Loving Elizabeth Warren Means Having a Plan If America Breaks Your Heart

That’s not exactly the title of Monica Hesse’s article in The Washington Post. The Post’s title is “Loving Elizabeth Warren Means Having a Plan For When America Breaks Your Heart”. I’m not ready for the “when” yet.

Quote:

Within three minutes of getting in line for an Elizabeth Warren rally, I’ve been handed a business card for a woman-empowerment organization called Brass Ovaries, and the founder, my linemate, has drawn me into a conversation about Warren that has begun to feel like the only conversation to have about Warren: the kind that’s about hope, and despair, and how it’s possible to love America and also want to throw it out the window.

“I went to one of her events before and I gave her one of my Brass Ovaries pins,” Michelle Johnson says. “And I started to explain how it’s about fed-up women — but she said, ‘Oh, I get it,’ and I said, ‘I knew you would,’ because Elizabeth always gets it, doesn’t she?”

This is the first part of the Warren conversation. It involves dreaming of a version of the country where leaders are excellent at explaining certain things, like the current shortcomings of health care and child care; and where they don’t need other things explained to them at all, like what it feels like to be an exasperated woman.

But Michelle, who plans to vote for Warren in her state’s Tuesday primary, also finds herself having a second, more maddening part of the Warren conversation. When she told her mother that she thought Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) would be a good running mate, her mother blanched. “America isn’t ready for two women on the ticket,” she said, then added that America might not even be ready for one.

That part is about fear. It’s about fearing a version of America that was certified as the real version four Novembers ago, when Hillary Clinton lost to D—- T—-. Or so people keep saying.

It’s a conversation that isn’t really about Elizabeth Warren at all; it’s about the rest of us.

There we were in New Hampshire, in the exhaust fumes of Iowa’s caucuses, which had been such a spectacular fiasco that Warren’s supporters in Keene now believed it was up to them to sort things out and, ideally, to sort things out for Warren. For all the chaos in Des Moines, one thing was clear: Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg wrestling through a tie with a quarter of the votes apiece.

And Warren, who had topped polls in October, had finished a distant third.

This alone didn’t faze her New Hampshire supporters. She’d outpaced the erstwhile front-runner Joe Biden, after all, who took his fourth-place finish as a “gut punch.” Plus, while Iowa was “a bunch of people running around in a gymnasium,” as one voter here put it, their state’s election was a civilized primary, and was also in the Massachusetts senator’s backyard.

But then a Boston Globe New Hampshire prediction came out. It had Warren polling at 13 percent in the Granite State. Behind Sanders. Behind a rising Buttigieg. In the loam with Biden.

Then Warren’s campaign announced that it was pulling ad dollars in Nevada and South Carolina.

Then it was time to really think about Elizabeth Warren. Which really means sorting through what version of America you believe in — the one where we are ready to vote a woman into the Oval Office, or the one where we aren’t — and whether it’s the believing, one way or another, that makes your version true.

“The thing is, I can picture her up there on the debate stage with T—-, and she’s debating him to pieces,” says Deb Wilson, a retired New Hampshire educator. “To pieces.”

“We need her,” says Wendy Keith, a social worker. “We need her so badly. We need someone that strong and that smart.”

“I think having a woman in the White House — I think she’ll care for us,” adds Esther Scheidel, standing next to Wendy.

“Of course, I’m not voting for her because she’s a woman …” another supporter chimes in a few minutes later, having overheard the earlier conversation…“Of course, I’m not voting for her because she’s a woman; I don’t even think of her as a woman,” another supporter chimes in a few minutes later, having overheard the earlier conversation…

It’s a preposterous, relatable, vexing statement. It’s impossible not to see Warren as a woman. Many of her policies were explicitly shaped by that identity, as she readily acknowledges. Is “not thinking of Warren as a woman” supposed to be a compliment?

What I think this man means is that ever since 2016, we have been trapped in a vague debate about electability, and whether it’s only men have who have it. In the fog of uncertainty over Hillary Clinton’s complicated defeat (she neglected Wisconsin, she used a private email server, she was a “nasty woman” slain by weaponized misogyny, she still won the popular vote), the debate has mutated into an abstract panic about whether any woman can get elected in 2020.

Trying to ignore Elizabeth Warren’s femaleness is an attempt to neatly sidestep the whole problem. To pretend that we have the capacity to vote entirely on merits. To behave as if each election can happen in a vacuum, uninformed by the elections and the hundreds of years of history that came before it.

