By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I have always taken a great interest in the Presidency of the United States. I've wanted to know who was elected, who was defeated, and what happened next. I just cannot get enough, and I know readers are in the same boat.
Everything any President does is hot news, subject to instant analysis and argumentation. In this connection, I am especially interested in the burgeoning candidacy of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She clearly wants to run in 2020, and is making all the old familiar moves.
Since her two-story Victorian home is just a few blocks from where I live and am writing you now, my interest is more tense than it usually is. I mean, how are we going to install a helipad in our ultra-packed neighborhood? Where are we going to put the Secret Service agents? Where will the journalists covering her hang their hats?
This is problem enough, and when I ask people in the neighborhood about these things, I am pleased to tell you that no one but me has given any attention to these issues at all – just me.
Of course, each and every one of them has an answer, but not worth too much trouble until she demonstrates that she may well end up as the President of the United States. However this may never take place. First, because of the Massachusetts Curse.
Massachusetts has nominated more candidates for President than any other state in the nation, including big ones like New York and California. In recent years, some of the best and brightest Americans of both parties have been nominated and then crushed in the Presidential election, thereby making Massachusetts Presidential and Vice Presidential poison.
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was on the 1960 Nixon ticket. John F. Kennedy, of course, headed the 1960 Democratic ticket. Michael Dukakis, Democratic nominee, was on the 1988 ticket. The next one was Mitt Romney, who headed the 2012 Republican ticket. All were defeated except JFK.
The next potential Massachusetts Presidential Candidate is Senator Elizabeth Warren. Will the curse capture her? I think there are good reasons to suppose so, and the prime one of these reasons may well be the fact that she sounds like everybody's mother in law... nagging, hectoring, determined to have the last word on every subject. Is America ready for a White House nag?
Hillary Clinton tried this stubborn carping approach that boiled down to this failed formula: "I know everything in the whole wide world, and you better listen to me, because you don't know squat." Understandably, this approach to the important business of changing America, correcting the flaws, and improving her in every aspect, did not go down well with the American electorate, particularly men, who found Hillary insufferable, and her mode of information distribution irritating in the extreme.
Despite the fact that she was America's best funded and arguably smartest candidate ever, she took it on the chin, because particularly men in the West, Midwest, and South had enough criticism at home everyday from their nagging wives... She Who Must be Obeyed. They didn't like it at home (thank God for the golf course), and they didn't like the thought of it for the White House... and so the "cannot be lost" election became a historic nightmare for the Democratic party.
Before I go further, let me state unequivocally that Elizabeth Warren is a smart cookie. But, she needs better advice than she's been given. Consider the way she handled the matter of a $400,000 speaker's fee to be given to former President Barack Obama. The story broke on April 28th, 2017, just the other day. The payment in question came from a large Wall St. firm, Cantor Fitzgerald, which has substantial interests in the healthcare industry.
Elizabeth Warren jumped on this matter immediately, and soon the world knew that she was "troubled" by the Obama speaking fee. Now here is where judgment comes in. Imagine the situation. Obama opens an envelope, and there inside is a pledge for $400,000. He is not a rich man; never has been. He has no particular capital, and pretty much has to live on his income, which includes his White House pension. You can imagine how happy Michelle was when she learned about this plum.
And then, the manure hit the fan. Just think for a second what Michelle said, and what you would have said if someone offered you a chance to clear off some nagging bills merely by giving a 60 minute presentation. Then Elizabeth Warren did what she always does... she scolded, she criticized, she yapped, and tisk-tisked Obama.
I think we can all guess which word the exasperated Obamas would use to describe Elizabeth Warren's interference in a manner which was quintessential American politics. Can you guess the word? It starts with a "b". "Just where does Elizabeth Warren get off criticizing us?" That kind of comment rancors, and can simmer for years to come.
The thing we all need to realize about politics is that little things often count for more than big things. The littlest things produce welts and acute irritation. This was a situation tailor made for Senator Warren to shut up and keep her mouth closed. But the lady is constitutionally unable to let small things go by the wayside. And one of these things is you do not criticize a former President from your own party about a matter which is perfectly legal and customary.
However, Elizabeth Warren is famous for lack of discretion and people skills. This may not matter much in her Harvard Law School classes. After all, these pirhanas will do anything to get an A... even when they know their professor is wrong. You won't find any of them out on the street corner hammering their professors. That's just out of the question.
One of the things that constantly bothers Senator Warren is the role of banks and financial institutions in the government of the United States. Thus, every chance she gets to clobber the financial institution industry, she takes it, despite the fact that she is a card carrying capitalist herself, with a magnificent Victorian home worth close to $2 million dollars, a salary of nearly half a million dollars a year (currently suspended because of her Senate term), and a net worth of over $15 million dollars.
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks"
A few facts you should be aware of regarding Elizabeth Warren and campaign finance. Despite her constant jeremiads on the subject of campaign finance, as of 2017, she had $4.8 million in her account. This was more than any other Democrat up for re-election next year had in their account. It is also $1 million more than any other Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) aside.
Needless to say, Elizabeth Warren never troubles to discuss the financial resources that she has available for her re-election campaign in 2018, and whatever resources are available for her to give in key states where she would have to do well to stand any chance of being the Democratic nominee in 2020, presumably against President Trump and his re-election bid.
Elizabeth Warren now finds herself in a position where White House dreams may dance in her head like so many sugar plums; however to win she must make some major adjustments and make them immediately. First, America does not require a comment from Senator Warren on every single thing on the national agenda. What she needs to do now is do the behind the scenes grunt work that every Presidential candidate needs to master.
1) That is to say, identifying potential donors, and continuing to build significant fundraising lists.
2) Work the phones. She should be aware of and in touch with key Democrats, including all the Democrats who were elected as delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It is likely at least three quarters of the delegates who were active in 2016 will be active again in 2020. Everyday Senator Warren's staff should hand her a list of 15-20 calls. She should stay in her office, establishing beneficial contact with these people, and of course, always asking for their tangible financial support.
If she continues to comment on absolutely everything, she will turn off people who might otherwise agree with her and be willing to assist. But no one, absolutely no one, wants candidates for President who comment on absolutely everything. That turns electors off and ensures that they will ultimately stop paying attention. Senator Warren might very well fall into this pit.
But there is still more. She has gained a national reputation with a populist message that would do William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) proud. In case your history is a bit rusty, consider this: in 1896 Bryan took over the Democratic party with his message of powerful populism. His speech before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago electrified not just the party, but the nation, and caused every Republican to quail, for fear that the peasants were at the gate, armed with pitchforks and vituperation.
The final two lines of Bryan's speech were:
"Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."
The capitalist interests of the nation were terrified at what this young messiah could do to their vested interests. But a funny thing happens when the rhetoric of the people comes before the nation. The interest of capitalism in these circumstances do what is necessary to maintain their interests, and ensure mere demagoguery will not succeed.
What does this mean for Elizabeth Warren? Simply this: that throughout the history of the United States, populists have gone forth on crusades to bolster what they see are the prerogatives of the people. But each time these populists have gone for the people, these self-same people not only fail in their objective, but are crushed.
And so Elizabeth Warren, who has proclaimed herself the people's advocate, will likely wake up the day after the next election only to find that what seemed so promising in the matter of gaining her party's nomination, and a place on the national ballot, came a cropper in the election box.
Thus Senator Warren needs to re-think her position and approach, or else she may find herself the latest victim of the Massachusetts Curse. For while her vision of America may well be sufficiently clear in Massachusetts, it is popular nowhere else.