The Corner


Iowa Democratic Grassroots Sound Cranky

Senator Elizabeth Warren takes the stage after forming an exploratory committee for the 2020 presidential race in Council Bluffs, Iowa, January 4, 2019. (Brian Snyder/REUTERS)

This weekend, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren kicked off her exploratory (who does she think she’s fooling?) presidential campaign in Iowa, and in her first question-and-answer event, she had a fascinating exchange:

“Why did you undergo the DNA testing and give Donald more fodder to be a bully?” she asked.

There was a sound of muttering from the audience of 575 voters, and Warren let out a sigh.

“Yeah, well,” she said. “I’m glad you asked that question. I genuinely am. I’m glad for us to have a chance to talk about it.”

Notice that this voter thinks Warren erred by “giving Donald more fodder.” (This makes more sense if the voter believes Warren aided Trump by verifying a criticism of her, that she made implausible claims to Native ancestry, particularly during her academic career. But the wording of the question suggests she believed Warren enabled Trump’s bullying by taking the test.)

Warren gave her new answer, emphasizing that she’s not a person of color and not a member of a tribe. But then there was this even more interesting exchange:

Warren, who has not otherwise mentioned the president by name on this trip, added that she could “not stop Donald Trump from what he’s gonna do,” including “hurling racial insults.”

“Yes, you can!” shouted Glenda Verhoeven, a 63-year old farmer in the audience. Afterward, Verhoeven explained that she thought Trump had revealed just how nervous Warren made him: “She already knows the enemy, and he knows her.”

How, exactly, can Warren stop President Trump from saying whatever he wants to say? (Was this some sort of reference to impeaching the president?)

Releasing the DNA-test results may have been bad politics, but it was also honest. Warren is taking her lumps on this, and deservedly so. But imagine how much worse the reaction would have been if she had taken the test, chosen to not release the results, and then later they somehow leaked. Her critics would argue, justifiably, “Warren knows she’s not Native American and she covered up the evidence!”

Lord knows whether these particular voters are representative of Iowa Democrats as a whole. But these exchanges suggest some Democrats are now intimidated by Trump’s criticisms of their candidates, and dread their candidates giving him more “fodder.” He’s in their heads, and that’s a bad sign for the party, because Trump will always find something to mock and criticize in his Democratic foes.

If the Democratic grassroots really do get irritated with their candidates when Trump calls them names because they think they gave him fodder, then a lot of candidates are in for a long, difficult year.

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