Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Warren's Exit

I was disappointed that Elizabeth Warren didn't do better in the primary elections and had to drop out last week. I've been impressed with her since hearing her interviews on Fresh Air as a professor and consumer advocate before she became a senator. She was one of the few heroes in Congress fighting against foreclosure fraud and other malfeasance by big banks. Her record has been overwhelmingly positive.

As a candidate, she had many good policies, and they were more comprehensive than those from most politicians. She even adopted Jay Inslee's more detailed environmental plan after he dropped out and met with her, which was an encouraging sign about adopting better ideas and coalition building. Warren was also adept at putting human faces on policy proposals, whether it was weaving in her personal biography or talking about the people she met on the campaign trail and the struggles they were facing. Liberal and Democratic candidates often fail to do that effectively, sometimes offering fine polices and data and thinking that those policies will win on the merits alone, or failing to consider how nefarious their political opposition is. (Why, of course the Republicans will support this plan, because it's a good plan and helps their own constituents! Only a monster would oppose this! And surely they wouldn't – um, they wouldn't – uh, the Republicans voted how?) The human angle and the values driving those better policies are essential parts of explaining them to voters, and Warren consistently does that well.

She was also one of the few candidates who could talk about overall goals (such as universal health care) but also multiple possible routes to get there or at least make progress. Likewise, she was one of the few candidates who gave a good answer on Mitch McConnell and the unprecedented obstructionism by Republicans in government, who have shown they will almost always put party before country and even their own constituents, will not evaluate policies on their merits and simply will not argue in good faith. In several interviews, Warren spoke of the importance of Democrats winning back the Senate, but also explained what she could do via executive order if that didn't happen in 2020.

In contrast, some other candidates would blame "Washington" but not Republicans and conservatives, and basically were selling themselves as magic kumbaya figures who would somehow make Republicans see the error of their ways and renounce evil. (Buttigieg was particularly egregious about this as his campaign progressed, but it's also been a key part of Biden's pitch, and Klobuchar, Gillibrand and some of the early dropouts made similar if more modest claims.) Practicality is admirable, but delusion is not, and I remain wary of political figures who will not call out that conservatives and Republicans are the core problem in American politics and have been for a long time. Republicans are shameless about making false claims and manufacturing scapegoats – especially racial minorities, liberals and Democrats – while the more establishment Democrats often are afraid to call out real villainy by conservatives and Republicans. Throw in the "both sides" false equivalences that imbecilic hack pundits love and it becomes almost impossible to have an honest political conversation in many major venues ostensibly devoted to discussing politics.

I think some Democratic candidates know the real problem, but shill a weak, general condemnation of politics and offer "both sides" bullshit, which strikes me as cynical and counterproductive to long-term progress. And others are naïve enough to believe that crap, which may be worse. All – well, almost all of the Democratic candidates – condemned Trump. But of all the candidates, Warren and Sanders have pushed the strongest critiques of Republican abuses of power in government and abuses of power in general by corporations and other influential entities.

Warren might wind up as a vice presidential pick or a cabinet official. But I think being a good senator is underrated.

Here's her press conference at her house:

Here's her interview with Rachel Maddow:

Here are her remarks to her staff and supporters:

I want to start with the news. I want all of you to hear it first, and I want you to hear it straight from me: Today, I’m suspending our campaign for president.

I know how hard all of you have worked. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you have poured into this campaign.

I know that when we set out, this was not what you ever wanted to hear. It is not the call I ever wanted to make. But I refuse to let disappointment blind me — or you — to what we’ve accomplished. We didn’t reach our goal, but what we have done together — what you have done — has made a lasting difference. It’s not the scale of the difference we wanted to make, but it matters — and the changes will have ripples for years to come.

What we have done — and the ideas we have launched into the world, the way we have fought this fight, the relationships we have built — will carry through, carry through for the rest of this election, and the one after that, and the one after that.

So think about it:

We have shown that it is possible to build a grassroots movement that is accountable to supporters and activists and not to wealthy donors — and to do it fast enough for a first-time candidate to build a viable campaign. Never again can anyone say that the only way that a newcomer can get a chance to be a plausible candidate is to take money from corporate executives and billionaires. That’s done.

We have also shown that it is possible to inspire people with big ideas, possible to call out what’s wrong and to lay out a path to make this country live up to its promise.

We have also shown that race and justice — economic justice, social justice, environmental justice, criminal justice — are not an afterthought, but are at the heart of everything that we do.

We have shown that a woman can stand up, hold her ground, and stay true to herself — no matter what.

We have shown that we can build plans in collaboration with the people who are most affected. You know, just one example: Our disability plan is a model for our country, and, even more importantly, the way we relied on the disability communities to help us get it right will be a more important model.

And one thing more: Campaigns take on a life and soul of their own and they are a reflection of the people who work on them.

This campaign became something special, and it wasn’t because of me. It was because of you. I am so proud of how you all fought this fight alongside me: You fought it with empathy and kindness and generosity — and of course, with enormous passion and grit.

