Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Elizabeth Warren: The Real Deal

 I will vote for the Democratic nominee for President in 2016. If that is Hillary Clinton, I will go into that voting booth and place a black mark in the space next to her name and I will carry that ballot to the man behind the scanner machine and I will have done my patriotic duty to try to save the country from whomever the Republicans are running--knowing that candidate could be the Messiah himself, but if he's a Republican he will bring with him an army of frothing self styled Patriots who believe government is the problem and the Constitution means a gun in every home and waistband. 
 But if the Democratic nominee is Elizabeth Warren I will feel the way I once did about casting a vote for Barack Obama--I will be smiling.

Despite all the candidates' books and the TV interviews and New Yorker profiles (see the New Yorker piece on Ms. Warren 5/4/15) and opinions from pundits, the plain fact is we can never really know these people who live in the public eye.  They all keep significant parts of themselves private and they must.

 But we can know something of their history, that history they will each try to control and shape for us. 

And Elizabeth Warren, whatever else may be true, had a tough road through life, where Hillary had a privileged road. Hillary had to work very hard and she had to fight, but those battles were like the sweaty and bruising battles of the high school wrestler--intense but controlled. Nobody dies in those battles. Nobody goes broke. For Ms. Warren, there was always the threat of a real abyss, bankruptcy, divorce, indigence. 

She has been accused of being a bit of a drama queen. But I have to say, a  little feel for drama is not a bad thing in a woman. Oh, yes, I'm being sexist. Why is it okay to have a little drama in a woman, but not in a man?

Because women are trained to restrain expressions of emotion, especially in the setting of work and career, but when that becomes a governing principle of behavior, it does more than simply eviscerate their public presentation of self, it does something to their internal mechanisms.  I would offer Hillary Clinton as an example of what this sort of emphasis on control does. 

I cannot claim to know Ms. Clinton personally, but the few "inside" stories I know from people who knew her at Yale Law School and from people who had to deal with her at various events, consistently portray a woman whose main emotional drive is toward opprobrium  and control as opposed to sympathy and real passion.

Ms. Warren opposed Timothy Geithner and other candidates for posts in Mr. Obama's government because they were creatures of Wall Street, beholden and in love with the Wall Street power brokers to whom they knew they would one day return. Ms. Clinton simply made deals with Wall Street types because she represented Wall Street as a US Senator and she knew she needed to trade favors with the powerful.
I cannot know, but I would guess the stridency which Warren Buffett sees in Ms. Warren comes from the anger for someone who has seen the bad stuff which rolls downhill to all the under privileged in this country and that's what fuels her resentment and willingness to do battle. 

It is hard to imagine there was a time in the not distant past when most people and pundits believed bankruptcy happened to people who deserved it, who went bankrupt through profligacy and heedlessness. But Ms. Warren had an inkling this was not true: She thought people might get into trouble because of illness and loss of health insurance and loss of jobs owing to illness. Ms. Warren did the grunt work to show this  true and the prevailing notion that people who go bankrupt are feckless and deserve it is commonly wrong.Ms. Warren did her years of research, did the academic thing. The questions she asked came from somewhere, from her own experience, clawing her way toward financial security. 

Ms. Clinton fought her battles in safer arenas. She learned to clamp down on her inner feelings, I am guessing, to the point those feelings got snuffed out before they could take fire. 

Here's a really dumb tidbit full of possibly spurious imagery, likely signifying nothing, but I can't get past it: Friends who live in her neighborhood in Cambridge see Ms. Warren walking her dog there.  She still walks her own dog, her own self. I cannot somehow imagine Hillary does that. In my imagining of Hillary, she would have some intern doing that. Hillary would pose for publicity photos with the dog, not walk the dog. I know that is unfair. How politicians treat dogs should not become a test of character.  Hitler loved his dog. (Of course, his dog was a German Shepard who had worked chasing down inmates at concentration camps.)  But, any way, the dog walking thing brings to mind the image of one woman connected to the ordinary pleasures in life and another who is planning her next move. 

Ms. Warren still knows how to feel things. Call her a drama queen. I can respond to that. 


  1. Mad Dog,
    I have always had more affection for Hillary both as a person and a candidate than you have. That being said, that doesn't mean I'm not a fan of Elizabeth Warren, or that I don't think she would have made a good candidate. Of course there was nothing in that profile in the New Yorker that would indicate that the Run Elizabeth Run people are working on anything other than a pipe dream..well unless additional skeletons pop out of the Clinton closet and Warren has to step in from the sidelines..the reason I don't think Elizabeth Warren could beat Hillary in the primary is because it would be difficult to go up against the political machine the Clinton's have spent their whole lives assembling. Yet what is frequently stated as the reason she would have issues being elected, is because she is an extreme candidate, one too far to the left. That is a criticism I've never understood. Why does stating the truth and the obvious make you extreme? As for the drama queen moniker-classic sexism...Men are passionate-women are dramatic. The former a plus and a sign of strength the latter denoting over emotion and lack of control....Surprisingly that is not something they are trying to pin on Hillary..Last night's opening segment on SNL was a parody of Hillary and clearly the writers see her as you do--cold, calculating, driven and unrelenting.. not dramatic, passionate or very likable...

  2. Maud,
    You're right of course. The same quality seen as a virtue in a male is often presented as a failing in a woman. So a man can be "passionate" where the same behavior in a woman is "emotional." In the man's case, this is a good thing, indicative of strength and authenticity, whereas in the woman it's a weakness indicative of a lack of self control.
    Being driven and unrelenting is not a bad thing in a man, but we look for different things in a woman.
    Thing is, I usually like women who are forthright, in your face, unwilling to assume a passive role, unwilling to be tied to convention and "morals" which simply function to keep them in their place, but Hillary, who has many of these qualities, has other qualities which leave me cold. Not that she is cold, anything but.
    Mad Dog