Editorial written by Ben Szioli
Wednesday, June 19, the New York Times published a series of video interviews with each of the major Democratic candidates for president. As written in this fun piece from Yahoo News [I like the format of their mobile home page, okay? Let me live my life, jeez], the most amusing question was what the candidate’s most recent embarrassing moment had been.
Amid the dud answers [Unofficial “nobody candidate” John Hickenlooper got embarrassed because he said “fart” around his 16-year-old son, which confirms that he is a reptilian disguised unconvincingly as a normal person], Liz Warren made one comment that I find incredibly worrisome.
In explaining her most recent embarrassing moment during a photo line, Warren briefly let slip a mask that most voters don’t know she was wearing:
A lot of times, [young girls and I] do pinky promises…. I did this with a child and said something about, “It’s really important that we girls stick together,” and the mother said, “Uh, he’s a boy.” Ouch.
This particular interaction is pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things. She misgendered a child, though, and she looks at it as an entertaining anecdote. That’s what has me worried.
Rhetoric like “it’s important that we girls stick together” is inherently based on assumptions about the gender of the person you’re communicating with. In an evolving world, we need to be increasingly conscious of not just gendered language, but also of assumptions about the gender of others. It isn’t entertaining that Liz Warren fails to understand this.
The proper response to misgendering a child is self-criticism. If Warren understood leftist social positions or social justice in general, she would ask herself which of her own behaviors contributed to the mistake.
A hint: it’s because she has a campaign shtick where she guesses the gender of half the children she takes a photo with. The proper response would have been to eliminate the gendered rhetoric except when speaking with those who have identified their gender. Left wingers should not embrace a candidate to whom misgendering someone is an amusing mistake to be employed as an anecdote in interviews instead of being corrected.
Nevertheless, pundit after pundit will tell you that Warren has been “insurgent on the left.” She has soared to the towering heights of [checks clipboard] 12% in the national polls. Still, she is perceived as an economic compromise and a fighter for social justice. It isn’t clear that this is a justified reputation, though.
Since entering Senate, Warren has had this left-wing reputation, which has perpetually confused me. She actually was a Republican until 1996, only changing parties because Democrats were more market-friendly – not because they were socially progressive. And though her voting record is good, it doesn’t reflect a principled leftist ideology.
I was living in Boston during her 2012 election. “Millionaire Elizabeth Warren” got absolutely hammered by the media, with incumbent Scott Brown and the entire Massachusetts Republican Party stacked against her. This seems to be where her reputation as a progressive began.
During that onslaught, she was accused of profiteering during the housing market crash, a perception she combated by repeatedly circling back to her consumer protection policy experience. To some degree, this trapped her in the position of automatically qualifying as “the left” compared to establishment Democrats and the GOP.
Media outlets also slammed her history at Harvard, which is bread-and-butter rhetoric for pissing off Republican voters in MA. This pushed her again to circle back and try to appear more wonkish, more progressive, and more consumer-oriented.
So what we ended up with is a rich law professor who used her law knowledge to craft consumer protections and a progressive vision. But where in all that are workers’ rights? Does Liz Warren really value corporations’ consumer base over the workforce? Is there any left-wing philosophy underpinning this? Her policies barely brush shoulders with social democracy – regulated capitalism.
Warren has assumed positions to the left of center on social policy since then, hoping to bolster her centrist approach to economic progress. As a result, she has maintained a niche as a progressive wonk and compromise candidate.
All of this is good stuff for a Senator, actually. Warren’s policies represent Band-Aids for a bleeding economy. Bill after bill as a legislator, those Band-Aids save lives.
That stops when you become President. Band-Aid ideas from the President weaken our negotiating position and push the Overton window back rightward. The President needs a philosophy that goes beyond patching the status quo, so that the discussion among legislators can be drawn to the President’s side of the aisle, yielding more victories. Warren’s compromises would slide us further right. Without transformation of the economy, the possibility remains of an economic downturn that would reignite the far right.
As they say, “Liz ain’t it, chief.”