Why Warren Can’t Win

It looks like the elites, the establishment, whatever your choice name is for it—have decided that Elizabeth Warren will be their nominee. OK. Of course no outcome is a foregone conclusion—but they apparently see Biden will fail, Kamala Harris, Buttigieg et al. are not serious contenders, and of course, Bernie has to be stopped.

So they’ve settled on Elizabeth Warren as the relatively safe choice. And Warren, in the righteousness of her belief in the Just, may have accepted this—probably only half-knowing what the bargain entails. And I do suspect it is half-knowing. She is more earnest than, say Hillary Clinton. She seems to mean what she says. Then again, maybe that’s the rub—maybe Warren is just HRC plus four years.

Only when confronted with essential taboos does she visibly waver. This was demonstrated recently in an interchange during the CNN climate town hall. Asked about public ownership of utilities, Warren deflected, unconvincingly—“Gosh, I’m not sure that that’s what gets you to the solution… If somebody wants to make a profit from building better solar panels and generating better battery storage, I’m not opposed to that. What I’m opposed to is when they do it in a way that hurts everybody else… I think that the best way we go forward here is we open up the opportunities. We open up the possibilities. We invest in the science. We invest in the manufacturing. We invest in the pieces that let us build a future together going forward.” The same mythic appeals to base American platitudes—individualism, ingenuity—as anyone else. Rather banal from the woman with all the plans.

Of course one might zoom out and argue that there is no real difference between her and Bernie, that his industrial reforms are equally tepid, wedded to a rotten system, unfeasible. But he answers the same question differently, effectively arguing for federal nationalization of energy. And even this mild condemnation of private profit is, in what it reveals as fundamentally flawed by the current system, substantial.

Warren, by contrast, has repeatedly emphasized her allegiance to capitalism: “I am a capitalist to my bones.” She even stood up and applauded at Trump’s buffoonish line: “We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” Let’s take her at her word.

And let’s do so at our peril, because if she is a capitalist, Trump is assuredly the stronger capitalist. Sure, he is a bloated, multiple-times bankrupted moron, but so what? He effectively conned his way to the Presidency of the United States of America, the (declining but still) most powerful position in the world, and he runs a massive grift there in plain sight.

Elizabeth Warren fails to understand the meaning of this, that Trump is exactly the creature this system was designed to produce. He is not a bug of it—he is its apotheosis—and Ms. Warren, by technocratic policy adjustment, will do exactly nothing about it. She may be the quintessential regulator, but he is an expression of the ultimate failure and folly of attempting to incrementally manage a fanatical, unsustainable system. If Warren and her cohort are so smart, they should know better.

Will Solomon writes a newsletter, Nor’easter, on climate and environment in the Northeast US. He can be found on Twitter and elsewhere at @wsolol.