The real moment of scrutiny has yet to come for alleged new Democratic 2020 presidential front-runner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). As expected, she was the focus of her rivals’ barbs to a greater extent at the fourth Dem debate on October 15, but none of these jabs really rose to the level of “attacks.” It was nothing Warren wasn’t able to take, and it did little to answer the question of how she will handle things when she truly falls under the microscope.
Touching the Dirty Money
Her vulnerabilities are numerous. Warren’s constant purity spiraling against dirty corporate financing in politics belies the fact that she has always been willing to take the very money she so diligently condemns. New York Post reported on October 14 that a review of her donations to her current presidential and past Senate campaigns shows Warren has taken cash “from more than 30 billionaires during her time in politics.”
The website OpenSecrets.org lists the “top contributors” to Warren for the 2020 election cycle. Among the powerful corporate names giving five and six-figure donations are Alphabet Inc. (that would be Google), Amazon.com, Apple, AT&T, Disney, IBM, and Microsoft.
This is ammunition served up on a silver plate for top-tier rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has already begun excoriating Warren as a cozy capitalist wolf in progressive sheep’s clothing. It will prove effective in a left-lurching party orbit. Speaking in cold, practical terms, Sanders’ recent heart attack has been a relief for the Warren campaign. Sanders is the Dem in the field best able to draw on this line of attack. The slower pace he will be forced to take, like it or not, as he recovers from a major heart incident at the age of 78 removes significant pressure from Warren on this subject. Yet she will still have to deal with it in a convincing manner eventually.
The preachy overtones to Warren’s criticisms of big money in politics combined with the exposure of such easily available information point out what seems to be a basic flaw of Warren as a campaigner. Either she doesn’t see potential traps ahead that she can fall into or she feels above them — charges of hypocrisy sting more when the target claims a high-mindedness far above her rivals. Warren’s demeanor oozes just such a vibe and almost begs further investigation, which she will receive.
Her penchant for self-imposed stumbles should also frighten Democrats seeking to take down President Trump in a general election. Whether it was cluelessness, which is hard to believe, or a perceived impotence in the face of a powerful lobby, the Warren campaign allowing its candidate to take a question from a 9-year-old transgender child at the CNN/Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s LGBTQ Town Hall on October 10 was a monumental political error. The optics of the awkwardly ebullient exchange could not have been worse for a Massachusetts liberal truly trying to connect with voters in the Heartland.
Does she not know this? Does she not care? The disconnect from the hard-boiled political reality that Warren displayed in that disturbing nationally televised moment may also help to explain her baffling penchant for unnecessarily exaggerating details of her personal narrative. As lesser candidates melt away, more Americans are going to realize that Warren likes to weave a fanciful tale of her struggles to overcome hardship. It is eerily similar to, if not yet as blatant as, the wild falsifications that current rival Joe Biden made in his catastrophic flop of a 1988 presidential run. Given that Warren tailors much of her campaign message to promoting progressive social justice tropes, however, her sketchy accounts of facing discrimination firsthand may actually be worse than Biden’s fables three decades ago.
Fractured Fairy Tales
Biden in ’88 lied about his personal life in a very weird way to boost himself as a hardscrabble fighter with a brilliant academic career. Warren has lied about the very thing that is a key plank to her planned policy agenda.
We all know about the disastrous DNA test Warren foolishly took in a failed effort to prove her non-existent Native American heritage (which again highlights her inability to see traps in advance). But the other and far more meaningful part of her deceit has yet to really hit home in living rooms across America. There is very strong evidence that Warren used a bogus minority status to advance her professional career. It is a fact that Warren was billed as the “first female minority” to receive tenure at Harvard Law School. Warren listed herself as a minority in law professor directories for years. This issue has come up before in previous Senate campaigns but has not yet received the white-hot expanded attention that comes with being the leading candidate for a major-party presidential nomination. But it will.
Warren has also seemingly randomly asserted that she was fired from an early job because she was pregnant and that her racist grandparents forced her parents to elope due to her mother’s Native American heritage. Both personal vignettes were immediately and almost effortlessly revealed to be highly dubious, the first by other family members and a contemporary newspaper account of her grandparents’ wedding, and the second by her former employer. For a candidate who endlessly dabbles in identity politics, the amplification of these seemingly obscure personal moments shows a desperate need on Warren’s part to claim her own place at the victimization table that is always being set by progressive Democrat politicians today. It is going to get her in trouble.
All of this bodes poorly for Warren’s ability to handle the added heat that will be coming her way if she continues to cement her standing as the leader of the motley Dem 2020 pack. But even if she can hold off what is an extremely underwhelming collection of rivals, a greater concern lies ahead. That would be Trump, the non-professional politician with an innate gift for pouncing on his opponent’s weaknesses in a general election. Elizabeth Warren may not be able to see the traps a savvy Trump is already gleefully laying out for her, but no doubt many Dem officials and likely voters are. And so Warren will not be running away with the nomination anytime soon.