Crooks and Liars, a progressive blog, remains neutral during the primary season. Guest posts do not reflect the endorsement of Crooks and Liars or its editors.
Elizabeth Warren’s law school classes at Harvard were once described as “the Socratic Method administered by a machine gun”. Those who survived her tough approach came to be her most loyal acolytes and allies. I hope that is about to become true in the Democratic Party.
Elizabeth first got a following in the progressive movement by her searing questioning of Obama Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: people figured that if she was willing to challenge the Democratic Party’s leadership, she would be willing to fight for them on the issues that mattered the most. And when she got to the Senate and was named to the Banking Committee, in her first hearing as Senator, her questioning of a witness was so devastating that the video became the first Banking Committee hearing ever to get over a million views on YouTube. She knows how to be tough.
Well, that Elizabeth Warren is back, folks. Maybe with her running from behind and being written off by the pundits, she felt freed up to go back into Socrates with a machine gun mode. I hope she stays there, and that she stays in this race over the long haul. We need that toughness.
And for those who say: she was just preaching party unity last week, why was she so tough last night, I tell you this, something I am very certain about: we need toughness to unite this Democratic Party. We are too fractured about important stuff, going against too challenging an opponent, to try to paper over our differences and pat the loser on the head. It is precisely someone with Elizabeth’s toughness who can bring Bernie’s outsider warriors to the same table with the more moderate Dems and forge the understanding about what it will take to beat Trump, win the Senate, and govern the country.
One thing I do want to say to my worried friends in the Democratic Party about the overall feistiness of last night’s debate: it will be okay. Really. Think about the last winners of the presidency after contested primaries. You think the Republican debates in 2016 were gentle? (At least there were no jokes about penis size last night.) Or 2008: did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton treat each with kid gloves? Most people don’t remember the GOP primary debates in 2000, but George W. Bush had to fend off aggressive attacks from Pat Buchanan (not exactly the kid gloves kind of a guy) and Steve Forbes from the right before he went on to get the nomination and defeat (sort of) Gore in the general election.
One more and I’ll stop with the history lesson: for those of you old enough to remember, Bill Clinton didn’t exactly have a mellow, copacetic time of life during the 1992 primary debate season: Bob Kerrey said he would be peeled open like a boiled peanut because of being a draft dodger and womanizer, and Tsongas, Jerry Brown, and Harkin weren’t what you would call kind to him either.
All of those candidates went on to win the general election after fearsome debates. It’s a contest, folks, candidates are trying to beat each other and win: nothing wrong with it being tough and challenging at debate time.
The only candidates who I thought looked bad last night because of the way they were fighting were Pete and Amy. Their exchanges felt too personal, too petty, and I don’t think they did either one of them any good.
In case you missed the festivities last night and all the post-debate commentary, here’s my other bit of news: Mike Bloomberg looked stunningly awful. Not because he was too hard-hitting, but because he looked exactly like you would expect a man with $60 billion to look when people challenge him in public: arrogant, dismissive, outraged that the little people would dare challenge him. Will his obscene amounts of spending on this race still buy him the election? Maybe, but I don’t think so. There are a great many examples of people spending an absurd amount to buy themselves an election and coming up way short.
So we’ll see what happens on Saturday. Bernie is pretty much a lock to win, but I’m betting that debate performance by Elizabeth gives her enough of a boost to finish 2nd. And the wheel on this crazy primary season will keep turning.