Elizabeth Warren May Win. Even if She Loses.

Watch Elizabeth Warren.  Whether she gets the Democratic nomination or not, she is methodically driving the agenda.  No matter how many votes she pulls, she’s setting up her ideas to win.

Warren is like Sanders in 2016.  Remember that he never expected to get as far as he did.  The real goal was always to shift the terms of debate.  Warren is following that same strategy.  The more specific proposals she puts down, the more she forces others to reply with specifics of their own.  Even if she loses in the primaries, she will have “won” in that longer game.

And if she does win the primaries.  These are some dangerously populist specifics…

  • Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has identified something else to finance with her proposed wealth tax: wiping out student debt and tuition at public colleges.
  • She says her proposal would benefit 95% of the 45 million Americans carrying student debt and wipe it out for 75% of them.
  • Warren’s plan would also cut off federal money from for-profit colleges, which she says “enrich themselves while targeting lower-income students, service members and students of color and leaving them saddled with debt.”

The danger of these ideas is their simplicity.  Free money for “me” by taking back from “them.”  Like a certain kind of Republican lies to him/her self that cutting “waste, fraud, and abuse” will somehow pay for tax cuts deficit spending.  Warren’s proposals are equally simplistic, unrealistic, and enabling of the same comfortable self-delusion.  Everyone sort’ve knows its a lie.  But hey – I’ll get my money and the devil take the hindmost.  If 45 million debtors/ votes start thinking that way, its powerful stuff.

It is going to be really really really hard for Trump to combat these sort of ideas without either cranking up the coarse culture war (losing more suburban women voters) or responding with MORE specific “simple” policy proposals of his own.  Trump will probably do both.

Trump tries to avoid policy specifics, but he loves the big promises to “do stuff” about populist pain points like infrastructure, drug prices, health care, education, etc…  Warren is calling that bluff.  Making similar promises with more specifics.

It doesn’t matter if her proposals are also unrealistic.  What matters is the shift to specifics.   They sound actionable.  More than anything Trump has offered (so far).

Trump clearly has no principles.  If has to out-populist Warren, he’ll gladly throw Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans under the bus.  As a serial thrower-of-people-under-buses, he’d probably enjoy it.

The resulting specifics will anchor the debate in the territory of left-wing populism, no matter who gets elected.

For those who see the world in terms of “Makers vs. Takers,” that would qualify as a nightmare scenario come true.  For “the establishment,” (of whom I am a card carrying member), this creates a pretty awkward choice on who to vote for.   For the Republican-leaning folks in the the establishment, the above solves for a double whammy.

A lot of affluent folks just paid a much higher tax bill last week.  A bitter harvest for loyally voting Team Republican.  If Warren’s strategy succeeds, they may have even more reasons to regret for putting tribal loyalty over self-interest.

Voting against Hillary created a vacuum.  Warren is aiming to fill it with her ideas if not herself.  If her ideas catch fire, it really doesn’t matter how she does herself.

 

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