Elizabeth Warren drew a huge and wildly enthusiastic crowd at Washington Square Park here in Manhattan Tuesday night. The kind of crowd size that must have made Donald Trump’s “little master” go limp and crawl right back up into his bowels. That was impressive. But I first want to remind every Democrat who was not able to get to New York University in the heart of Greenwich Village for a single night in the middle of a work week in September, that all those people — mostly young, white screaming people — are a really small representation of the Democratic voting constituency.
And my observation of Warren’s base supporters is that they are pretty young and pretty white. They are prone, as passionate true believers tend to be, to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that — because there were so many of them and they were cheering so loud and grinning so hard — that Senator Warren must necessarily be prevailing among Democrats everywhere. Numbers so large that it is incomprehensible that the numbers not as yet impressed with her “plans” are exponentially larger.
I was with a small group of mostly female — mostly, but not all, white, twenty-something — Warren’ supporters watching the Democratic debate last week. These gals were at that age where “supporting” Warren necessarily meant laughing at and criticizing her opposition over minutiae. Especially Joe Biden. And most of the time I let it pass as I’m nobody’s momma, nor am I the “good behavior” hall monitor, but once — and I don’t remember exactly what it was over — Joe Biden stuttered. He couldn’t get his words out and these kids laughed at him. I turned around abruptly and said, “Respect!” They fell silent and instantly cleaned up the bad attitude.
If you follow me, you know that I am not all in with Joe Biden. I have written a lot on what I perceive as the appalling way that Kamala Harris has been treated and the reasons I think that is happening. I am committed to whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be. But now that things are finally beginning to shake out, there are some very dangerous fault lines appearing that really must be spoken of openly, because they are deadly in this election.
Warren is surging in the polls. That’s great. She’s a stellar candidate. But the “all in for Warren” crowd is getting way out over their skies if they think all this noise means that Elizabeth Warren’s appeal extends deep into the middle of the country where most Democrats are really struggling with this decision. While some may feel their liberal blood pumping over this “Medicare for All” meme, the idea of telling 160,000,000 people that the government is going to make them drop their health insurance for a brand new, as yet untested plan — and yes, my extremely “deep in the weeds” well-informed associates will remind me that there’s more to it than that, but that is going to be the way it will spin in rightwing sound bites, watch.
That should scare the living shit out Democrats hoping to turf Trump out. A lot of those are union members who negotiated long and hard for the coverage they have. And these people are older, they have kids in college or with special needs, they have mortgages, or they have their own health concerns; they don’t want an overhaul right now, they want to hold their ground. Ground — that only Kamala Harris articulated in a clear, unequivocal voice in the debate — that Donald Trump is, as we speak, trying to rip right out from under all of us, including that critical guarantee to cover “pre-existing conditions.” They don’t have the option of changing the direction of their lives and careers because some young progressives in New York City went spastic one night in September. And including conservative democrats, they outnumber the party in the park.
Joe Biden’s plan on healthcare was so vague that all I took from it was “whatever Barack said and more,” and when Kamala Harris got very specific last weekend on MSNBC and said out loud that she would not expect anyone to give up healthcare they were satisfied with to make any changes immediately — in fact, she see’s a real overhaul of health insurance coverage as a ten-year project — well, look where she went in the polls. That is, however, a far more realistic goal.
The base screams, “We don’t want reality! We want what we want and we want it now!”
One should keep in mind, though, that those polls tend — at this stage — to represent only the most committed Democratic primary voters, and less than half of those identifying as Democrats say they have decided who they’ll vote for. So again, Warren’s true believers are getting ahead of themselves.
Most people care deeply about the climate crisis: Elizabeth Warren has adopted Jay Inslee plan wholesale and that’s good because Inslee knows that subject inside and out. I suspect that any new administration will adopt Inslee’s plan in the end, because it is the best plan available and it is ready for implementation right now. But if you ask them, while these voters want to be more participatory in saving the planet, if they don’t have jobs and health insurance, the excessive use of plastic straws and reducing cow farts is the furthest thing from their minds. And yeah, the fossil fuel industry is the evil, but you dance with the devil if he’s the guy cutting your paycheck. Those folks will say they won’t live long enough or well enough for it to matter whether or not the planet does.
And yes, the student debt crisis is mortifying, and the financial depravity on Wall Street makes you wonder what makes some human beings so devoid of soul and so utterly insatiable. All true. But none of that incomprehensible rot and indecency will end if Donald Trump is re-elected, so it’s not really hard to understand why many — if not most — Democrats may choose safety — stability — as a first refuge from this Trumpian horror show.
The first of the huge red flags, given what I see, is that Warren’s base represents what may well be a deciding margin in the general election. And if they become so entrenched and myopic now, what happens if either Elizabeth Warren doesn’t get the nomination or she does get the nomination, then has to pivot off some of the “in the best of all worlds” plans she speaks of to appease moderates? Which, frankly, I don’t think she will do. That is precisely what could re-elect Donald Trump if any demographic of the Democratic party stays home hiding in their basements and bomb shelters because they feel overwhelmed and judged by progressive bullying.
