Is Elizabeth Warren really the progressive ideological firebrand she pretends to be?
Many who knew Warren before she first came to prominence in the first Obama administration as a high-profile consumer advocate are surprised by her latest incarnation as the Democratic Party’s shill antagonist of Wall Street — and indeed, corporate America as a whole.
That’s because Warren for years – indeed, for many years – was a registered Republican. And while making her name as an economist at Harvard, she showed little inclination to
buck conventional thinking about the economy or the importance of the free enterprise system.
In fact, Warren didn’t become a Democrat until 1996, at the start of Bill Clinton’s second term, when she’d turned 47.
What led her to her partisan conversion, and how significant was it, in fact?
Even now, a quarter century later, Warren is reluctant to delve into the early years of her political biography, but critics say it fits a disturbing pattern.
Warren has a tendency to alter her political and personal identity to suit the moment and to curry favor with powerful groups and institutions that can serve as benefactors.
Most notoriously, of course, the 71- year old senator spent many years suggesting that she had Native American ancestry, in part to allow prospective employers like Harvard to claim her as a “minority hire.”
Warren knew all along that it was a lie, but in the supportive echo chamber of the liberal academy, her fanciful claims could go unchallenged.
Eventually, though, it caught up with her. When President Trump denounced her as “Pocahontas” – some even called her “Faux-cohontas” – she was forced to engage in damage control and agree to submit her DNA to an ancestry test – which predictably, found that her vaunted Cherokee heritage was largely a fiction.
Warren was recently caught in another lie: She told a woman at a political event that she had sent her children to public, not private schools. She stated this flatly, without equivocation.
But Warren had only sent one of her children, her son, to public school until the 5th grade. He thereafter attended private schools; her other child apparently did so from the beginning.
Warren’s statement was totally disingenuous. She left the impression of a committed stance on education policy that was at odds with her actual record as a parent.
And when challenged in subsequent days, her campaign also refused to correct the record, another telltale sign.
This is indicative of the Warren mindset – and her political vanity. She wanted to align herself with ideological liberals who routinely suggest that school choice is somehow a threat – and not a boon — to parents, including minority parents.
But she was willing to stretch the truth about herself – just as she did with her ancestry – to a point that is simply not sustainable.
In fact, a more honest answer – that public schools should be more attractive but aren’t always – would likely get her further. But appearances, more than hard line facts, matter most to Warren.
Warren’s extreme ideological proclivities — combined with her double-talk — have also gotten her into real trouble on health care.
Anxious to compete with Bernie Sanders for the support of White progressives, she decided to go all in on “Medicare for All,” about which most Americans have misgivings.
In response to criticism that the plan will destroy the existing private insurance system that most Americans want to preserve, and can’t pay for without raising taxes o the middle class, Warren has simply doubled down on her position, refusing – unlike Kamala Harris, for example – to leave an opening for future compromise.
Now she’s stuck with an untenable – indeed, doctrinaire position. While insisting, unlike Sanders, that she’s no socialist, in fact, her health care plan is largely the same as the Vermont senator’s.
She wants to have it both ways – and as a result, she’s looking increasingly untrustworthy.
Democratic primary voters, who seem to value authenticity more than Warren does, have begun to take note. After surging into contention as a front-runner in Iowa and as a possible alternative to Joe Biden as the 2020 nominee, she’s slipped back in recent weeks. In fact, she’s lost a good 50% of her support.
Sanders, who’s never wavered in his views, has rebounded, especially in New Hampshire. And Pete Buttigieg, who’s consistently portrayed himself as a more moderate alternative to Warren and Sanders both, is surging, too.
Warren appears to be discovering, to her chagrin, what Hillary Clinton discovered in 2016. Shape-shifting in the service of personal ambition breeds cynicism and distrust, on all sides.
Clinton, too, was once a Republican — indeed, an even more conservative one than was Warren. In her youth, she identified herself as a “Goldwater Girl,” which placed her on the extreme conservative wing of the GOP.
In theory, once she left Arkansas and made it to Wellesley during the emerging feminist era of the 1970s, she began her own ideological conversion, but it’s one that many progressives, including many ardent feminists, have never really trusted.
And it’s cost her politically.
Warren’s conversion is far more recent, coming well into her adulthood. But it’s only made her conversion to leftism more suspect that Hillary’s embrace of political pragmatism.
With her increasingly vitriolic “eat the rich” rhetoric, conservatives and even many independents – to say nothing of wealthy Democratic donors – won’t trust Warren now.
But with skepticism growing even among progressives, who increasingly doubt her basic veracity, she may soon find her candidacy fading into oblivion.