War­ren, Trump have more in com­mon than you think

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Jonah Gold­berg

Cul­tur­ally, El­iz­a­beth War­ren is a lot more like Don­ald Trump than you might think.

Hold on. I know: Go­ing by their per­sonal lives, their de­meanors, and their ide­o­log­i­cal agen­das, they’re ap­ples and or­anges. But ap­ples and or­anges ac­tu­ally have a lot in com­mon: They’re both fruits, they’re round, and they grow on trees. The most rel­e­vant dif­fer­ence boils down to a mat­ter of taste. And that’s what I am get­ting at.

One of the best things about par­ti­san­ship is how it sharp­ens our skep­ti­cism about the other side. When Trump gives a speech, lib­er­als are like con­tes­tants on Jeop­ardy!, ea­ger to hit the buzzer the mo­ment they hear any­thing that pings their radar for hypocrisy, de­ceit, hy­per­bole, etc.

But the down­side of par­ti­san­ship is that it blinds us to the fak­ery of our own side. When the same lib­er­als lis­ten to some­one like War­ren, the buzzer gath­ers dust. In the 2000s, for in­stance, Satur­day Night Live rarely let a week go by with­out skew­er­ing Ge­orge W. Bush. When Barack Obama was pres­i­dent, SNL ig­nored him al­most en­tirely, save as an ex­cuse to mock the peo­ple who didn’t like him.

“If I had to de­scribe Obama as a com­edy project, I would say . . . it’s like be­ing a rock climber look­ing up at a thou­sand-foot-high face of solid ob­sid­ian, pol­ished and oiled,” Jim Downey, the SNL go-to guy for po­lit­i­cal hu­mor, once said. “There’s not a sin­gle thing to grab onto — cer­tainly not a flaw or hook that you can car­i­ca­ture.”

Bush then, like Trump now, was an easy tar­get for SNL writ­ers — and for writ­ers at elite me­dia out­lets gen­er­ally. War­ren, how­ever, is the op­po­site. Which might ex­plain why SNL’s most re­cent cold open was nearly a cam­paign ad for War­ren.

War­ren’s catch­phrase, “I’ve got a plan for that,” has as much cul­tural res­o­nance with her base as Trump’s “Make Amer­ica Great Again” does with his, and it’s re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to Trump’s “I alone can fix it.” It tick­les the in­tel­lec­tual eroge­nous zones of a cer­tain type of pro­gres­sive wildly over­rep­re­sented in the up­per ech­e­lons of the mer­i­toc­racy.

It screams: “We have all the an­swers!” and “We know what to do!”

Tech­no­cratic lib­er­al­ism isn’t just an ide­o­log­i­cal world­view dat­ing back to Wal­ter Lipp­mann’s 1914 Drift and Mas­tery, it’s a cul­tural ori­en­ta­tion. If you can’t see it, it’s prob­a­bly be­cause you’re part of it. Fish don’t know they’re wet, after all.

The me­dia loves to point out the crazi­ness and im­pos­si­bil­ity of many of Trump’s prom­ises. He said fix­ing health care would be “so easy.” He vowed to elim­i­nate the deficit in eight years. (It’s up nearly 50 per­cent since he took of­fice). He was go­ing to ban Mus­lims and make Mex­ico pay for the wall. Whether his sup­port­ers be­lieved him or not, they liked what these prom­ises said about his pri­or­i­ties.

“Don’t take him lit­er­ally,” we were ad­vised, just “take him se­ri­ously.”

War­ren has played pre­cisely the same game, promis­ing a slew of ab­sur­di­ties, from an il­le­gal frack­ing ban to an un­con­sti­tu­tional wealth tax to a dead-on-ar­rival Green New Deal.

The prob­lem for War­ren is that you can’t say, “Don’t take her lit­er­ally.” The whole ap­peal of her shtick — and it is a shtick, even if she be­lieves it — is that she does her home­work. She’s no re­al­ity-TV star mak­ing it up as she goes, she has a plan!

Be­cause she has to stay on brand, War­ren felt com­pelled to ex­plain how she’d im­ple­ment sin­gle-payer health care with­out rais­ing taxes on the mid­dle class. It’s a disas­ter. She’d na­tion­al­ize health care, elim­i­nat­ing pri­vate in­sur­ance plans (sorry, union vot­ers!) and cut­ting fund­ing to hos­pi­tals. She’d ge­nie-blink com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form into ex­is­tence. The to­tal cost: $52 tril­lion over a decade, in­clud­ing $20 tril­lion in new fed­eral spend­ing — all to pre­tend she wouldn’t raise taxes on the mid­dle class. She would; she just hides it.

Now, our best health-pol­icy wonks are weigh­ing in. It’s an in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion, but it has as much bear­ing on real life as a de­bate among lead­ing mil­i­tary strate­gists over the best way for the Klin­gons to fi­nally con­quer the Ro­mu­lan Em­pire.

But let’s say us­ing a lot of pol­icy jar­gon and ac­count­ing gim­mickry wins War­ren the nom­i­na­tion and the presidency. What then? It’s ax­iomatic that she will fail to achieve what can­not be achieved. Will she ad­mit that she over­promised, or will the ap­ple lady fol­low the play­book of the or­ange man and blame a rigged sys­tem and shad­owy evil ac­tors work­ing to deny us our heart’s de­sires?

The lat­ter is likely, given that such rhetoric is an­other thing she has in com­mon with Trump.

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