Elizabeth Warren (D., Rolling Stone) wants to own the nerd lane. “I have a plan for that!” is practically her campaign slogan, and her tedious promises to “nerd out” are calculated to appeal to the intellectual vanity of Democratic primary voters, NPR-listening types who like to think of themselves as the smart people.
(Also the empathetic people, angels and ministers of grace defend us.)
Never mind, as my National Review colleagues have pointed out, that her plans are silly, shallow, meretricious, unworkable, unlikely, asinine, and taken seriously by almost no one, Senator Warren least of all. The point isn’t that the plan will work, or even that it ever will be implemented. The plan is to demonstrate that you are the right sort of person — it’s basically a wordy bumper-sticker. And that’s the great thing about being in the Senate, especially as a member of the minority party: You don’t have to do squat. Which Senator Warren has not.
The nice people, the ones with all the empathy and the NPR swag, like Senator Warren. Maybe not as much as you’d think: Joe Biden is in the lead with 27 percent in the polls, followed by Bernie Sanders at 24 percent, with Senator Warren way down at No. 3 with 14 percent. Bernie Sanders is a dopey rage-addled antique socialist who was born when Charles Lindbergh was in the news, who would, if elected, finish his first term older than Ned Beatty is today. Did you know Ned Beatty is still alive? Exactly.
Joe Biden is . . . not a confessing socialist.
Warren is trailing both of those guys. And it is dusty back there.
She has plans. But she never has really had to implement one. The closest she has come to doing anything of the sort was helping to bring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to life — and that thing is such a goat rodeo that the Supreme Court may very well decide its basic structure is unconstitutional. Her other carefully considered plans — such as passing herself off as a Cherokee to advance her academic career — have not come to much beyond embarrassment.
The obvious point of comparison here is the guy currently in fourth place, behind Senator Warren: former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has plans, too — but, unlike Warren, Sanders, Biden, et al., he has a pretty good record for bringing those plans to fruition. After a wildly successful career in business, he went into politics, which is what you do when your tens of billions of dollars are no longer enough to satisfy your colossal vanity. He served three terms as mayor.
And, damn his eyes, he was pretty good at it: Murder rates went down, and high-school graduation rates went up. His government routinely ran surpluses. As Mike Pesca put it in Slate: “It’s true that Bloomberg is running differently than everyone else in the race and it’s also true that he’s not a politician in the emotive or empathetic mold of recently successful candidates. But in fact, Bloomberg does have a message that could appeal to voters, and it’s a simple one: Michael Bloomberg has a greater record of accomplishment in office than any candidate in the race.” How? Because Bloomberg is the nerd that Senator Warren pretends to be: a creature of data, measurement, and cold-eyed assessment of political, economic, and institutional realities.
What’s the Democrats’ case against Bloomberg? That he’s a billionaire interloper who won’t wait his turn? It is not very difficult to think of examples of very wealthy men being poor performers in political office, and there is something displeasingly Caesarish about a rich man building a political campaign on his personal fortune. And Bloomberg is the same age as Biden, in keeping with the Democrats’ recent taste for gerontocracy. (Seriously, the Chinese politburo thinks these folks are really getting up there.) That he’s too nanny-statey in Senator Warren’s world?
Conservatives will mostly detest Bloomberg, of course. His views on abortion and gun rights alone are sufficient for that, and the overwhelming majority of Republicans are more than happy with President Donald Trump. But isn’t he exactly the kind of guy progressives and independents always say they want? Pragmatic, non-ideological, results-oriented, and bipartisan enough that he’s already been elected as a Republican and an independent? (Hey, Libertarians: You get him next time.) But what people want and what they say they want are not often the same thing.
A problem-solving realist with a strong, non-hypothetical record in the real world? No, no, say Democrats, give us the rampaging socialist wackadoodle who’s never had a real job. Sure, he might show up to his inauguration wearing Lenin’s embalmed head as a codpiece, but that’ll show the plutocrats!
That’s the 2020 Democrats: Too bananas for Marianne (no relation) Williamson. The news from Iowa is a lot like the news from the Senate: Full of evidence that Donald Trump is, if nothing else, lucky in his opponents.