Can you ignore that while Pete Buttigieg might be a millennial wunderkind, a female 38-year-old mayor of a midsize town would have a hard time being taken as seriously if she up and ran for president? Can you ignore that Bernie Sanders’s shouting is seen as righteous but if Kamala Harris ever raised her voice, it was seen as anger? How did Joe Biden automatically get to wear the cloak of electability for nearly a full year before Iowa tore it off?

…. These days, of course, people don’t say, “I won’t vote for a woman”; they say, “I’m scared my moderate father-in-law needs a man on the ballot to motivate him to the polls.”

This isn’t progress. This is treating the election as a psychic reading.

“I’m leaning toward Warren,” says Frank Brownell, a retired editor who relocated to Keene from Upstate New York. “I’m not a big Buttigieg fan. But I want to pick someone to win.” He sighed, deeply troubled. “Women have such a burden. I actually wish women ran the world.”

If he wished women ran things, I asked him, was there a reason he was still merely leaning toward Warren? Here was a woman he liked who was offering to run the country, and he literally had the chance to give her the job.

“I’m going to vote for her,” he decided, then waffled. “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

His qualms weren’t with Warren. He loved Warren. His qualms were about everyone else, everyone else who might not be ready to vote for a woman. “I’m hopeful but I’m not hopeful. I don’t think America is what I always hoped it was.”

Here are some things that happen at Elizabeth Warren events: Warren sprints onstage, much tinier and slighter than she appears on television, to Dolly Parton singing “9 to 5.” She shares that she was her parents’ late-in-life baby, and her mother never stopped referring to her as “the surprise.” She talks about her first marriage, and then she jokes that it’s never good when you have to number your marriages. She tells a story about a toaster, and the toaster becomes a metaphor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she helped create, and the CFBP becomes a metaphor for how things can change, but only if you are willing to believe they can change.

You have to believe; that’s the key. You have to jump into the void of possibility. Ready or not.

She is optimistic and upbeat, almost comically so, as if she is Elizabeth Warren playing SNL’s Kate McKinnon playing Elizabeth Warren. She is empathetic in a way that could feel phony if you’re not accustomed to that sort of thing in a politician.

At one event in New Hampshire, a little girl approaches the microphone, accompanied by her mother.

“My name is Elizabeth,” she says.

“Your name is Elizabeth?” Warren reels back. “Oh wow! Double Elizabeths! I feel the power.”

“I’m seven years old.”

Warren pauses, deadpan. “I’m . . . not.”

“I want to know if you will close the camps,” the 7-year-old Elizabeth asks.

Here, Warren’s response grows impossibly soft and intimate, so soft that it feels almost indecent to listen to, like this has become a private conversation. The camps in Texas where they are holding children? Warren asks. The 7-year-old nods. Those camps.

“Yes,” Warren says. “Yes.”

And then people in the audience tear up because in that moment they did seem to believe things could change, that Warren was the best candidate, that others thought so too and just needed to be convinced that it’s safe to vote for her. That there’s nothing to fear in nominating this woman but fear itself.

“If everyone is trying to play that [electability] game,” offers Nancy Loschiavo, a Warren supporter, “then what has our country come to?”

But, Loschiavo hastens to add, she’ll absolutely vote for whoever the nominee is.

Everyone at the Warren events hastens to add that.

A survey had come out a few days before, asking each candidate’s supporters whether, assuming their own first choice dropped out, they would vote for whoever was the Democratic nominee. Some supporters professed a my-guy-or-bust attitude… But Warren’s supporters, more than anyone else, said they’d vote for whomever they needed to vote for.

One way to read this is that Warren doesn’t have crossover appeal: She appeals only to the folks who would have voted Democratic no matter what. Another way to read this is that her supporters are as practical as they are passionate: There’s an outcome they’d prefer, but if it doesn’t happen, they’ll move on to the next best thing. They’ve got a plan for that.

After talking to enough of her fans, I think it’s the second explanation. The second explanation, mixed with something deeper:

Loving Elizabeth Warren means planning for America to break your heart.

It means watching her tweet out an optimistic message after Iowa, and then watching how all of the early replies instruct her to defer to Sanders and drop out…

It means listening to people complain about her schoolmarmishness and quietly wondering what was so wrong, exactly, with sounding like a schoolmarm. What’s so wrong with sounding like a grandmother? What’s so wrong with her animated hand gestures, her cardigans, her preparedness, her laugh, her husband, her brain, her work, her femaleness, her voice?

