If I was going to invent a dream candidate, she would be grounded in small-town, rural or heartland America but able to hold her own in the citadels of power on the coasts. She would comfort the afflicted with the same passion with which she afflicts the comfortable, and she would understand the causes of those afflictions and have good ideas about how to remedy them. She would be moved by compassion but wouldn’t ask us to rely on compassion; she would have tangible strategies for widening our distribution of income, healthcare, education and opportunity, and she would be smart about the intersections of race, gender, class and the rest.
She would have been around long enough to remember that since the 1980s the government has dismantled a lot of systems that made us more safe and more equal, and she’d be fresh enough to imagine new ways out of the consequences of that catastrophic dismantling. Also she would have to be funny and have big plans to address climate change. OK, she already exists, and I’m talking about Elizabeth Warren. She is, to me, a better candidate for president than I ever expected we’d have.
My … dreamiest dream candidate would be a woman of color with Medusa hair who could turn the entire Republican Senate to stone with a glance, but Warren is who’s left in the race, and she is magnificent, and superheroes from Megan Rapinoe to Roxane Gay agree. Also, she pretty much turned Wells Fargo’s CEO into stone in a 2016 Senate banking committee hearing, more than a decade after she became one of the most outspoken experts telling Wall Street why it’s vicious and half a decade after she endorsed Occupy Wall Street. The strength of her candidacy is shown by how she’s made it to the front of the race despite misogyny from across the political spectrum, the wrath of the billionaires pouring money – and themselves – into the race, and the smears and distortions of the mainstream media.
Really I see her as a combination of three superpowers: wonkiness, radicalness and what for lack of a better term I would call Big Structural Mom Energy. The wonkiness is how she set new standards in primary campaigns with those famous plans – far more detailed, with the costs accounted for, than was usual before she arrived. The depth with which she understands the economic system – taxes, banks, bankruptcies, credit cards, home and student loans, redlining – is the depth with which she can change it.
That wonkiness is how she got here, how she looked long and hard at the data around how things work and found her own path forward from where she started out. It’s true that she didn’t start out as a progressive, and she was registered as a Republican during some (not all) of her formative years, but she never voted for Reagan, and she did vote for McGovern in 1972 and Carter in 1980 and other Democrats while she was supposed to be a Republican.
I’m from the urban coastal immigrant-Jewish left myself, which does not actually make me virtuous, but lucky in that I didn’t have to travel far to land in progressive positions (and gives me a front-row seat on how much misogyny and meanness the left can include). The word radical comes from a word for roots; Warren has certainly been radical in her analysis of root causes since 1975, when her first law-review article savaged an anti-busing court ruling. Way back then, she was delving deep into how the law blocked equal educational opportunity, and she weighed in on the side of Detroit’s black families and the urban poor generally.
Her radicalness now includes, first of all, a willingness to make big changes, whether it means breaking up big tech or taxing billionaires or bringing healthcare coverage to everyone. Our first and most urgent priority must be addressing climate chaos, and the great obstacle to doing anything about it is corporations and the elites who profit from them. Warren has shown no fear of going after them and no fear of the kind of massive structural change we need to address the climate crisis. (In addition to supporting the Green New Deal and promising to ban fracking and stop fossil fuel extraction on public land and coastal waters, she just released a Blue New Deal for the oceans.)
At the heart of her campaign is kindness as an emotion, as a value – and as a basis for policy
What I call Big Structural Mom Energy could also be called radical compassion. It lies in the homey delivery and quality of attention she brings to, for example, the young queer woman in Iowa she encouraged and hugged earlier this month. Warren, who has said more about trans rights than any other candidate, has made her credo clear, over and over: that everyone matters, and matters equally, and that the systems that shape our lives should value, defend and give everyone opportunity equally. She got a lot of attention for her comic answer to the question about what she’d say to someone opposed to marriage equality, but after the laughter was over, she said something she’s said in many forms in her campaign: “To me, that is the heart of it. That was the basis of the faith that I grew up in, and it truly is about the preciousness of each and every life.”
It’s about equality, but not just economic equality: as understood from a deep engagement with where the dangers lie, where the suffering is, whether it’s black maternal mortality or the plight of refugees or the burden of student loan debt. At the heart of her campaign is kindness as an emotion, as a value – and as a basis for policy. As she put it in her call with Megan Rapinoe: “We really believe in equity. We believe in racial equity, we believe in gender equity, we believe in everybody gets a chance in this country.”
All this makes her, in my eyes, not just the best candidate to undo the damage of the Trump era but the best candidate to make this country live up to its promises, potential and ideals in ways it never has before.
That is Rebecca Solnit writing in The Guardian.
The bad news is that many of us don’t want this country to “live up to its promises, potential and ideals in ways it never has before”. Others don’t think a woman could or should do the job Warren is seeking.
As a result, we may get the candidate we deserve, not the one we need.