Friday, April 12, 2019


Elizabeth Warren is trailing a lot of men -- Biden, Bernie, Buttigieg, Beto -- in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Washington Post's Jacqueline Alemany believes sexism is one of the main reasons for that, but not the only reason:
“I do think that there is an element of sexism,” Lily Mason, an assistant professor of politics at the University of Maryland and the author of 'Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity,' told [me].

But also: “The people who will talk about policy in a thoughtful and coherent way are at a disadvantage."

Warren is “by far the most policy savvy candidate with the smartest and best policy people working for her. In a rational world, she would be winning. But ... it's not a rational world — and we tend to make political choices based on identity rather than policy. She's telling people who she is. But she's not making people think about who they are.”

Policy talk: It's just not that exciting, Mason points out, because the language doesn't involve “conflict, fighting, winning and losing."
Except that Warren's policy talk invariably includes language about “conflict, fighting, winning and losing." For example, Warren just rolled out a proposal for a new tax on corporations. She has a post at Medium describing the policy, but before we get to the details, there's this graphic:

She writes (emphasis in original):
It’s almost Tax Day, and chances are you’ll be paying federal taxes this year. Maybe it’s a lot, maybe it’s a little. But you’ll be kicking in something for our military, for medical research, for highways and bridges — the kinds of investments our federal government makes to defend our country and strengthen our economy.

Well, guess what? You will be paying more for running the federal government than a bunch of big American corporations that made billions of dollars in profits in the last year.

Amazon reported more than $10 billion in profits and paid zero federal corporate income taxes. Occidental Petroleum reported $4.1 billion in profits and paid zero federal corporate income taxes.

In fact, year after year, some of the biggest corporations in the country make huge profits but pay zero federal corporate income taxes on those profits.
But what's the title of the post?
I’m proposing a big new idea: the Real Corporate Profits Tax
We know that people don't read everything online that they're interested in -- they often just absorb the headlines. And the headline here is pure wonkery. So are the headlines of news stories about the proposal:

Or look at her campaign website. Here's part of what she's posted about criminal justice:
It’s not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail while a bank executive who launders money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s not equal justice when, for the exact same crimes, African Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to be sentenced.

We need criminal justice reform and we need it now. That means ending racial disparities in our justice system. It means banning private prisons. It means embracing community policing and demilitarizing our local police forces. It means comprehensive sentencing reform and rewriting our laws to decriminalize marijuana.

Equal justice also demands that everybody – no matter how wealthy or well-connected – is held accountable when they break the law. That means new laws and a new commitment to prosecuting giant corporations – and their leaders – when they cheat their customers, stomp out their competitors, or rob their workers. It means judicial nominees that follow the rule of law instead of catering to the wealthy and the well-connected.
Is that enough “conflict, fighting, winning and losing" for you? But the headline for that couldn't be more boring: EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.

You can watch Warren, in this video, compellingly use the story of her own child care struggles as a springboard for talk about the need to help everyone in America obtain access to affordable child care -- or you can decide to skip the video because the title is "Elizabeth Warren: High-quality child care should be a right."

She is compelling -- but if you don't read her posts, watch her videos, or see her on the stump, you don't know that. You just know her as a wonk.

She's still a woman in what's turned out to be a very male-skewed race for the nomination. She's a sixty-something woman running four years after a sixty-something woman lost a general election Democrats thought she should win. And she was in a bind with regard to attacks on her statements about Native American identity -- addressing the issue seemed to backfire for her, but ignoring the Swift boat attacks hurt John Kerry in 2004, and ignoring the Willie Horton attacks damaged Mike Dukakis's campaign in 1988.

So she's going to continue fighting an uphill battle. But maybe she should package policy more overtly in appeals to emotion. There's probably a double bind if she does that, too -- women can't be seen as too emotional. But more voters might listen if she makes this small adjustment in her pitch.

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