Boston Globe to Elizabeth Warren: Don't run

Meh. What they say here about “warning signs” is true enough. There’s already reason to believe Warren will underperform next year. But she’s one of the bigger names in the race and could move up to frontrunner if thousand-year-old Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden pass. She’d be a fool not to try. What does she have to lose?

Presidential runs seem to be in the state’s political DNA, in part because of the proximity of New Hampshire and its first-in-the-nation primary. And it’s often the right move: In 2015, this editorial page urged Warren to run, in part because of the lack of serious competition against Hillary Clinton. (Clearing the decks for Clinton didn’t exactly end well for Democrats, did it?)…

Warren missed her moment in 2016, and there’s reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020. While Warren won reelection, her margin of victory in November suggests there’s a ceiling on her popularity; Governor Baker garnered more votes than her in a state that is supposed to be a Democratic haven. Meanwhile, a September poll indicated that Massachusetts voters were more enthusiastic about Patrick making a White House bid than Warren.

Those are warning signs from the voters who know her best. While Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she has become a divisive figure. A unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.

It touches my cynical heart that these naifs believe any Democrat is capable of providing a “unifying voice” in our age of vicious negative partisanship. They could have Trump switch parties and nominate him as a Democrat and righties will conclude that stopping him is the new “Flight 93 election.” Phantom unity is the dumbest possible reason for her not to run, and it may be the only reason. Why else shouldn’t she do it? If she ends up embarrassing herself, that’s a loss to her personally, not to the country. If she ends up siphoning off votes from “stronger” candidates like Sanders and Kamala Harris, well, then they maybe they weren’t so strong. I think Camille Paglia’s probably right: “Screechy Elizabeth Warren has never had a snowball’s chance in hell to appeal beyond upper-middle-class professionals of her glossy stripe.” But let’s find out.

She should run, if only for the comic blog material it’ll provide. As for her big gaffe about her Native American ancestry, this read from Joshua Green seems too clever by half. I don’t think Trump is playing three-dimensional chess, I think he’s playing one-dimensional Chutes and Ladders:

Trump’s ploy has mostly worked anyway—and that’s because it was never predicated on the genetic question of whether Warren has American Indian heritage. It was instead meant to racialize her candidacy in a damaging way. “Every day Democrats are talking about race is a day we’re winning,” Steve Bannon told me in June 2017, back when he was Trump’s chief strategist and already eyeing potential 2020 opponents. “That’s why the Pocahontas thing will kill her.”

Bannon’s hope was that Democrats could be lured into a fight over identity politics that would overshadow and undermine Warren’s populist appeal…

Regardless, Trump’s instinct about how to drive a wedge between Warren and the liberal base of her party is being borne out exactly along the lines Bannon envisioned a year and a half ago, without any acknowledgement that it’s even happening. Her own party is too busy litigating the fraught issue of identity.

Maybe the “Pocahontas” goofs are a brilliant exploit of the leftist mind’s preoccupation with racial authenticity, an ingenious way of enlisting progressives themselves to smother Warren’s economic message under a blanket of identity politics. Or … maybe it’s just Trump once again sensing that making his opponents seem ridiculous is an effective way to diminish them. “Little Marco,” “Low-Energy Jeb,” you know how the game goes. Insofar as there’s conscious strategy in his attack on Warren, it’s probably no deeper than highlighting the visual absurdity of this seemingly lily-white professor straining to be thought of as anything other than lily-white. You can spin sophisticated cultural and political analyses out of that if you like, but the visceral appeal is really no deeper than this: Look at this BS artist and the pathetic lengths to which she’ll go to seem woke. The takeaway is that she’s ridiculous, not worth taking seriously. The more the Democratic nominee is an object of ridicule, the less Trump’s own lack of gravitas matters.

There’s a bit more truth here:

She’s the one who treated it as a crisis with the DNA test and that video she made about her ancestry. You can blame the press if you like for starting it but she apparently came to agree that it had become a crisis even if it didn’t begin that way. I think Silver’s right, though, that Warren critics are being opportunistic in focusing on the DNA episode, using it as an outlet for deeper concerns they have about her. Paglia’s read is shared by many Democrats, I’m sure: Warren isn’t very likable or relatable and it’s an open question whether left-wing economic populism is so appealing in itself that it can carry a flawed messenger to victory over Trump. A choice between Warren and Clinton in 2016 would have worked in her favor because she would have worn Bernie’s insurgent halo and her progressive principles would have shone next to Hillary’s calculating centrism. In 2020, eh. What’s the case for her apart from choosing her as a compromise candidate eventually, maybe, if the field deadlocks six ways?

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