Some of you may remember that long before I got into electoral politics, I was asked if I would accept a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was weak and toothless.

And I replied that my first choice was a consumer agency that could get real stuff done, and my second choice was no agency and lots of blood and teeth left on the floor.

In this campaign, we have been willing to fight, and when necessary, we left plenty of blood and teeth on the floor. And I can think of one billionaire who has been denied the chance to buy this election.

Now, campaigns change people. And I know that you will carry the experiences you have had here, the skills you’ve learned, the friendships you have made, will be with you for the rest of your lives. I also want you to know that you have changed me, and I will carry you in my heart for the rest of my life.

So if you leave with only one thing, it must be this: Choose to fight only righteous fights, because then when things get tough — and they will — you will know that there is only one option ahead of you: Nevertheless, you must persist.

You should all be so proud of what we’ve done together — what you have done over this past year.

We built a grassroots campaign that had some of the most ambitious organizing targets ever — and then we turned around and surpassed them.

Our staff and volunteers on the ground knocked on over 22 million doors across the country. You made 20 million phone calls and sent more than 42 million texts to voters. That’s truly astonishing. It is.

We fundamentally changed the substance of this race.

You know a year ago, people weren’t talking about a two-cent wealth tax, universal childcare, cancelling student loan debt for 43 million Americans while reducing the racial wealth gap, or breaking up big tech. Or expanding Social Security. And now they are. And because we did the work of building broad support for all of those ideas across this country, these changes could actually be implemented by the next president.

A year ago, people weren’t talking about corruption, and they still aren’t talking about it enough. But we’ve moved the needle, and a hunk of our anti-corruption plan is already embedded in a House bill that is ready to go when we get a Democratic Senate.

We also advocated for fixing our rigged system in a way that will make it work better for everyone — regardless of your race, or gender, or religion, regardless of whether you’re straight or LGBTQ+. And that wasn’t an afterthought, it was built into everything we did.

And we did all of this without selling access for money. Together, more than 1,250,000 people gave more than $112 million dollars to support this campaign. And we did it without selling one minute of my time to the highest bidder. People said that would be impossible — but you did that.

And we also did it by having fun and by staying true to ourselves. We ran from the heart. We ran on our values. We ran on treating everyone with respect and dignity.

You know liberty green everything was key here — my personal favorites included the liberty green boas, liberty green sneakers, liberty green make up, liberty green hair, and liberty green glitter — liberally applied. But it was so much more.

Four-hour selfie lines and pinky promises with little girls. And a wedding at one of our town halls. We were joyful and positive through all of it. We ran a campaign not to put people down, but to lift them up — and I loved pretty much every minute of it.

So take some time to be with your friends and family, to get some sleep, maybe to get that haircut you’ve been putting off. Do things to take care of yourselves, gather up your energy, because I know you are coming back. I know you — and I know that you aren’t ready to leave this fight.

You know, I used to hate goodbyes. Whenever I taught my last class or when we moved to a new city, those final goodbyes used to wrench my heart. But then I realized that there is no goodbye for much of what we do.

When I left one place, I took everything I’d learned before and all the good ideas that were tucked into my brain and all the good friends that were tucked in my heart, and I brought it all forward with me — and it became part of what I did next. This campaign is no different. I may not be in the race for president in 2020, but this fight — our fight — is not over. And our place in this fight has not ended.

Because for every young person who is drowning in student debt, for every family struggling to pay the bills on two incomes, for every mom worried about paying for prescriptions or putting food on the table, this fight goes on.

For every immigrant and African American and Muslim and Jewish person and Latinx and trans woman who sees the rise in attacks on people who look or sound or worship like them, this fight goes on.

And for every person alarmed by the speed with which climate change is bearing down upon us, this fight goes on.

And for every American who desperately wants to see our nation healed and some decency and honor restored to our government, this fight goes on.

And sure, the fight may take a new form, but I will be in that fight, and I want you in this fight with me. We will persist.

One last story: When I voted yesterday at the elementary school down the street, a mom came up to me. And she said she has two small children, and they have a nightly ritual. After the kids have brushed teeth and read books and gotten that last sip of water and done all the other bedtime routines, they do one last thing before the two little ones go to sleep.

Mama leans over them and whispers, “Dream big.” And the children together reply, “Fight hard.”

Our work continues, the fight goes on, and big dreams never die.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I've seen a number of good postmortems on the Warren campaign, including pieces by David Dayen, Harold Meyerson and Matthew Yglesias. Ella Nilsen and Li Zhou, among others, have written about "Why women are feeling so defeated after Elizabeth Warren’s loss."

The primary race is now between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and COVID-19 news is justifiably crowding out many other stories. But I did want to take a moment to recognize Elizabeth Warren.

(Incidentally, Warren's released and updated a good coronavirus plan, and as Digby's noted, both Biden and Sanders have given better speeches than Trump on the pandemic.)

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