It means hoping things will break your way, but accepting that they probably wouldn’t, because America never quite seems to work that way, does it?

America doesn’t just render a verdict on the acceptability of women and their clothes and laughs every four years; America does that every day, in a lot of different ways. That’s the reason Michelle Johnson feels moved to make “brass ovaries” pins, and the reason Elizabeth Warren doesn’t have to ask her to explain why.

“The biggest reluctance I hear is ‘Can a woman win?’ ” says Ron Jones, who … has been canvassing for Warren and had come to see her speak in a Nashua community college gym. “I point out that a woman has already won,” he said, referring to Clinton’s popular-vote victory.

“I tell them, look at other countries with successful female leaders,” says Harris. “I tell them, look at successful female CEOs.” … Or just look around you….

Inside the gym, attendees filled the folding plastic chairs, and when those were full, leaned against the walls, parkas draped over their forearms. Seatmates introduced themselves to each other and talked about why they liked Warren, and why there were still reasons to be hopeful, maybe.

“I just want someone to bring energy back,” M.K. Hayes tells the fellow New Hampshirites sitting next to her. “And with her, there’s no cynicism, but there’s urgency. With her, you can say, ‘I’m liberal and I’m proud.’ ”

Her husband likes Warren, too, but he’s not here today. He likes her, she explains, but he might not vote for her; he’s not sure it’s the practical thing to do.

“I am trying to get him to vote with his heart,” Hayes says. “I am trying to get him to have the courage to risk.”

The music in the gym gets a little louder. When “9 to 5” comes on, Warren sprints onstage. She talks about her family. She talks about her toaster. She says she is running a campaign from the heart, because she believes 2020 is “our moment.”

“I believe in that America,” Elizabeth Warren says, and then she tries to convince the audience that they believe in that America, too.

Unquote.

There Will Be No Excuses in November

Yesterday, from Hillary Clinton:

With their votes to make the American president accountable to no one, Republican senators have put the interests of one president over the interests of all Americans.

The only remedy now is for us all to vote in overwhelming numbers to replace them—and him—in November.

Amen.

The Passing Parade

The year is almost over and so is the decade that’s strangely ending with a “19” instead of a nice, round “20”. There is lots of news and commentary out there. An extremely truncated summary:

It didn’t make a splash, because this is 2019, not 1971, but The Washington Post reported:

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable…

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking … Who will say this was in vain?”

The Afghanistan Papers won’t get as much publicity as the Pentagon Papers. They should have called them the “Afghan Papers”, more concise language now being the custom.

The Post also explained the history of the “It was Ukraine, not Russia” myth that has taken up permanent residence in what’s left of the Toddler’s brain and is so popular among right-wing politicians and propagandists everywhere. In a few words, the Russian government created the myth in order to cast blame on somebody else:

The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity [of course]. . .One former senior White House official said [the president] even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.”

The Popular Information political newsletter summarized new analysis of the president’s high crimes and misdemeanors:

An extraordinary analysis by top legal experts, published by Just Security, clearly explains how the impeachment inquiry [implied] that [the pres] committed at least three (and probably more) federal crimes. All of these crimes involved him abusing his presidential powers, making them particularly relevant to impeachment….

  • Federal campaign finance law
  • Bribery
  • Honest services fraud

[This last one] occurs “when a public official breaches his duty to act in the best interests of his constituents by performing an official act in exchange for personal gain”, such as “withholding funding that had been allocated by Congress —  money intended to advance U.S. national security by helping Ukraine combat Russian aggression — to advance his personal political interests”.

Cool.

By the way, Congressional Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (an independent who was kicked out of the Republican Party when he exercised his conscience) finally got around to impeaching the monster. Paul Krugman reacted:

What we saw Wednesday was a parade of sycophants comparing their leader to Jesus Christ while spouting discredited conspiracy theories straight from the Kremlin. And as they were doing so, the object of their adoration was giving an endless, rambling, third-world-dictator-style speech, full of lies, that veered between grandiosity and self-pity…

Republicans, in other words, are beyond redemption; they’ve become just another authoritarian party devoted to the leader principle. And like similar parties in other countries, the G.O.P. is trying to rig future elections through gerrymandering and voter suppression, creating a permanent lock on power

But if Trump’s supporters look just like their counterparts in failed democracies abroad, his opponents don’t.

One of the depressing aspects of the rise of authoritarian parties like Hungary’s Fidesz and Poland’s Law and Justice has been the fecklessness of their opposition — disunited, disorganized, unable to make an effective challenge even to unpopular autocrats as they consolidated their power.

