Warren’s Palatable Radicalism Could Win

One can’t digitally swing a cat on Facebook. No space. All those memes. Thickening in their japery.  Emboldened, strengthened, armored, by like after like after like.

We learned this week that Elizabeth Warren is exploring a run for president in 2020. And she, “Fauxcahontas,” as the jibe extends, is destined to fall stupendously.

You see, social media is designed skillfully to convince one of a world in which each and every bias is not just confirmed, but seared, Fight Club-style, onto the frontal cortex. I’ll like your nonsense. And you’ll like mine.

That Warren is all but running against Trump is this week’s laugh-riot. “She’s toast already,” said one. The Crying Face emoji peppering a relentless riptide of memes. Some of them, admittedly funny.

In the interest of the dying art of contrarianism, and as one of its few remaining devotees, I don’t quite agree. Have people forgotten that Donald Trump is president?

Announcing her bid on New Year’s Eve, Warren dropped a video online. The content of that video sounded more like President Trump’s bleak inauguration speech, than the hopeless ravings of a presidential campaign tourist.

Talking almost convincingly of American families slipping “through the cracks and into disaster,” Warren from her plush kitchen alleges that the middle-class is “under attack.”

It runs over four minutes. Which, in the internet age, is a smidgen shorter than War and Peace. The point is: there’s more than enough to keep watching.

She goes as far as to say that the thimbleriggers on Wall Street haven’t learned a thing since 2008. “Today, corruption is poisoning our democracy,” decreeing it all as “a scam.”

But what is most poignant? That, as Warren convicts: “Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie, and they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice.”

“They crippled unions so no one could stop them, dismantled the financial rules meant to keep us safe after the Great Depression, and cut their own taxes so they paid less than their secretaries and janitors.”

Warren’s sprawling accent lacquers such highly charged rhetoric with a sheen of folksy concern. She’s not ranting. She’s stating in professorial manner what many Americans agree is the case.

After all, President Trump forced his way into the White House with essentially the same message.

He won on trade skepticism. He won on sensate immigration controls. He won by convincing millions of forgotten Americans that there was a swamp in Washington, and he had the Drano.

Warren’s pins her campaign on the reality of a shrinking middle-class. In that video, she points out that her janitor father, and retail-assistant mother worked hard to raise a child who became a Harvard law professor and United States Senator.

That was not in a country where half of its citizens deemed the American Dream to be a cruel myth. It was 1960s America. A different astral plane, to all but a few.

Americans still want to believe that dream. Indeed, that dream soaks up over a million people every year. But less than a quarter of Americans tell pollsters that one could work their way out of poverty and into promise.

Which is why the silly attacks on Warren’s admittedly tenuous claim to Native American ancestry won’t mean a jot to anyone but those who would never consider voting for her. The Fauxcahontas jabs are as blunt as “Cheeto Hitler.” Nobody persuadable cares.

Donald Trump is president. Ducal comportment is old hat. Yes, Warren is often marmish, hectoring, and jabby. But what tone is she expected to take when discussing a dying American Dream, and a country in decline? These are not topics that naturally lend themselves to joyous trilling and rapture.

That’s not to say she will win the Democratic nomination. Twenty others are keen to show just how much they hate the president, even when he says things their “thought leaders” were saying just a few years ago. Indeed, the likes of Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand seem intent on turning the nomination battle into a sociology lecture at Berkeley.

Of course, Warren herself is a progressive, and a lecturer, but in a party shifting leftwards. The average Democratic voter has since moved way to the left of the 1990s Democrat.

But Warren’s economic prescription bestrides the middle of the party. Her Accountable Capitalism Act harks back to a post-World War II settlement when bosses and workers shared the spoils of the world’s highest living standards.

Of course, the nutty obsessives of “true conservatism” will deride as “communism” anything that helps workers. Warren’s insights are hardly the glimmers of a moonbeam socialist.

Those over at Jacobin might not like her compromise either, but Warren offers what the far-left and establishment wings could swallow as a palatable radicalism. She is not afraid to call herself a capitalist, either.

But perhaps Warren’s prescription is too sober for the Trump-sozzled Democrats. It certainly beats chanting “Orange Man Bad!” and hoping for the best.

Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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