And here’s a piece that is hard to say and hard to swallow: I perceive from some Warren supporters the same arrogance and intransigence that many of us saw in some Sanders’ supporters in 2016. It is inconceivable to some that there genuinely are so many more Democrats in the country — people they don’t know personally — who don’t care nearly as much about immediate structural change in Washington as they do about NOT re-electing Donald Trump.
So if Biden — or Harris, for that matter — ends up beating Warren in the primaries, Warren’s hardcore followers may retreat to that whole “the system is rigged against us” nonsense to excuse their failure to participate. What that really means is that they think their cause so “righteous” and the superiority of their candidate so unimpeachable that either the election is fixed against them, or that all those other Democrats out there who voted for the other guy are just stupid. And I’m finding more and more young people online in recent weeks willing to speak — without a hint of self-consciousness — their blind, self-destructive truth. And it’s hard to say, “Oh, youth…” the way generations past might have because these are not children. A lot of them are not even that young, millennials are hitting forty. There’s just a vein of circumspection, reflection and deductive reasoning that is lacking in their judgment.
That is what makes it acceptable for a bunch of young women at a debate party to find Joe Biden’s stutter a fucking laugh riot, right up until the moment the mean old Harris advocate in the room brought a reality check. Again, I’m nobody’s momma, and I should not have to tell young adults how not to be so disrespectful to a man who has served his country well just because they happen to disagree with him.
And now we get to the big ugly: what if Elizabeth Warren does get the nomination? Let’s assume for the moment that she is able to overcome the reservations of moderates. Let’s assume for a moment that she does compromise around the edges enough to allay fears and gets all those middle-of-the-country Democrats to hold their noses and vote for her. A courtesy that an inordinate number of Sanders’ supporters did not show Hillary Clinton in 2016, thus helping mightily in the election of the miscreant, Donald J. — “I am a very stable genius” — Trump. Let’s say hypothetically that that happens.
And it must be pointed out here that it is these very same people that, in 2016, provided Trump’s thinnest of margins of victory in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, giving him — debatably — the win. Look where that’s gotten us.
Then, let’s assume for a moment that Elizabeth Warren beats Donald Trump. This is excerpted from a piece I published a few weeks ago that anticipated what I am seeing now,
“Regardless of who’s the Democratic nominee, who’s the next President — assuming of course this sort of Democratic intra-party cannibalistic stupidity of gnawing their own limbs off doesn’t bring about complete internal collapse — how will these puritanical zealots react when a Democrat gets into the Oval Office? What happens to these cults of personality when the next President discovers, as they surely will, that most of their progressive initiatives will have to be sidelined, for at least the first term, to clean up the horror at the border, or re-staff the federal government, or slow the destruction of the environment, or heal alliances with allies? That kinda shit takes time, political skill, and extraordinary patience.
With all her big plans and best intentions, a hypothetical President Elizabeth Warren may find her new mantra is ‘Hurry up and wait,’ and how forgiving are her legions of devotees — demanding progressive action ‘NOW!’ — going to be when their lofty expectations are not fulfilled instantly? How understanding will they be when they find out all those high ideals are not even in the “top ten” on her list of priorities because actual people’s actual lives depend on the priorities she establishes, Day 1?”
Babies in cages…Lest we forget, they are still there.
What happens when those people in Washington Square Park discover that their hero can’t set all those wheels she promised in motion because other people’s — other people’s children’s — very lives hang in the balance? Do they turn on her? Do they decide that the whole government is absolutely out to get them — as opposed to conceding that Trump was a real son-of-a-bitch and that we really have to put righting this ship before their progressive aspirations?
It really is not as if anybody is going to forget about them just because there are some major dumpster fires to put out first. And it’s not as if any Democratic administration can’t bring in the right leaders, delegate and multi-task. It’s merely a matter of the timeline. I’m not sure that Warren supporters — like the Bernie supporters before her — understand the concept of a fungible timeline or that failing to wrest control of the Senate from the GOP will dramatically impact that timeline.
The fundamental flaw of such cultish adoration is that it cannot be sustained and will never be satisfied. Nothing is ever enough: there is no humility or forgiveness. There is no compassion, least of all for the self. The adherents sacrifice their own agency to deny their own accountability when it all goes to shit. And because Warren — like Bernie before her and, like Trump — is only some degree of human. They will disappoint those who actually believe that they believe that all their aspirations are achievable, let alone in the first hundred days.
Remember this, Donald Trump is going to California for some very high-dollar fundraisers in the next few weeks, he’s expected to have a bunch of insanely wealthy people listen to his absurd nonsense and give him roughly ten million dollars. Trump is thirty-four points down in California: it is unwinnable for him. But he’s going spend his time there because these are the people that will spend whatever they think it takes to spin whatever utter bullshit it will take to keep that criminal in office. Tell me again why it is not a really good idea to finally settle on the one person who is the best bet to take his fat, sorry ass down, even if it means all we get out of that first term is some good nights’ sleep?
How can that possibly be wrong? Even if it is not ideal.
About the Author:
Gayle Leslie is a writer, political consultant, published author, actor, and policy wonk publishing extensively on Medium. She is a native Texan, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC. She wrote her serialized memoir, Dwelling in the Vast Divine Vol. 1 & Vol 2. You can follow on Twitter at @gayleleslie7