Should Elizabeth Warren's Republican Past Disqualify Her? No, That Is Stupid.
Within the last few weeks, Elizabeth Warren has churned out a number of absolutely fantastic and incredibly progressive policy ideas -- from plans for universal child care and affordable housing and breaking up big tech to plans to actually tax the super wealthy and the large corporations that are currently paying no income tax. Functionally, at this moment, they are better, more numerous and more specific than anyone else's policies. If your primary concern is what actually gets us from Point A to Point B, Elizabeth Warren is your gal.
Also, within the last few weeks, we have heard a lot about how Elizabeth Warren used to be a Republican. A fairly apolitical and noncommittal Republican who only ever voted for Gerald Ford and Arlen Specter, but a Republican nonetheless. (No, according to her, she did not vote for Ronald Reagan.)
To many people out there in social media land, whom I am far too gracious to call out as individuals, this means that she is not a real liberal or a real progressive. That she is, to revive a term, a poseur. That, hypothetically, were she to become president, she would immediately turn her back on everything she has been doing and saying for the last couple decades and suddenly, I don't know, morph into Rush Limbaugh. That she is simply not to be trusted.
In terms of people who might have room to talk in this regard, I would rank pretty high. There is almost no present-day lefty purity test that I would not have passed with flying colors when I was in elementary school in the late '80s and early '90s. This includes support for single payer health care, reparations, and gay rights and never, ever, sitting quietly while some other kid was getting bullied. This wasn't because I was magically born an incredibly authentic progressive, it was because I had a super smart and super politically and socially aware mother whom one might describe as very far left, though she prefers the term "prematurely correct."
Now, it took a lot of people -- presumably many of those "concerned" about Elizabeth Warren's past life as a Republican -- a long ass time to get to where I was when I was a child. Lots of people who are now saying, at least in their delightful conversations in my mind, "Wow, Robyn, you were right all along! Health care is a human right, labor rights are totally important, and it is very weird that anyone ever thought that 'civil unions' made any sense to begin with." I could easily judge all of them, but this is not 9th grade and I'm not going to sneer at someone's Doc Martins because I was listening to The Ramones while they were still listening to Debbie Gibson. In the words of another '80s pop singer -- I don't care how you get here, get here if you can.
After all, it sure would be hard to get any of this stuff done by myself.
That is how I feel about Elizabeth Warren having been a Republican prior to 1996. She took a longer path? So what? She's here now and she's doing good shit. Why would I complain about that? That's good! The whole point of everything is to get people and things to change.
Rather than being concerned that her change -- for the last 20+ years -- was not truly authentic, I happen to appreciate the fact that she was convinced by evidence that her previous views were wrong. That is a good thing! Right now we have a president who could be shown all the evidence in the world that he is wrong and still stick to his story, and that is terrifying.
And jeez, haven't people ever heard the line "fire of the converted" before? People who go through the whole "Oh man, everything I thought was right my entire life was a lie!" thing tend to be really devout. They're also the ones who are going to be able to effectively persuade others while people like me are standing around being like "It sure is weird that you hate poor people so much and want them to die."
When someone tells me, "Oh, that guy acts like an asshole, but deep down he's a really good guy" or "Sure, what this one person said or did is racist or sexist, but I know they are not racist or sexist in their heart," I believe that person is full of shit. I do not believe in a "deep down," I do not believe in an "in their heart," I believe people are defined by their actions. What someone does is what defines "who they are," not the other way around. In fancy terms, this is called existentialism.
I believe the opposite is true as well. If someone does good things, they are a good person. If someone changes what they do and what they think, that is who they are now.
Let me tell you what I think, as the purest of the pure -- I do not give a flying shit who gets the shit done as long as the shit gets done. I don't care if the person getting everyone healthcare and childcare was a Republican 25 years ago. Hell, I don't care if they are a Republican right now, at this very moment. I don't care if their voice is grating or if they yelled weird one time or, frankly, whatever the hell else they have done in their lives, assuming they have not murdered or sexually assaulted anyone. And honestly, depending on the scenario, murder might not even bother me that much at this point. I could be persuaded.
Once things are not a giant garbage fire, we can talk. We can disqualify people for stupid mistakes and for things they thought 20 years ago. We can be super judgy about their voice or their dorky hair or what they eat or whether or not they gesticulate in a way someone finds off-putting, we can talk about the indefinable thing that makes you not trust them, and we can speculate wildly about how all or any of those things actually reveal that they are secretly bad in some way. Right now, we do not have that luxury, Right now, we do triage.
If you don't think Elizabeth Warren is the one with the best plan to get shit done, that's fine. Talk about what you don't like in her policies, and why you like about someone else's policies better. That is what is important right now. And if you truly don't trust her because she was a Republican 20 years ago, save that hot take for the voting booth and your own kitchen table because it is helping no one and, frankly, it makes you sound stupid.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse