Monday, January 12, 2015

At What Point Does Elizabeth Warren Stop The Kabuki And Step In To Save The Country?


Yesterday there was a 5 minute internet buzz when Jonathan Martin reported in the NY Times that perennial Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was out bashing fellow right-wing extremists Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee. He questioned Huckabee's fealty to the core fascist underpinnings of right-wing ideology from a policy perspective, claiming he believes in Climate Change, Common Core, immigration reform and the DREAM Act, as well as Common Core-- and that he raised taxes. But Santorum was even harsher towards Paul and Cruz, sneering at them as mere "bomb throwers" with no achievements," a category he also lumped Rubio into-- at least in terms of the lack of achievement. "Do we really," asked Santorum rhetorically about Cruz and Paul, "want somebody who’s a bomb thrower, with no track record of any accomplishments?"

Rand Paul's chief strategist, Doug Stafford, dismissed Santorum as a national joke: "Senator Santorum lost re-election in his home state by 18 points nearly a decade ago, and has spent the time since then trying to convince people to elect him to an even higher office than the one he was booted out of. We will pass on responding to his alleged wisdom."

Let's move over to comparing, critique-wise, apples and oranges for a moment, travelling with the Washington Post's Dan Balz out to Aurora, a Denver suburb for a transpartisan focus group. "The 12 participants-- Democrats, Republicans and independents-- are weary of political dynasties," he wrote. They were dismissive, sometimes harshly, in their assessments of Bush, the former Florida governor. They were also chilly toward former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton."

What caught my attention, though, was that the reaction among normal people towards Elizabeth Warren-- putatively almost as far left inside the Democratic Party as Cruz and Paul are within the Republican Party (at least in terms of how the Beltway media paints it)-- was nothing like the reaction Santorum is drumming up against the GOP's non-Santorum right-wing extremist fringe. In a rational political word this should be very worrying to elite party Establishments:
When the name of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was introduced into the conversation, however, many of those around the table, regardless of party affiliation, responded positively. To this group, who spoke in stark terms throughout the evening about the economic challenges of working Americans, Warren has struck a chord.
Most of the potential 2016 candidates who are thrusting themselves at this point are not admired. Jeb Bush was easily the most disliked, winning the who do you hate most vote from 8 of the 12 participants. "Reactions to Bush," wrote Balz, "were viscerally negative. When the participants were asked for short impressions of him, the responses included the following: 'Joke.' 'No, thank you.' 'Clown.' 'Don’t need him.' 'Greedy.' 'Again?' One said, 'intriguing' and another said, 'interesting.' That’s as close as anyone came to outright enthusiasm for Bush. Hillary didn't do much better. The comments ranged from "Don't like," "Untrustworthy," and "More of the same" to "spitfire," "strong," and "Politicians, but gets things done." And although Chris Christie is well known, that works against him and he was "not admired." Most of the participants didn't have enough information to give even an informed one word description of candidates like Cruz, Paul, Walker, Huckabee or Rubio.
Warren proved the exception to all this. Quick impressions voiced about her were highly positive: “Passionate.” “Smart.” “Sincere.” “Knowledgeable.” “Intelligent.” “Capable.” One person said, “questionable.” That was as close to a negative reaction as she got in that round.

There were other signs that Warren, who has said repeatedly that she is not running for president in 2016, had caught the eyes and ears of people in the room. She was the popular choice as a next-door neighbor, seen as genuine and personable. Even one of the most conservative members of the group said this.

Several said that if they could pick from a long list of national politicians, they would prefer to have the chance to have a long conversation with Warren, describing her as both articulate and down to earth. “She’s a strong woman, and I’d like to sit down and pick her brain,” said Susan Brink, an independent who backed President Obama.

Howard, an independent who voted Republican in both 2012 and 2014, was among those who offered an admiring view of Warren. “If she ran, I think she could be the next president,” she said.

What’s behind all this? The rest of the discussion on Thursday helped to explain why the participants feel the way they do, from the lack of enthusiasm for Clinton to the obvious disaffection with Bush to the comments about Warren.

These voters distrust elected officials and are disgusted by what they regard as the privileged lives they lead. To them, Bush and Clinton represent a political class that is seen as living lives apart from those they represent, people who are seen as out for themselves rather than for ordinary people.

...Andrew Regan, a beekeeper and Democratic voter, said the next president should be “someone who understands what everyone in America is going through-- someone that we can relate to, someone who we understand and someone who understands us.”

After the group had departed into the freezing drizzle outside, Hart stayed behind to sum up what he had taken away from the conversation. The group had started predictably, he said, and then turned quite unpredictable. He found several things to be notable.

"One is [that] the political classes told us it’s going to be Bush against Clinton. But these people are hundreds of miles away from that choice," he said. "Essentially what they’re telling us is, 'I don’t trust these people. They’re part of an establishment that I don’t like.'"

That was one turning point, he said. The other was Warren. “Elizabeth Warren, from every part on the compass, had a level of support,” he said. “She’s not invisible. She’s not unknown. She’s not undefined.” And, he added, she has reached them on the issue that so many spoke about, which was their own economic concerns.

“You couldn’t leave this without feeling how hard-pressed these people are and how they’re looking for someone who will be a voice for their cause,” he said. “And Elizabeth Warren has broken through.”

That, he added, was wholly unexpected when the focus group was organized.
Could it real? Do you want to help make it real? Help make it real here.

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