Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) has made official what everyone knew all along. She’s running. Or at least she’s formed an exploratory committee so she can fundraise and evaluate her options. As part of this process, she took the required step of scheduling a trip to Iowa to woo the voters of the first caucus state. Unfortunately for her, the reception she received wasn’t quite as warm as she might have hoped. One of the county Democratic campaign chairmen there decided to go on record and tell reporters that, while he likes and admires Warren, she might not have the right temperament and personality to get over the finish line.
If he’d just phrased it that way the event might have passed without much notice. But Jim Eliason decided to go one step further and describe Warren as “shrill,” with mannerisms that might put voters off. (Free Beacon)
A Democratic Iowa county chair called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) “very shrill” in a new report as the presidential hopeful descends on the critical caucus state for the weekend.
Jim Eliason, the chair of the Buena Vista County Democrats in northwestern Iowa, told U.S. News and World Report that her tone on President Donald Trump and in general was “very shrill,” a term often decried as sexist against outspoken female candidates.
“She’s very shrill. I think that’s going to put some people off. But I think that, you know, she says a lot of things that need to be said,” Eliason said. “The tone she’s been talking about Trump is very shrill. I think that kind of rhetoric needs to be used very, very sparingly.”
Eliason must have known that he was going to get roasted for calling a female candidate “shrill” and it didn’t take long for the heat to arrive. One Boston reporter picked up on it almost instantly.
— James Pindell (@JamesPindell) January 4, 2019
That was on top of the recent Politico story wondering if Warren is “likable” enough. (Another opinion which had her supporters and feminists in general up in arms.) Our friend Matt Lewis made the same point recently and tweeted about it the other day, but I had to disagree, at least in part.
It's not just a question of "likable." As I've written any number of times, she's just not a very good candidate. Were she running anywhere but a massively blue state/district she would probably get creamed. I'm amazed she could win a primary. https://t.co/XlP3fuGnS4
— Jazz Shaw (@JazzShaw) January 4, 2019
The whole “shrill” thing is just toxic in politics these days and politicians – particularly men – should know better than to use the word unless they’re deliberately looking to troll someone. The same goes for the word “spry” when talking about older candidates. You’re just inviting trouble.
As I said in that tweet I linked above, it’s really not even a question of being “likable” when it comes to national politics. While a charming personality certainly helps, you can get away with being viewed as unlikable by a wide swath of people and still pull off a victory. (Just ask Donald Trump and Richard Nixon.) But what you absolutely can’t manage is to come off as a dud versus being an inspirational figure.
That’s really Elizabeth Warren’s big problem. She’s simply not a very good candidate out on the campaign trail. She doesn’t inspire audiences the way Barack Obama could with his revival tent preacher style of speaking. Nor does she fire up the masses with incendiary rhetoric like Trump. When Warren speaks to a crowd, one gets the feeling that they’re being lectured by their college professor after turning in a paper that you just know wasn’t up to her standards. She’s not enlightening or inspiring audiences so much as lecturing them. And when she does raise her voice and begin to demonstrate some emotion, she sounds more manic than inspired and driven.
I remain amazed that she was even able to win a primary in her home state, which we could fairly say only happened because the state party cleared the field for her and she ran unopposed. She was then able to win the general election, but she was running against an incumbent Republican in a blue state (Scott Brown) who was only in office through a fluke when he won a very low turnout special election. Were she in a more purple, competitive battleground I simply can’t imagine her pulling out a win.
Perhaps the pundits should focus a bit less on “shrill” and “likable” going forward. And if they really want to defeat Trump they’re going to need to come up with somebody a lot more inspirational than Warren.