Elizabeth Warren had great momentum for a while. Then her poll numbers leveled and fell. The standard explanation is that the Democrat’s Medicare for All plan comes across as too radical; both the price and the part that would force over 150 million Americans off their employers’ private coverage.
But other negatives subtract from Warren’s appeal as a presidential candidate. One is that she grates on us, another way of saying not likable. The other is she’s not totally honest.
I asked one of Warren’s ardent admirers about the political risks in her health plan. Well, Warren has changed it, the friend said. Rather than immediately put America on single-payer, Warren now wants to first offer a public option: a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers. But come her third year in office, she’d move everyone into a single-payer system.
Recall that Warren had been throwing rocks at Joe Biden for backing the more moderate public option over single-payer. And what makes anyone think that voters would want the radical change in 2024 that scared them in 2020?
Of course, a President Warren could not get her single-payer overhaul through congressional Democrats, never mind Republicans. More to the point, there will not be a President Warren, because she can’t get elected.
Warren used to support school choice, which is popular with many poor and minority families frustrated by their urban public schools. Now, to earn the affection of the public teachers unions, she’s come out against charter schools. When a school-choice activist asked her why she opposes charter schools when she sent her own kids to private schools, Warren responded, “No, my children went to public schools.”
No, not quite. After the fifth grade, her son reportedly attended a private school in Austin, Texas, followed by another in Haverford, Pennsylvania.
Then there was that business about her being Native American.
Warren brags that unlike most other Democratic candidates, she’s funding her campaign entirely from small donations. The truth is she had already transferred into her presidential campaign $10.4 million collected from swanky fundraisers during her Senate race.
Warren is said to be unlikable. That charge, many complain, is unfairly applied to strong women candidates. There may be some truth in that, but Amy Klobuchar comes off as amiable, despite her reputation as a tough boss. And male candidate Julian Castro drew scorn after harshly attacking other Democrats, especially Biden (over his age).
Some Warren supporters insist that their candidate is highly likable. On MSNBC, one offered as evidence of Warren’s geniality the many people who have asked her to pose with them for selfies.
As a measure of a candidate’s strength, counting selfies is even more ridiculous than citing attendance at rallies. Some candidates attract large audiences because they put on a lively show.
Who can forget the Kamala Harris rally last January that drew a crowd of 20,000 in Oakland, California? Actually, who can remember it?
Nonetheless, that week, Rachel Maddow brought Harris on her news show and declared, “I think there’s a good chance that you are going to win the nomination.”
At a debate in June, Harris famously bludgeoned Biden for having opposed mandatory school busing for integration; which, it turned out, was her position as well. Harris’ aggression impressed many Democrats, helping her raise $2 million within 24 hours of the debate. But it’s been downhill since.
My argument with Warren fans is that if she is the Democratic nominee, it’s four more years of President Trump. That means no public option, much less single-payer. And Trump could pursue final dismantlement of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats, do you want to win or not?
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.