About twenty years ago, I was working for a computer company, selling hardware and software over the phone. One particular month our sales were off and my boss called an impromptu meeting to figure out how we could turn things around. Wanting to make a good impression on him, I raised my hand and said I was going to increase my sales 20 percent next month. My boss looked at me almost expressionless and asked how I was going to achieve that result.
I stared back at him like Ralph Kramden in one of those homina, homina moments. To say I was caught off guard would be an understatement. Here I thought I was doing a good thing by telling my boss what he wanted to hear, and what he really wanted from me – and everyone else in the department, mind you – was an action plan for how we were going to achieve the goal of increasing sales. I learned something valuable that day – besides the obvious fact that it isn’t always a good thing to be the first one to raise your hand in a business meeting. A goal is not a plan. You can have the loftiest goals in the world, but if you don’t have a workable plan of attack, you will never achieve them.
Looking at Elizabeth Warren’s website, it’s obvious she has no idea what an action plan is any more than I did at that sales meeting twenty years ago. To be sure, Warren has a lot of lofty goals that in a perfect world would, I imagine, be desirable to most progressives. But nowhere in any of those lofty goals does she state how she would implement them. She has no plan for how to get her agenda through both houses of Congress. She has no fallback position in the event she can’t muster the 50 plus one votes she would need to get a bill to her desk. What if, God forbid, Republicans hold on to their majority in the Senate? What then? You’d think that a sitting senator in her second term would at least know how the Senate works.
The truth is that the candidate who has spent most of her campaign saying “I have a plan for that” on virtually everything from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to a wealth tax, it turns out, really has no plan at all, just a wish list. But none of that has stopped her supporters from tripping all over themselves proclaiming her to be FDR in high heels. A proclamation that, in my humble opinion, does violence to the legacy of Roosevelt.
Now to be fair to Warren, she’s no Bernie Sanders. For one thing, she has a personality and a charm to her that the Vermont senator sadly lacks. To call Sanders gruff would be doing a disservice to the word gruff. And unlike Sanders, she has avoided labels like socialist that aren’t just red flags in a general election; they’re virtual death knells. She also has an innate ability to frame an argument that virtually no other candidate on the campaign trail can even approach, much less match. I still remember fondly her Jimmy Stewart moment back in December of 2014, when she railed from the floor of the Senate against a bipartisan bill that was nothing more than a giant blank check to Wall Street. I called it “awe inspiring” at the time. There are days I wonder what might’ve been had Hillary chosen her as her running mate in 2016 instead of what’s-his-face from Virginia.
But be that as it may, Warren’s inability to provide a road map for how to carry out her vision for the country is her biggest liability in a general election. It exposes her to attacks not just from the right, but from the center. One could say that the biggest reason Joe Biden is still the frontrunner, apart from the fact that she is splitting the progressive vote with Sanders, is that Democrats are wary of pie-in-the- sky promises they suspect will never be kept.
And pie-in-the-sky is exactly what they are. Take her first goal, “End Washington Corruption,” where she proposes to “shut the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington and permanently ban Senators and Congressmen from trading stocks in office and from becoming lobbyists when they retire – not for one year or two years, but for life.” Without overturning Citizens United, it’s hard to imagine how Warren will ever be able to deliver on this goal.
Then there’s her next goal, “Rebuild the Middle Class.” Certainly lofty and laudable. However, Warren makes two proposals that will face stiff legal challenges if she becomes president. The first is a requirement that large companies allow their workers to elect 40 percent of their board members; the second is a wealth tax of 2 percent on all families earning more than five million dollars. As I’ve stated on more than once occasion, I believe a wealth tax is unconstitutional. At any rate, I doubt either of these two proposals will ever see the light of day.
But if Warren really wants to rebuild the middle class, she can start by repealing the GOP tax law of 2017 that stole hundreds of millions of dollars from middle-class families, many of them in blue states that have property taxes that exceed $10,000. The fact that she never even bothered to mention it only underscores what her staunchest critics have said about her: she really doesn’t get the middle class.
Look, we are witnessing a sitting president having a meltdown right before our very eyes. Just this week, he got bent out of shape because his offer to buy Greenland was rejected, and on Friday he “ordered” all U.S. companies to stop dealing with China. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention he referred to himself as the “chosen one.” I really wish I was making that up. If you thought that was nuts, consider that after the El Paso shooting he visited a hospital where many of the wounded were taken and bragged about size of the crowd who came out to see him.
We have a sociopath in the White House and the leading progressive candidate running for the Democratic nomination for president has a website that reads more like the menu at a Baskin Robbins than a workable action plan to defeat him. Maybe Joe Biden isn’t your cup of tea, but Biden at least has correctly identified Trump as THE existential threat to this country. Warren and Sanders seem to think they’re running against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
As I wrote in an earlier piece, this will not be an issues-driven campaign; it will be a culture-driven campaign. Whoever the eventual nominee is must understand this, or else Trump will waltz to a second term.