I’ve seen the interviews and I’ve heard the songs. I’ve seen the fake poll showing her leading in Iowa. I’ve been subjected to her mug in every corner of the Internet since she first pulled ahead of Scott Brown in that fateful race for Senate that propelled her from the lowly ranks of the Harvard faculty and the Troubled Asset Relief Program bureaucracy to the glittery halls of national elected office.
But I don’t really believe anyone really wants the Massachusetts mohican to run for president.
I say this not because I think the first-term senator lacks an adoring public willing to overlook her fact-challenged rhetoric, or the juxtaposition of her eat-the-rich attitude with her multi-million dollar net worth. I say it not because Elizabeth Warren, if she is going to win a national title, seems more likely to be crowned Subaru Owner of the Year. No, I say it because she seems incapable of generating the sheer level of involvement required by a multi-state campaign, of revving up a broad swath of Americans, who by and large seem as excited about a Warren presidency as Joe Biden is enthusiastic on bath day. Warren may be the paragon of progressive achievement to some — after all, how better to demonstrate that minority hiring requirements at our prestigious institutes of higher learning are able to attract upper middle-class white women laying potentially false claim to Native American ancestry — and the second coming of Vladimir Lenin to others, but to her Ready for Warren hardliners, she’s a miserable main event.
The 200 or so events that the “Ready for Warren” movement has held, in cooperation with MoveOn.org (which has been eerily silent since Democrats assumed administration over Middle Eastern conflicts), have attracted, at best estimate, exactly that number of supporters. In total, Ready for Warren has probably spent more on Pringles than it has on anything else, including publicity. A foundational meeting at the Ames Public Library, meant to lay the groundwork, perhaps, for an insidious plan to upend the Iowa caucus, had a roaring crowd of six, who represented not only Iowa’s most dedicated progressive activists but also, apparently, the entire Iowa market for sweater vests. The Iowa City contingent, which held its “Run Warren Run” event on the same day, attracted at least four able-bodied grassroots activists, one man wearing jeans with white socks and orthopedic tennis shoes, and an empty wheelchair. Sioux City’s turnout was positively massive, numbering, perhaps in the tens, as middle-aged NPR listeners crowded around a table to express their gratitude to Sen. Warren for standing up for the needs of the nation’s most oppressed demographic: white, pre-retirement Baby Boomers who have yet to let go of the 1960s. They all look so thrilled to stand behind a champion of the working man who has yet to establish an actual policy agenda that makes sense in reality. Or, perhaps, that’s just anticipatory excitement for the baked potato bar when they return to their nursing homes for dinner.
Of course, the excitement for Warren’s run couldn’t be contained to flyover country, and MoveOn.org’s luck with a more diverse audience has improved on the coasts. In Hudson County, New Jersey, for example, Warren, party of six, featured slightly younger white people AND crudités. As Rodney Dangerfield once said, that event looks so exciting, it’s possible a funeral might break out. Unfortunately, unlike Warren’s Iowa supporters, none of the people pictured at the positively rowdy New Jersey event look old enough to have pre-planned their burial arrangements. Elsewhere the story was the same, except, unfortunately, many of Warren’s core supporters have now protected their Twitter feeds, so as not to reveal the secret identities of her most ardent fans to a cruel and uncomprehending world that refuses to acknowledge the enduring beauty of macramé plant hangers and elastic-waisted pants.
What boggles my mind is how they managed to find so many affluent, middle-aged white people willing to get together on a weekend when they could be watching Rick Steves’ Europe on PBS, or listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s greatest hits on 8-Track, or doing one of the Fifty Amazing Lifehacks For Your Nonprofit Tote Bag Collection, or debating the merits of various soluble fiber supplements. But they were willing to forgo all of that, in order to discuss the impact of affluent, middle-aged white people on the political and financial establishment. I’m sure that, given their extensive experience with the pitfalls of “making it in America,” along with the utterly insurmountable odds they’ve faced getting reliably consistent lattes from the corner Starbucks, they’re adequately prepared to back their heroine in her next national contest. And they say the Tea Party has a diversity problem. I’ve seen people under the age of 30 at Tea Parties, and that was before the legalization of marijuana became a core legislative priority.
Obviously, disconnect from reality is not limited to Warren’s proletariat crusaders. Plenty of Hollywood elitists have joined the “Run, Warren, Run” movement, nearly all of them with comparably large salaries to Warren’s own. They’ve even banded together to form a group called “Artists for Warren,” which given the title, you’d assume would feature starving creatives looking to turn gentrifying neighborhoods into urban farms. In reality, it consists mostly of people who will write checks once in a while, between non-profit galas and multi-million-dollar film projects, and will, fortunately, never have enough time to research their Patron Saint. If they did, they’d see her record isn’t quite as pristine as they’d like on even their most pressing issues. Elizabeth Warren may not like Wall Street, but she does like corporate welfare in the form of the Ex-Im Bank (something even Bernie Sanders couldn’t stomach), and doesn’t mind sweet-talking financiers for campaign cash. Her plan to erase student loan debt couldn’t get enough support from Democrats to put them over a Republican filibuster. And despite her lofty claim of supporting the little guy when he’s bullied by crony capitalists, she opposes auditing the Federal Reserve, calling the measure “meddling” and hindering efforts to increase government transparency. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t even get me started on the national implications of her haircut.
All of this leads me to believe that the monumental national support for an Elizabeth Warren candidacy is, at best, a figment of MoveOn.org’s imagination, sort of like Michael Moore’s continued relevancy to the national discourse. Or at worst, it’s a clever viral campaign by more moderate Democrats to make Hillary Clinton, the nation’s other choice for first female president, seem thoughtful and accomplished by comparison. Outside of four-year university graduate programs, Hollywood enclaves, and high-end assisted living facilities (and perhaps a couple of bleeding heart Facebook groups that need to back some candidate in between pressuring chain restaurants to use unprocessed bean curd instead of chicken), support for Warren seems rather anemic. You could even say it’s almost like a fever dream brought on by the dangerous combination of Ben-Gay and Viagra. Or you could say that it’s like the Matriarchical society of a thousand Womens Studies graduate theses: a wonderful yet terrifying mirage that many will keep wishing into existence, but which can only be dead on arrival on a national stage, subject to real scrutiny and people who don’t believe they’ll look good in khaki.