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U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has the stuff of which U.S. presidents are made, which is why she has plenty of detractors. (And she really rocks purple. Just sayin’: I want eight years of a purple-wearing president.)
Reading Yahoo! political commentator Matt Bai’s recent column on why he believes Vice President Joe Biden should run for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination, I was stopped cold by Bai’s casual, cavalier remark that besides Biden, “There’s [Vermont U.S. Sen.] Bernie Sanders, who’s an avowed socialist [as though there were something wrong with that], and Elizabeth Warren, who sounds more like a Jacobin.”
I recalled that the Jacobins were associated with the French Revolution, but I couldn’t recall exactly what they were about, and so I looked them up on Wikipedia. Wikipedia notes of the Jacobins, in part: “At their height in 1793-94, the [Jacobin Club] leaders were the most radical and egalitarian group in the [French] Revolution. Led by Maximilien de Robespierre (1758–1794), they controlled the government from June 1793 to July 1794, passed a great deal of radical legislation, and hunted down and executed their opponents in the Reign of Terror.”
For all of the right wing’s bullshit about “class warfare” — which, conveniently, according to the right wing’s playbook always is waged by the poor against the rich and never vice-versa — Elizabeth Warren actually has not called for a violent revolution.* She has called for a return to socioeconomic fairness and justice, which is more than reasonable, especially given what has happened to the American middle class since at least the 1980s, during the reign of Reagan (another reign of terror from history, not entirely metaphorically speaking). But if you can’t win an argument these days, you just accuse your opponent of being a terrorist (not entirely unlike Repugnican Tea Party Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent comparison of Wisconsinites standing up for their livelihoods to the terrorists who comprise ISIS).
Matt Bai makes only one other brief reference to Warren in his screed about why, in his estimation, Biden should run for president for 2016: “Biden’s a middle-class champion who makes the case for economic fairness with more conviction than [Billary] Clinton and less vitriol than Warren .”
I agree that Billary has little to zero credibility on the issue of socioeconomic justice, but if you Google “vitriol” you will see that it means “cruel and bitter criticism.”
Wow. Warren is passionate, absolutely. She’s one of the relatively few passionate and progressive elected officials in D.C., and passion is a normal response to socioeconomic injustice that is deep and widespread. But when has Warren ever been bitter and/or cruel? WTF, Matt Bai?
I’m not the only one who has recognized this. I was pleased to see soon later that Salon.com writer Elias Isquith wrote a column on Bai’s drive-by bashing of Warren and on the establishment’s fear of Warren — fear of Warren because she actually threatens to upend the status quo in Washington, D.C., the status quo that is toxic for the majority of Americans (and much if not most of the rest of the world) but that is working out just fine for the denizens of the halls of power in D.C. (which would include Bai, whom Isquith refers to as “the star pundit-reporter and longtime communicator of whatever the conventional wisdom of the political elite happens to be at any given time”; I would add that Bai is a mansplainer par excellence as well).
Isquith, too, takes issue with calling Warren a “Jacobin,” and Isquith compares a quotation of an actual Jacobin (the philosophy of whom is that “[the] policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people’s enemies by terror. … Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs”) to a quotation of Warren (one of my favorites):
“I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.’ No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”
This statement (from August 2011, when Warren was running for the U.S. Senate) is eminently fair and reasonable — I’d call it “common sense” if the wingnutty fascists hadn’t already bastardized that term for all of their harmful ideas and opinions.
Why the establishmentarian attacks on Warren, whose actual words and actual record have nothing whatsofuckingever to do with what her detractors and critics claim about her? Isquith offers a plausible explanation (links are Isquith’s):
… The first and most obvious reason is that Washington is, to put it gently, a swamp of corruption where many influential people live comfortably — thanks to Wall Street. Maybe they’re lobbyists; maybe they work in free-market think tanks; maybe they’re employed by the defense industry, which benefits greatly from Wall Street’s largesse. Or maybe they’re government bureaucrats who find Warren’s opposition to the “revolving door” to be in profound conflict with their future plans.
My second theory is less political and more prosaic. Another reason Bai and his ilk find Warren discomfiting may be her glaring lack of false modesty and her disinterest in keeping her head down and paying her dues. Because despite being the capital of what is nominally the greatest liberal democracy on Earth, Washington is in truth a deeply conformist and hierarchical milieu, one where new arrivals are expected to be neither seen nor heard until they’ve been deemed to have earned their place. And while Warren may want to be seen as a team player, what she cares most about is reining in Wall Street. If she deems it necessary to accomplish her primary goal, she’s willing to step on some toes and lose a few fair-weather friends. …
I would add that patriarchy, sexism and misogyny certainly play a role, too. It might not be conscious in all cases, but I surmise that because every single one of our 44 U.S. presidents thus far have been men, there is an ingrained cultural, even visceral, belief among many, many Americans — even women — that the U.S. president should be a man. Thus, the likes of Matt Bai is rooting for Joe Biden; Bai’s support of Biden apparently stems, in no tiny part, from the fact that Biden is yet another older white man.
The U.S. president should be, in my book, the candidate who both is the most progressive and the most electable, and right now that candidate is Elizabeth Warren. That she happens to be a woman is great, as we are woefully overdue for our first female president.
Presidential preference polls consistently show both Warren and Biden to be Democrats’ second and third choices after Billary Clinton (who, after E-mailgate, might slide in the polls of Democrats and Democratic-leaners; we’ll see).
Joe Biden probably would be an acceptable-enough president – I’d certainly take him over a President Billary – but given his age (he’s 72 years old today and would be 74 were he to be inaugurated as president in January 2017, making him the oldest president at the time of inauguration in U.S. history [even Ronald Reagan was a spry 69-going-on-70 years old when he took office in early 1981]) and given his reputation as a hothead, I don’t know how electable Biden would be.
And while in fairness the vice president doesn’t get to do very much, what has Biden done over the past six years?
Biden’s age doesn’t bother me — if you can be the job, I don’t much care how old you are — but it would become a campaign “issue.” And while perhaps it’s not fair to Biden as an individual, it’s pathetic and sad and deeply disappointing that in our so-called “representative democracy,” our 45th president would be yet another white man, for a string of 44 out of 45 U.S. presidents being white men.
Elizabeth Warren is a twofer: an actually progressive Democrat who is electable as U.S. president, and thus also potentially our first U.S. president who is a woman.
Attacks on Warren by the shameless, worthless, self-serving defenders of the status quo are to be expected; when the voters hear and read what Warren has to say, versus the bullshit that the establishmentarians spew** about her, they will, I believe, put Warren in the White House, where she belongs.
*For the record, I don’t rule out the use of violence in a revolution. Our plutocratic overlords never rule out the use of violence (state violence, usually) against us commoners. Unilateral disarmament is bullshit.
I’d much prefer a bloodless revolution, of course, but again, when the enemy doesn’t rule out violence, you shouldn’t either.
**Similarly, were most Americans actually informed about what democratic socialism actually is all about, they probably would embrace it, which is why it has been so important to the establishmentarians and the wingnuts (really, “wingnut” is too-cuddly a word for right-wing fascists) to lie about what socialism is all about.
Such a dog-whistle word has “socialist” become, indeed, that Matt Bai simply dismisses Bernie Sanders’ entire being in one fell swoop in just one phrase (“an avowed socialist” — gasp!).
Thank you, Matt Bai, for so courageously doing your part to discourage all actual thought in the United States of America!