Trumpism, however, faced determined, united, effective opposition from the beginning, which has been reflected both in mass marches and in Democratic electoral victories. In 2017 there were only 15 Democratic governors, compared with 35 Republicans; today the score is 24 to 26. And last year, of course, Democrats won a landslide victory in House elections, which is what made the impeachment hearing and vote possible.

Many of the new Democratic members of Congress are in Republican-leaning districts, and some observers expected a significant number to defect on Wednesday. Instead, the party held together almost completely. True, so did its opponents; but while Republicans sounded, well, deranged in their defense of Trump, Democrats came across as sober and serious, determined to do their constitutional duty even if it involved political risks.

Now, none of this necessarily means that democracy will survive….

What we learned Wednesday, however, was that those who define America by its ideals, not the dominance of a particular ethnic group, won’t give up easily. The bad news is that our bad people are as bad as everyone else’s. The good news is that our good people seem unusually determined to do the right thing.

Finally, speaking of good people, the widely-read evangelical magazine Christianity Today called for the Toddler’s removal from office. The editorial got so much attention, their website crashed:

His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused…. .Whether [he] should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election — that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments….

To the many evangelicals who continue to support [him] in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of [the president] influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off [his] immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?

You have to wonder how many of the president’s supporters understand that, if the Senate did its duty in the new year, our convicted president would be replaced by super-Christian Mike Pence, not the dreaded mainline Protestant who failed to carry Wisconsin.

In conclusion, it seems to me that we face two major issues:  climate change and bringing majority rule to America.

Majority rule would mean dealing with the courts, the Electoral College, a skewed Senate, gerrymandering, election security, campaign finance reform and voter suppression. It’s quite an agenda. But, as Senator Warren [subject of the latest Rolling Stone interview] keeps saying, we need big, structural change in our political system if we’re going to make progress on issues like climate change, inequality and much more.

Oh, and you might check out “The Historical Case for Abolishing Billionaires” in The Guardian. It begins by quoting another well-known proponent of regulated capitalism, Adam Smith.

Maybe They Should Try Connecting With Her?

If trends continue, Elizabeth Warren will soon be considered the front-runner among the Democrats running for president. She has been rising in the polls while Joe Biden has been sinking and Bernie Sanders has remained static. So, in addition to the positive press coverage of her campaign and her many plans, we’ll now see stories about what she needs to do in order to win the nomination and the presidency. 

This story appeared in the New York Times today:

NYT

This story appeared in the Los Angeles Times today:

LAT

There is no doubt whatsoever that Senator Warren will try to connect with as many voters as she can. This is a representative democracy, however. Perhaps voters should make an effort to connect with her? By learning who she is and what she’d try to do as president? For example, it’s easy to do a search for “Elizabeth Warren biography” or go to YouTube and look for “Elizabeth Warren speech”. There is plenty of time before any of us get to vote.

Mad King Donald?

Simon Rosenberg of NDN and the New Policy Institute writes:

One of the great animating principles which drove the founding of America and the design of our government was the quest to curtail the power of a single person to determine the fate of the nation without reasonable deliberation and what we call checks and balances.  There is perhaps no more quintessentially American idea than this – that the President is not a sovereign, but a partner in governing the nation with Congress and the Judiciary; that he or she serves the people, not themselves; that we are a nation of laws, not men and women.

After more than two years of his Presidency, it just isn’t clear that [the President] agrees with this timeworn American belief that the power of an executive in a democracy must be limited and checked.  At the core of Bob Mueller’s report to the American people are profound questions about [the President’s] willingness to trample democratic norms and laws, even openly working with a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election.  The President showers authoritarian strongmen like Putin, Kim, and Orban with praise, and denigrates our democratic allies.  In case after case – the unrelenting lying about everything, the refusal to divest from his businesses, the unilateral deployment of the military on US soil, the years of obstruction documented by Mueller and the unprecedented disregard for the oversight responsibilities of Congress, the many times the President’s policies have been stopped by US courts, the granting of security clearances over the objections of professional staff and the intelligence community, the wanton lawlessness of his Cabinet and staff, and the persistent invocation of emergency powers when no emergency exists (either the US economy is the best ever or we are in a national emergency, can’t be both) – the President has refused to abide by the laws and norms essential to making our democracy, or any democracy, work.  In many ways he has become the type of American leader our Founding Fathers tried so hard to prevent from ever occupying the White House. 

