Resolved: Elizabeth Warren has gotten the best coverage of any presidential candidate since Barack Obama.
She’s run a substantive campaign, and the press loves her gotta-plan-for-everything approach almost as much as her steady rise in the polls.
Joe Biden? The left can’t stand him. The Nation just ran an “anti-endorsement” urging Biden to drop out, saying he’d been “picking up where the Obama administration left off: a restoration of business as usual for the K Street lobbyists and Wall Street speculators.”
But Warren would be the scourge of the big bankers, checks all the progressive boxes and isn’t a white male to boot. No wonder Bill Gates is openly worrying that she’ll soak him for $100 billion.
Sure, the Massachusetts senator is starting to get a tad more scrutiny since she unveiled a $20-trillion plan to pay for Medicare for All, after months of finessing journalists’ questions on the issue. And there was an “SNL” skit with Kate McKinnon portraying her as a know-it-all playing with funny money—not exactly Alec Baldwin territory.
But these have been dwarfed by glowing profiles of her time in Oklahoma, or at Harvard, or even as a bankruptcy lawyer, and how she developed into a fierce consumer advocate.
So why is a founding editor of Politico suggesting the press is giving her short shrift?
The argument John Harris makes in his new column is that reporters talk to downbeat Democrats who are chattering about Warren and “her embrace of mandatory ‘Medicare for All.’ By these lights: The plan is wildly expensive, unrealistic, frightening to moderate voters in key swing states who want to dump Trump but need reassurance before empowering a liberal in the Oval Office.”
After all, how much of an albatross would it be in a fall campaign when more voters learn that Warren would kick 150 million Americans off private insurance in favor of a massive government-run program?
Harris, a former Washington Post reporter, concludes that “the more pervasive force shaping coverage of Washington and elections is what might be thought of as centrist bias, flowing from reporters and sources alike. It is a headwind for Warren, Sanders, the ‘squad’ on Capitol Hill, even for Trump. This bias is marked by an instinctual suspicion of anything suggesting ideological zealotry, an admiration for difference-splitting, a conviction that politics should be a tidier and more rational process than it usually is.”
Harris admits to this bias, and then challenges himself to provide the other side.
Warren, he writes, “is ready to divide the county and her party over the proposition that a much more aggressive role for government is needed to bring business to heel and protect individuals and the global climate from the predations of a free market…Fundamental societal change comes from people burning with grievances, obsessed with remedies, ready to demolish old power arrangements to achieve their ends.”
In other words, it’s risky and aggressive candidates who wind up changing society, such as Trump in 2016, not the wise and seasoned incrementalists. In fact, it’s the media establishment and Beltway mandarins that have brought us such debacles as the Iraq war and 2008 financial meltdown.
Well, maybe. But first you’ve gotta get elected. And Democrats have to decide whether Warren represents their best shot.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post takes some relatively mild criticism of Warren from Biden and Pete Buttigieg to ask whether they are getting into “one of the most fraught areas for a female candidate: Is she likable?”
Buttigieg criticized Warren’s “my way or the highway approach” and said she is “so absorbed in the fighting that it is as though fighting were the purpose.” Biden said she reflects “an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics.”
These are garden-variety jabs in politics. They’re not saying she’s personally angry. They’re saying she’s a rigid ideologue who doesn’t like compromise—just what you’d expect from rivals occupying the moderate lane.
If even policy-based criticism of Elizabeth Warren is ruled suspect, she’ll sail to the nomination, despite the misgivings of the media and political establishment.