Tucker Carlson: I think Elizabeth Warren would have beaten Trump last year

Via the Right Scoop, I don’t know that I’d go that far. But I’m also not sure, as I said yesterday, that Warren will be as useful a hate object to the GOP as it hopes and expects. Tucker’s not sure either:

“I don’t know, though. I mean, I see your point, I think it’s a smart point, but I also think — in fact, I’d bet money — that if Elizabeth Warren had received the Democratic nomination, she’d be the president right now, because she is in line with what Democratic voters think. She has a worldview, she can articulate it. I don’t agree with it, but it’s — she’s not just an identity-politics person, she’s got a consistent left-wing economic view that has a lot of support in the country.”

Warren doesn’t have Clinton’s ethical baggage, she wouldn’t have had an eleventh-hour Comey letter scrambling voters’ calculations, and she very probably wouldn’t have neglected making her populist pitch to voters in places like, oh, say, Wisconsin. Liberals turned off by Hillary’s coziness with Wall Street would have loved her; working-class whites might not have loved her, but they surely would have respected her as a more authentic populist than Clinton was. Would that have been enough to keep Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin blue? Maybe not. But it’s hard to see how Warren as nominee would have made it worse.

David Harsanyi agrees with Hugh Hewitt in the clip in thinking that Warren as the face of the Democratic Party would be a gift to the GOP — she’s ideologically radical, she lacks Obama’s charisma, etc — but he admits that it’s no longer so easy to tell what voters might or might not find acceptable in a president after the Trump revolution:

The real question is would Warren’s left-populism play on the electoral map Trump has rejiggered? Is her protectionist trade rhetoric enough to win over white-working class voters in Pennsylvania coal country even though she rails against fossil fuels and cheap energy? Would a lawyer who built a political career growing bureaucracies and pushing regulatory burdens on Americans be popular with rural workers in Ohio? Is it possible that someone who believes Obamacare didn’t exert enough government control over the health-care system going to run strong in a general election campaign in suburban Indiana? Moreover, can a Northeasterner with extreme social views bring working-class Missourians home to Democrats? Liberals from Massachusetts, after all, are still 0-3 (here, here, here) over the past 50 years. And Warren is farther Left than any of them, by a mile.

I use a lot of question marks in the above paragraph because 2016 taught me that the American electorate is volatile and angry, and coastal elites should never make assumptions about its temperament. Still, it’s fair to say at this point — and a lot can change under Trump’s leadership — the answer to most of these questions seems to be “Unlikely.”

Unlikely, but then maybe not as unlikely as “President Donald Trump.” What’s striking about the exchange between Carlson and Hewitt is Hugh analyzing Warren’s chances through a very traditional, even arguably outdated, prism of America being a “center-right country” that would never tolerate a censorious left-wing law professor as president. (Or rather, not another one so soon after Obama.) She’s too radical, she’s too far-left, she’s a new McGovern, etc. Carlson is entirely right to be skeptical of that frame, I think. The point has been made endlessly in political commentary since the election, with some merit, that “left” and “right” may not be as useful in deciphering American politics as they used to be. The “right-wing” president favors protectionism, warm relations with Russia, massive infrastructure spending, and health care for everyone. His political brand is populism and nationalism far more than it is conservatism or “center-right.” If in four years blue-collar voters haven’t seen the sort of economic gains under Trump that they were expecting, why wouldn’t they give a hard look to an authentic left-wing populist like Warren? Plenty of blue-collar whites voted for Obama in 2012 despite his liberal cultural affinities because they were convinced that he was more in tune with their problems than Romney was. They weren’t a majority, to be sure, but they were enough to hand Obama a second term in office. If Warren can claw back some of those voters by preaching single-payer health care and more aggressive redistribution, why wouldn’t she stand a chance against Trump if his first term is disappointing? And even if you think she’d be a weak nominee, why would she be any weaker than Cory Booker, say, or Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris? The Democratic bench is thin right now. Warren may be their heaviest hitter even if she’s not a heavy hitter per se.

The great question mark with Warren is how she’d play nationally as a retail politician, especially pitted against an ostentatious alpha male like Trump. Yesterday I said that she comes across as an angry librarian (whereas Trump usually comes across as a blowhard uncle who got rich selling cars). Will Rust Belt voters accept someone like her in the role of commander-in-chief, even if they prefer her brand of populism on the merits? For that matter, did Hillary’s gender lead any voters to hesitate last year in putting her in charge of the military, knowing that Trump, whatever his other faults might be, would at least be eager not to let America lose face vis-a-vis enemy states? You can dismiss all of that as sexist and improper and irrelevant in a better world if you like, but rest assured that Democrats will be thinking about it after the midterms. American voters like “strength” in their president, and Trump spends a lot of energy trying to project it. Maybe Warren’s ideological fervor will be received the same way, but if it isn’t, all the share-the-wealth rhetoric in the world might not be able to save her.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022