It is in this light that we must see, and ultimately challenge, the President’s use of tariffs with Mexico, China, and other nations in the world.  The way he is using them, without consulting Congress and by whimsically announcing and enacting them without public debate or deliberation, is simply outside any reasonable understanding of how our nation should be governed.  They are the actions of a tyrant, or a Mad King, not an American President.  They also, perhaps even more importantly, violate the entire theory of how the post WWII order, designed and built by the United States, was supposed to work.  Whimsical use of tariffs has been essentially outlawed or highly constrained in our global system, in ways similar to how we’ve approached chemical and nuclear weapons. Their escalating use in the pre-war period led to world war, and leaders from around the world came together and designed a system which sought to eliminate their existence entirely.  The President’s repeated deployment of tariffs to achieve not just economic but political objectives is a clear break from the norms and laws of the modern world. 

…. Congress has a profound duty to step in now and stop this dangerous abuse of Presidential authority before more harm is done to the United States and the world.  It can begin by advancing a bicameral, bipartisan bill already introduced into Congress that is designed to reign in the President’s abuse of his tariff authorities. 

…. Congress has an additional remedy it is considering now – impeachment and removal.  It is my own belief that if Congress does begin the process of removing the President, among the more persuasive arguments which will need to be made is [his] historic abandonment of the democratic principles which have inspired the world and made America great.  Refusal to embrace those principles, flirting and encouraging autocratic whimsy rather than democratic deliberation, is perhaps the greatest crime an American President can commit, for it is a betrayal of our nation’s most important contribution to human kind – that it is the people who are sovereign, not Mad Kings and tyrants.  There is perhaps no greater rationale for the removal of a President than failure to maintain fidelity to our democratic system itself. 

Tell Pelosi to Impeach the Bastard Now

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent a letter yesterday to her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives:

In his summary letter and press conference, Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the President did not obstruct justice.  The Mueller report appears to directly undercut that claim.

Our Chairmen are studying the report, and have released a joint statement.  As we continue to review this document, we will have more to report and will update you on the next steps that must be taken.  The Caucus is scheduling a conference call for Monday to discuss this grave matter, which is as soon as our analysis and this Holy Season’s religious traditions allow.

The Mueller report states, “We concluded Congress has authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” which “accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”  Congress will not be silent.

Sure, Congress won’t be silent, but will the Democrats begin impeachment proceedings or will they merely proceed with their plans to investigate and publicize the president’s unfitness? I’m not going to repeat the overwhelming arguments for impeaching the president. If you’re not convinced, you might dip into these commentaries:

Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, “Democratic Equivocation Over Impeachment Is a Moral and Political Disaster”

Noah Bookbinder, The New York Times, “Mueller’s Damning Report”

Brian Beutler, Crooked, “Democrats’s Impeachment Panic Is Endangering the Country”

Heather Digby Parton, Salon, “Roadmap for Impeachment: Mueller’s Purpose Is Clear”

Yoni Applebaum, The Atlantic, “The Mueller Report Is an Impeachment Referral”

The Moscow Project (unsigned), “The Mueller Report, Like the Watergate Roadmap, Should Be Considered an Impeachment Referral”

George Conway, The Washington Post, “Trump Is a Cancer on the Presidency — Congress Should Remove Him”

Charles Pierce, Esquire, “The Mueller Report Is a Challenge to Congress: Save the Republic. Impeach the President”

Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, In a Functional Country, We Would Be on the Road to Impeachment”

Really, now that we have the redacted Mueller report, no argument is needed to justify the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives taking action next week.

But if you would like to give Speaker Pelosi some encouragement on the matter, you can send her a message at Speaker Contact. Or you can call her Washington office at (202) 225-4965 or her San Francisco office at (415) 556-4862.

I sent her a few thoughts. It was easy:

Madame Speaker: This is not a moment for political calculations or equivocation. It is time to fulfill your responsibilities as Speaker of the House. You must initiate impeachment proceedings against the president. We know he is guilty of obstruction of justice. The rule of law demands action now. Not impeaching him will give him license to behave even worse (and to argue that if he had done anything wrong, the Democrats would have impeached him). But even from a political standpoint, it would be a terrible blow to Democratic voters across the country who gave you back the House majority and want the president to be held to account. You must act and act now. 

Contacting the House member for your district is also a good idea. You can find their contact information at Directory of Representatives.

We need to decide as a nation if the rule of law still applies to the government of the United States or if our presidents are above the law. Now is the moment to answer that question.