I have a plan for Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential campaign: Drop out before you guarantee the re-election of Donald J. Trump. Give me a moderate candidate, someone able to win the midwestern and southern states that went Republican in 2016. Maybe, if she exits sooner rather than later, before she vilifies more opponents with better chances of being elected President, she will get a plum post in the new Democratic administration. Maybe she could get the job that she once coveted, Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and spend four years torturing Wells Fargo, student loan servicers, and credit card companies.
Senator Warren has mastered appealing to a group of self-interested voters who view their votes as a tool for economic gain. These are voters who might identify student loan forgiveness, free college, Medicare for All, or one of her other give-away programs as the most important issues facing America. These are voters who evidence little interest in “traditional” issues such as foreign or military policy. These voters agree with Warren that the government and economy are corrupt. They appear to share Warren’s belief that for America to be fair, a revolution dispatching both the governmental and economic order is needed.
Warren’s message, while arguably effective for some voters, is poison to others. Voters with a minimum sense of personal responsibility for their economic station in life and for assuring good government by getting involved themselves, are justifiably skeptical of an angry candidate with a plan for everything. Consider the source of Warren’s plans. Are these plans the product of a national listening tour? Were they perfected through discussions with voters? I don’t recall hearing of such discussions. And Socrates taught that intellectual humility is the only effective method of seeking truth. Who would describe Warren as intellectually humble?
Warren is a know-it-all. She has figured out how the world works and is on a mission to change it. That is a scary thought, even if you find appeal in her “plans”. The concept of a President who is grateful for the opportunity to serve does not fit Warren the way it does Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Bennet, Biden, and some of the lesser known candidates running, such as Delaney. All these candidates, to a greater or lesser extent, show evidence of intellectual humility. Such a disposition contributes to the type of listening skills, openness to compromise, and empathy that are essential to effective leadership. It also makes attacks by one Democrat on another less likely.
If Democrats want to win, the circular firing squad approach to debates that has seriously winged Biden and already turned off many independent voters must be abandoned. The party also needs to wrestle with the question of whether the general electorate is ready to adopt what many view as a Democratic Socialist approach to government. To date Bernie, who at least has the courage to accept the label with pride, is burning out. Warren, who disingenuously claims to believe in capitalism, is no more of a capitalist than her Vermont Senate colleague. When voters focus on this, which they will after it becomes a major Trump theme in the general election, Warren risks becoming as radioactive as Hillary was in 2012.
It takes a courageous leader to make sacrifices for the good of his/her country or even party. Warren’s withdrawal can benefit both. Will her ego prevent this? Lets’ hope not.
Worries about Warren do not stop at the possibility of her throwing the election to Trump. A Warren win could be a bigger problem. Warren as Commander-in-Chief? Inconceivable. So far, she also appears to avoid all foreign policy discussions except for her call for the U.S. to unilaterally abdicate “first-use” of nuclear weapons. Warren would have the U.S. wait until after New York, LA or Washington was destroyed before striking back. Putting it politely, military and foreign affairs issues are not in her wheelhouse. Electing Warren, following four years of the clueless Trump, could make the dangerous deterioration of America’s status in the world permanent. Allies that admit to being confused now might very well give up on America. We cannot afford to let that happen.
Warren needs to quit. The sooner the better.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. He is a former counsel to the House Committee on Education and Labor. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy. He is the former chairman of the National College Access Network (NCAN), a group promoting success in higher education among underrepresented groups, and KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a national leader in strategic foresight and education innovation.