The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Many Similarities between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton

Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., October 24, 2016. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

I’ll be out next week. Remember that if you’re in the Hilton Head area, you can hear me ramble about the book, answer some questions about politics and the presidential race, and get some free food Monday night. It’s free, just RSVP here.

Making the click-through worthwhile: contemplating whether the attacks Trump used against Hillary Clinton will work against Elizabeth Warren; the Democrats pick their top 20 candidates for the debates, leaving a governor, a former senator, a Congressman and a mayor out in the cold; and Trump proves, once again, that he will never change, no matter the consequence.

Which 2020 Democrat Reminds You the Most of Hillary Clinton?

The Boston Herald declares, “Elizabeth Warren is on the rise — the presidential hopeful’s aggressive policy push is translating into a surge in the polls just in time for the first set of debates.”

Anytime you compare a current candidate to a past presidential candidate, you’re going to get counter-arguments that “Candidate X is different from Candidate Y!” No two candidates are exactly alike. Matthew Continetti asked if Joe Biden would be the next Hillary Clinton; Jonah and David French pointed out the differences, I had wondered about the pair back in April.

But if you’re trying to figure out which Democratic presidential candidate would have the worst shot of beating Trump, one way to look at it is to ask, out of the entire 2020 field, which candidate reminds you of Hillary Clinton the most?

Elizabeth Warren is 69; Hillary Clinton turned 69 right before Election Day 2016. Both lawyers, both served in the Obama administration, both elected to the Senate in a big Northeastern state. Both women were trailblazers in high-powered legal circles; one attended an Ivy league law school, one taught in an Ivy league law school.

Clinton took a lot of grief about implausible claims of being “dead broke” when she left the White House or her Tuzla Dash; Warren gets a lot of grief about her implausible claims of Native American heritage. Hillary Clinton faced accusations that her career’s rapid ascent involved insider deals and dishonesty; Warren faces accusations that her career’s rapid ascent involved dishonesty about minority status and institutions eager to tout that unsupported claim. For women who have risen to the top of national politics, they’ve faced criticism for being tone-deaf about how they’ve handled sensitive issues.

Both have friends and colleagues who insist they are warm and personable in private; both face accusations of being cold and stiff and inauthentic on the campaign trail. (Recall Warren’s beer chat on Instagram.) Both face the criticism that they’re not “likeable,” and both have allies insisting that criticism is sexist. Warren may face the accusation that her speeches have a lecturing tone, but for most of her adult life, she’s been employed in a job that involves giving lectures.

Both think of themselves as technocrats — insightful policy wonks who are best-positioned to enact sweeping changes to the nation’s health-care system and economic policies because they’ve researched the topics deeply. While both have lived quite comfortably in adulthood, they both see themselves as defenders of the impoverished and downtrodden. Both discuss harder times in earlier chapters of their life and face accusations that they lost touch long ago and don’t really relate to problems of today’s poor.

Both women want a much larger role for the federal government in regulating the economy, but both reject the label “socialist.” Hillary’s campaign tangled with the “Bernie Bros,” and Warren’s is tangling with them now. Both found a portion of their traditional protectionist agenda in alignment with President Trump; Warren and Clinton pledged to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, although Clinton flip-flopped on that issue.

Perhaps most significantly, Trump is likely to criticize Warren the way he criticized Clinton — as an elite who enjoyed the benefits of a rigged system. If Warren gets the nomination, we’ll hear a lot of “Pocahontas” jabs, but probably some version of the “Crooked Hillary,” “the queen of corruption,” “Lyin’ Hillary” attacks. Whether you think it’s sexist or not, Trump and his allies are likely to paint Warren as an insufferable know-it-all nag, an academic who thinks she knows how to best manage every detail of your life, condescending and badgering. For at least four years, that persona will be addressing you from the Oval Office, telling you how things are going to change and how it’s for your own good.

It’s an open question about whether these attacks will be as effective against Warren as they were against Hillary Clinton. There is no Warren Foundation with foreign donors, Warren’s husband didn’t generate a slew of embarrassing sex scandals, Warren has no Benghazi-like foreign-policy debacle in her past, she’s not seen as a continuation of a political dynasty, and Warren hasn’t been front and center in American politics since 1992. It is likely that a factor in the 2016 election results was Americans’ sheer exhaustion with the Clintons.

Still, if you’re the Trump campaign, you probably see Elizabeth Warren as the candidate who is the closest to Hillary Clinton 2.0. And that’s the one kind of candidate that Trump has beaten in a general election.

The Great Culling of the Democratic Field Has Begun

Guess who didn’t make the debate? “Those who did not meet the threshold for the first debate include: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam; and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.”

Go home, guys. There is no great injustice in your exclusion. The voice of the people is not being denied. If the people wanted you, they would have noticed you by now. Bullock, you waited too long. He says it’s because he spent too much of this year on the job he was elected to do.

I certainly knew getting in at the time I did would give me fewer opportunities to be on shows with you and others, but I had a job to do and if it ultimately ever came down to choosing between getting Medicaid reauthorized, getting 100,000 Montanans health care, versus getting in earlier just to bump up on another poll, I would make that same choice time and time again.

Great. But you made a choice, and this is the consequence of that choice. Accept it.

Gravel, you had your shot. When you announced this year, people were shocked — mostly because they figured you had passed away a few years ago. You’re the only candidate that Bernie Sanders can call old.

Mayor Messam, you are so obscure, there are no good jokes to be told about you.

Moulton . . . think about it, you couldn’t reach a threshold of polling and donor support that was met by Eric Swalwell, Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, and Bill de Blasio.

Guys, there is no great surge of support awaiting you just around the corner. It is not your year, and it never was.

Of Course, Trump Would Accept Foreign Help Again.

Meanwhile, as for the man they seek to replace, why is there surprise that Trump said he would accept opposition research or dirt from a foreign government if offered in the 2020 cycle? He never apologizes. He never admits mistakes. In his mind, something or someone who helps him is good, regardless of all other factors, and something or someone who criticizes him is bad, regardless of all other factors. This is why he keeps talking about how nice those letters from Kim Jong Un are. He cannot assess the quality of someone or something outside of the context of self-interest.

Trump will say whatever pops into his head in response to any question, and he’s demonstrated time and time again that he does not care where he is — whether it is in front of the wall of stars at CIA headquarters or whether he’s sitting in front of the graves at Normandy.

He is who he is, he will not change, he will not modify or adapt, and most of us figured that out a long time ago. This is why the “You won’t believe what Trump said” coverage gets tuned out after a while. Yes, we will believe it.

ADDENDA: Yesterday I taped another long and wide-ranging conversation with Jonah over at his podcast, The Remnant. Look for it sometime next week.

Joe Scarborough mentioned a recent Corner post of mine on his program. I suspect that “American Christians have never been more attacked” is the sort of rhetoric that attracts attention and probably motivates followers. “Hey, we’re actually winning the cultural argument on abortion” probably does not get people to open up their checkbooks.

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