party’s recent history. This view is rooted in the recent failures of the Democratic Party and the resurgence of far right fascists. The more moderate wing of the party believes in not making promises they can’t keep even if that results in losing.
Current front runners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders epitomize this divide with Biden serving as the centrist candidate and Bernie serving as the progressive. Whether or not one agrees with these approaches is secondary to one factor that it seems Warren has overlooked. Trust. I plan to vote for Bernie Sanders because I trust him to fight for the policies he’s currently running on. Though I am completely opposed to a Biden Presidency I at least know what to expect, as do those that support him. This is based both in their long careers as politicians but also in how they’ve never wavered in their positions during the current race. With Elizabeth Warren voters have no idea where she will end up. She not only backed off of Medicare for All; she’s had campaign financing that did not match up with what she claimed it was, she’s said one thing on the debate stage and another in interviews afterwards, and she’s been flustered by some tough questions on the campaign trail. The lesson we should pull from this is that it doesn’t matter which side you support in this conflict, but whichever side you pick you must be consistent in your convictions. Democratic voters’ top two priorities are defeating Donald Trump and healthcare. Her waffling creates doubt in voters’ minds regarding her ability to deliver in both of those areas.
Mishandling the Trump Encounter
Warren’s electability is called into question as a result of the aforementioned instances as well as one from her past. Warren was caught in an ugly debate with Donald Trump over her claiming Native American heritage throughout her career as a lawyer and Harvard Law professor. While it is true that the racist and misogynist undertones of Trump and the GOP’s ‘Pocahontas’ attacks towards Warren cannot be tolerated it is also true that this was a lapse in moral judgement by Elizabeth Warren. Warren should have never claimed to be of Native American descent and taken advantage of it to the point that she was referred to as the first woman of color hired by Harvard Law. Secondly, she should not have allowed herself to be suckered into such a vile and trivial dispute by Donald Trump who will most likely be her opponent if she wins the nomination. Third, she should have served as a reliable ally to the Native American community when they most needed it. She failed to stand with the Standing Rock protesters over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Yes, she has issued an apology over her mishandling over this matter, but solidarity in the face of environmental injustice would have been much more powerful. Especially seeing as the DAPL has recently leaked, leaving the indigenous people that live near it at extreme risk. This issue exemplifies an overall lack of judgement and timidity in the face of unfamiliar territory that leaves many wondering, is Elizabeth Warren truly qualified for the Presidency?
Elizabeth Warren is a great candidate, but she definitely has weaknesses. When she lifted herself to front runner status, she opened herself to attacks on her policy stances and overall record. Her reactions to these various critiques have been less than stellar and are directly responsible for her loss of momentum recently. She reminds me of a point that a former history teacher made to my class in High School. In short, he said that many people pride themselves on being “moderate” in regards to modern political discourse. He argued that being in the middle can many times be the worst place to be. “If you’re not to the left, and you’re not to the right, then you know what that makes you? Roadkill.” Elizabeth Warren, in her efforts to please everyone, has become roadkill.