Astroturf Populism: What Happened to Elizabeth Warren?

Last Fall, I was planning to throw all my little weight behind Elizabeth Warren.

Woman and child

Lady, You have got to kidding me!

She speaks my language, about families and ground-level economics. I was excited to have a woman candidate whose policies I could actually support. Her background with disabled children and low-income families seemed to indicate a person who understood some issues that have been ignored by mainstream politics for way too long.

But recently, readers may know, she has pushed herself as a vocal supporter of Trans Rights.

I was disappointed by this because I had not gotten around to doing any real digging. I was hoping adding pronouns to her website was lip service, but she has been pro-Trans for a while.

An argument

You don’t know everything, Gary!

It’s kinda infuriating that a woman would endorse the idea that men can become women. We have a front row seat to the absurdity of this. Many of us struggle with our womanhood, expectations and assumptions of ourselves and others. All while dealing with the complex reproductive system that shapes our lives whether we have children or not. Someone with no experience of this can’t fully understand how it forges us as people.

It’s hard enough to understand ourselves! Much less someone whose experiences you can never share.

But, at the end of the day, Warren is a politician. I suppose I was foolish to expect integrity.

Krystal Ball has an excellent analysis of the failure of Warren’s presidential campaign. Not to insult Krystal, but this wasn’t difficult because there isn’t a lot of it going around.

It’s hard to know why some candidates are pounced on when they fail like a fox in the hunt, while others are written off and gleefully forgotten. Elizabeth Warren has been a media darling this season, notorious Good Friends with the other lefty favorite, Bernie Sanders. Rousing footage of her speaking about poor families and the fabled Middle Class made the rounds, she was polling well. There was talk of a 3-way race – Biden, Sanders, and Warren.


This is so undignified!

But she bombed in Iowa. Then again in New Hampshire. No one seemed to have much to say about this, focusing on Amy Klobuchar’s “surge” and apparently forgetting about their last girlfriend as soon as she became inconvenient.

It sure looked to me like a few other women were disappointed with her inconsistency on the subject of Women’s Rights. I still think this is part of it (if only because I vote!) but Krystal makes a strong case that the issues with Warren’s candidacy go much deeper than this.

“Astroturf Populism” is a new one to me. She and cohost on ‘The Hill’ Saagar Enjeti contrast it with what they call the Astroturf Liberalism that has eroded the Democratic Party – Prioritizing access to power over principle while pandering to liberals. This is rampant on the Right too, to the point where Mitt Romney is the voice of reason.

These are dark times. I still have reason to hope Bernie Sanders is not a total hypocrite, aside from my need to hope for something.

Woe is me

If only there were something I could do! Alas!

Mainly that he’s said the same things for 50 years. And the things he says sound a lot like what I read and hear about other countries around the world. American TV seems to forget about the Internet. When they describe Sanders as radical, they undermine their own credibility.

It’s disheartening that talk of helping the poor, from someone who has helped the poor would be used as a front to gain access to power. But Krystal reminds us that Warren “sat on her hands” during Sanders’ 2016 campaign, when he could have really used some strong backup. I remember being frustrated about this myself at the time.

I was unaware that Biden actually asked her to join his ticket, and she “demurred.” Not exactly the all-hands-on-deck, “many hands make light work” attitude of someone who understands poverty.

Krystal reflects on an old piece of her own from 2014, where she made the case for Warren to run in what would have been the race against Donald Trump. That’s a fun fantasy, but Krystal is disillusioned about Warren as a candidate, and as a person.

A lady reads

We can be intellectual and fabulous!

She accuses Warren of “abandoning the movement” by “sitting out” 2016. Choosing to be a “player in the game instead of a revolutionary.” She quotes Zaid Jilani’s analysis in the Washington Examiner, “The problem with modern progressivism is how much it looks down on people who disagree. It's a kind of elitism that makes populism impossible.

Worse, it’s the same Insider-Outsider bullshit the Right uses to manipulate poor conservatives to vote against their interests – Kiss their ass, tell them what they want to hear, and then take money from lobbyists representing the industries that are ruining those peoples’ lives and land behind their back.

If we want to think of ourselves as smarter than that, we have to do our due diligence. I had no intention of coming out in support of Warren without first embarking on an epic research journey. Plans change, and one of the things that makes a true liberal, a marker of those who lean Left, is a readiness to incorporate new information.

And when our impulse is otherwise, integrity demands we interrogate that.

“Populism” as a concept sort of annoys me, anyway. Appealing to common interests should be the basis of politics, not a specific ideology. Compartmentalizing that allows for the hypocrisy of corruption – As the pullies and trap doors of the theater Public Office has become. Whoever’s playing the role this season comes out, says their lines to get votes for the next round, but it’s an act. And we are childish to think they mean anything they say.

At the show

It’s just a show, Karen! Let’s go get some air!

To stretch the stage metaphor a little more, the mechanistic way the DNC has again closed ranks against Sanders is chilling. They so obviously didn’t want him to win Iowa. Somehow, tying in delegates while getting the most votes isn’t seen as “winning.” But we can see the trap door from the cheap seats.

It all shades Sanders in credibility and mainstream Democrats as corrupt cronies. I generally roll my eyes at the “both sides are just as bad” refrain, but delivering lines about structural rigging against the lower classes is meaningless when you use donations to prop up the Military-Industrial Complex. The Obama Administration was a wakeup call to many in this regard.

So Warren’s support of Trans Rights may very well be pandering. Sadly, it’s just the latest in a list of actions that betray a calculus of self-interest. Which results in confusing inconsistencies in a candidate’s platform. Also known as hypocrisy.

You can’t support poor mothers while promoting those who would take their Rape Crisis shelters away.

Pragmatism is great, but should be applied to itself. Which is to say, moderation in all things. Prizing ideas for their utility over their universality should not be applied to everything. Cordoning off religion from government gives citizens spiritual breathing room. Disconnecting what you say from what you do makes you a liar.



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