An Elegy For Elizabeth Warren
Do you remember Election Night, 2016? Boy do I. My husband had made us Hillary COOKIES. We did not eat them, and the champagne stayed in the fridge for years, until I finally broke it out for some tiny non-defeat I now forget.
I remember my unyielding fury at our nation, and my contempt. I remember the unconquerable sickness. It was at least six months before I could wake up in the morning without remembering Trump was president before i'd even opened my eyes.
Well, it's happened again. I don't know about you, but this time, I'm sort of blessedly numb. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders aren't Trump. Things will be better under either of them than they are now. They're both ... fine. Just, with Elizabeth Warren reportedly dropping out of the presidential race today, things won't actually be good. That's okay. We're used to "not actually good."
Bernie and Joe are fine. Neither one of them's a bad guy. In my view, they're sort of flip sides of the same coin: old (my god so old) white men who are fine. They both care about the country. They both care about working people. (One of them sort of more theoretically and better on policy for them; the other more empathically and individually and hopefully won't send them all to Crime Bill Bankruptcy Jail.) Certainly neither of them would fire the head of pandemic response — or rather the entire pandemic response team — and then just do away with the positions entirely.
But tell me how you watch Trump's baffling response to the coronavirus epidemic and don't immediately run for aid to the woman who talked to the experts and formulated a transparent, compassionate and effective response. Well. To quote the eternal Frances McDormand: I just don't understand it.
Earlier this year, Vox did a series on the best case for each candidate. I hadn't known the real history of Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB); I hadn't known that in order to build an agency from scratch through only her will, she was basically a superhero. Her magnificent organizational and leadership skills flabbergasted everyone. Personnel was so deeply policy, and she paid such intense attention to it, and she got deep into Hillary Clinton's head (and ass) when wringing concessions from her for her support:
She leveraged that reputation in 2014, when the Hillary Clinton campaign saw her as a potential challenger for the Democratic nomination. It's hard to remember that era now, but Warren, not Sanders, was the populist left's next great hope. There were multiple Draft Warren organizations, and though Clinton was seen as a much stronger candidate than is now remembered, Warren was the entrant her team most feared. That gave Warren power, and as recently reported documents show, she used it, repeatedly, to push Clinton on personnel. [...]
The pressure campaign, which Warren continued throughout the election, was effective on both of her levels. On the first level, many of the people she endorsed were tapped to advise Clinton, and they were slated for key administration jobs if Clinton won. On the second, deeper, level, Warren got in the Clinton campaign's head on personnel questions generally. They worried about her reaction to key hires even before she weighed in. "It was kind of a pain in the ass to be thinking about her all the time," recalled a Clinton presidential planning official.
That included both proactive pushes for brilliant intellectuals to be hired, and blacklists of Timothy Geithner types who sucked. She played hardball. She was effective. She never backed the fuck down. My god, she must have been a nightmare.
Up through October, she was many Democrats' favorite, and then, led by Mayor Pete — side-eye — her opponents jumped her. Medicare for All, what is that even? How would she paaaaay for it? She had a plan of course. And her plan, by diverging ever so slightly from Bernie's by doing it in two steps ... but covering 75 percent of people faster ... gave a lot of "I would vote for Elizabeth Warren, just not Hillary Clinton!" types the excuse they'd been looking for. Elizabeth Warren had BACKED DOWN from Medicare For All! She had BETRAYED it! She had always been a snake.
There were a few other stumbles here or there. Many members of the Cherokee Nation are still angry she released a DNA test to show she did have Native American forebears many generations back. Last month she sent a
12-page letter apologizing for her past actions, describing her efforts to help Indian Country and promising to continue to "listen and learn from tribal citizens."
Warren said she understood "that the confusion my actions propagated around tribal sovereignty and citizenship caused real harm to Native people and communities. I was wrong to have identified as a Native American, and, without qualification or excuse, I apologize for the harm I caused."
For some that wasn't enough because she refused to say that her family story had been a myth.
"I understand, with humility, that this is your right," Warren said about whether or not Native people choose to forgive her. "Regardless of whether you forgive me — and again, that is up to you and you alone — I will continue to try my hardest to be the best champion for Indian Country I can be."
That just makes me sad.
In early debates, Warren stayed sweet and muted, rarely speaking and sticking to her gentle indoor voice. She disappeared for long stretches in each debate, and then would mention the selfies again. (The selfies may have showed gumption and persistence, but the word itself is irredeemably tween-ish, and she was replacing her hard-earned reputation for being #BeBest at policy with a celebrity angle.) The media began to erase the former favorite from coverage — as Bloomberg entered the race, coverage went to him, or Pete for outperforming in Iowa, or Amy for outperforming in New Hampshire. Each headline and new national poll would leave out the woman who got the "third ticket out of Iowa."
Each election night, the networks would run one candidate's speech after another — except Warren's. They'd wait to show her in the 1 a.m. hour, not even because others were speaking, but because it was imperative they throw to the panel to jaw about it, or to Steve Kornacki.
She started to disappear before our eyes.
Then she fucking murdered Michael Bloomberg. She had had enough of ALLLL our bullshit; she had had enough of muted and genteel. She needed a miracle, and LORD SHE WAS THE ONE THAT SHE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR!
And the voting began and we knew she would come back, as Pete and Amy and Joe had previously (Bernie was pretty strong all along) ... and no. That was it. She was gone.
Our friends — who love her, they promise! — are so afraid of Trump they cast their ballots for what I believe will be a do-nothing administration, headed by our choice of octogenarian (and ask a gerontologist; 80 is different from 70!). I believe either Bernie or Biden will beat Trump; I'm not afraid about that in the slightest. But I believe too that those do-nothing administrations will lead to us getting whomped by whichever attractive 40-year-old Nazi the GOP puts up in 2024, and we'll be back in the thick of it. I don't blame you, friends. I'm not even mad! We all make our own decisions in this glorious democracy. You did what you needed to do.
In the meantime, it's fine. They're both good men. They'll be better than Trump. And, as men who will be thick in their 80s by 2024, they had better select some flawless Kamala Harrises and Stacy Abramses as their seconds. No, Nina and Tulsi won't do it, Bernard.
But a tiny suggestion, if you please, and can we please make this a GROUNDSWELL?
With Nancy Pelosi in the House and Majority Leader Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, it won't be a do-nothing four years. Thank Chuck Schumer for his service, and let the women sort out this unholy mess.
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