Kilgore, Chait puzzle it out: Could Elizabeth Warren beat Donald J. Trump next November?
Sadly, we have no idea. But in this post for New York magazine, Ed Kilgore makes an excellent, semi-ironic point as he tries to puzzle it out.
Given the fact that Warren such a thoroughly regular everyday person from Oklahoma, she should be able to show voters that she understands their fear of a major change in the American health care system. Or so Kilgore says:
"A populist like her should show some empathy for those who fear big government and politicians as much as they fear insurance and drug companies."
We think Kilgore makes an excellent point, even if it sounds semi-ironic, though possibly only to us. We had a somewhat different reaction to a somewhat similar rumination by Jonathan Chait.
Chait does a good job discussing possible vulnerabilities in Warren's issue palette. But we think he misfires, instructively so, concerning the elephant in the room—the presumably inevitable return of Trump's "Pocahontas" jibes.
If Warren is the nominee, will Trump return to Pocahontas? If he does, will the approach take a toll?
We have no way of knowing. That said, we think Chait misconstrues the situation in two ways which have become standard within our liberal tribe. Here are the relevant passages:
CHAIT (9/18/19): Despite an exhaustive Boston Globe report that her self-identification as Native American had never benefited her career, early media coverage fixated on the issue, and she drew scorn from left and right alike. To Democratic voters, she looked like another victim of Donald Trump’s bullying.Would Warren be hurt next year if Trump starts it up again? We don't know, but we think we do know these things:
Trump has also stopped, for the moment, injecting his “Pocahontas” slur into the political news cycle, but that will return if she clinches the nomination.
No benefit to her career: Did Warren ever gain career advantage from her self-identification as Native American? We have no idea, and the Boston Globe's assessment, right or wrong, completely misses the point.
They key point is this—it's very hard to avoid the impression that Warren was seeking career advantage by making this very strange claim. It's the alleged motive that's central here, not the question of an actual benefit.
With our characteristic cluelessness, we liberals have been hiding behind that Globe assessment for a long time. It totally misses the point.
All the president's slurs: Question—when did the term "Pocahontas" become a racial "slur?"
We liberals keep dismissing Trump's taunt as "racist," as a "slur." But what makes "Pocahontas" a "slur?" What makes the mocking term "racist?"
Clearly, Trump's nickname is a term or derision in this context—but the derision is aimed at Warren for allegedly making a fraudulent claim.
She isn't being insulted or ridiculed for actually being Native American. She's being ridiculed for allegedly making a (decades-long) false claim to that effect.
News flash: If Trump returns to that attack, it won't sound like a "racist" "slur" to all kinds of in-between voters. They'll understand what's being alleged. Our complaint will sound like what it is—a dodge, which misses the point.
Why did Warren make that weirdly implausible claim for all those years? We have no way of knowing, but on its face, it's hard to imagine how she ever thought that she was actually AMERICAN INDIAN, as she once listed herself on an official form.
Whatever the truth may be, the impression that she was seeking advantage is very hard to avoid. Question:
Do we liberals plan to win next year, or do we just mainly enjoy calling Trump a racist? If we actually hope to win, we ought to consider the way this derisive attack might actually come across out there in the real world.
We have no idea if this type of attack would be successful next year. We do know how we liberals sound to many unaligned voters:
It sounds like all our sentences have a noun and a verb and a word ending in "—ism." It's the way we currently like to play. We'll guess that this approach could be a loser in this odd circumstance.
A final point: Liberals should start to plan for this attack today. Just consider the history.
Back in Campaign 1988, the Willie Horton attack was always going to come. When it came, we were caught by surprise.
So too, amazingly enough, with Candidate Kerry and the Swift boat attacks in Campaign 2004. The attack was always going to come. When it came, it did great damage.
Pocahontas will likely be back. Are we going to plan ahead, in realistic ways, or will we just gambol and play?