(Posted on dailykos.com Nov 29, 2016.)
President Ronald Reagan has gone down in history as the Great Communicator for his ability to pare down complex ideas into simple, understandable prose. Reagan was artful, articulate and pithy, using seemingly simple mantras to capture the complex issues of his day: “Tear down that wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” “Trust but verify,” “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” “Morning in America.” He had the ability to artfully and succinctly excoriate his opponents. Let’s not forget, Reagan had an edge. In debating his Democratic opponent in 1984, with just four words—“there he goes again”—Reagan filleted Senator Walter Mondale for the Democrat’s tendency to drone on with the same old, tired liberal orthodoxy. And now, ladies and gentlemen, the Democratic Party has finally found its very own Great Communicator. Her name is Elizabeth Warren. Born June 22, 1949, hailing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Senator Warren has proven that she can fight word for word, sly remark for sly remark with Donald Trump. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough summed it up, the two are like “prize fighter matching up against prize fighter,” a bob and weaver against a “crazy southpaw.” Even with her hands she jabs the air. For, most vitally, Senator Warren, like President Reagan before her, pares down complex ideas into simple, understandable prose. Like Reagan she can eviscerate her opponent, get just as “nasty” as President-elect Donald Trump while maintaining a smile on her face and a lilt in her voice.
Why could Senator Warren take on Trump where so many flustered and failed? Marco Rubio failed to adopt Reagan’s persona of the smiling assassin. He fumbled over a water bottle, over small hands and phallic allusions. Jeb Bush stammered his way back to Florida. Ted Cruz…well he was just creepy. Trump, on the other hand, ran circles around the Republican field as he captured news headline and free television spots with crippling attacks and sarcastic, purposefully un-PC punches. Yet unlike Trump’s Republican rivals who focused on the great fear of a Trump presidency, Warren often went small. She didn’t merely aggrandize. She belittled. She didn’t make him big. She made him small. One need only look to her opening salvo when she called Trump a “small, insecure money-grubber.”
As for Trump’s democratic opponent, daily Secretary Hillary Clinton proved a bit too wooden and rehearsed when she criticized Trump’s policies. But Warren, for all of her seemingly irrational aversion to anything that smells even a whiff of Wall Street, her oftentimes polemical tone, her tendency to simplify complex problems into an uncomplicated anti-elitism, that is her flattening out multi-dimensional issues into paint-by-numbers populism, for whatever her shortcomings, she delivered. She nailed Trump. As Clinton declared at a rally in Cincinnati in late June, Warren “tells it like it is.” Clinton, so often stiff, so often uncomfortable speaking to big crowds, beamed in Cincinnati as she praised Warren’s abilities. “And I must say,” Clinton exclaimed, “I do just love to see how she gets under Donald Trump’s thin skin.”
Moreover, Warren could act as Hillary’s more articulate doppelganger. Both were born in the South. Both grew up in working class families with strong-willed fathers, children of the ‘60s, devoted to campaigns for the rights of the under-privileged, both are women still breaking through stubbornly thick glass ceilings. Despite such life-long hardships, both maintain a belief in the American dream, in the basic meritocratic compact that, as Clinton put it, “you work hard, you do your part, you will get ahead and stay ahead.”
What is more, Warren was able to turn Trump’s insults against him. She’s not the “goofy” one, he’s the one with the “goofy hat” (not to mention his hair). She’s a “nasty woman.” While Clinton dove into the details of Wall Street reform, Senator Warren waxed poetic on the evils of Wall Street fat cats. Warren went toe-to-toe with Trump’s name-calling. He “cheats.” He’s a “racist bully,” she exclaimed. There was no euphemism. The financial class, according to Warren, are “poor, sad little Wall Street bankers”
At the same time, Warren eloquently highlighted Clinton’s strengths, her “thick skin” against brutal right-wing attacks, her “steady hands,” her “good heart” and, most importantly, that like Warren herself, Clinton was a prizefighter. Furthermore, Warren’s words even inspired Clinton to step outside her comfort zone of policy wonk and political prescription. In Cincinnati Clinton appeared elated with Warren on her side. She suddenly forgot her usual nerves and with a Reaganesque lilt of her own, she tore through Trump, characterizing him as “temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be president of the United States.”
There is a downside. To secure Warren’s support and court Senator Bernie Sanders’s supporters, Hillary had to move to the left, promising voters, for instance, that she would raise taxes on “corporations and the wealthy.” It was a “read my lips” kind of moment, but one seemingly necessary to bring together the Democratic (read: Obama/Sanders/Warren voters, thus young people and minorities) coalition.
Warren pointed with a laser focus at the evidence against the Republican presumptive nominee: how the 2008 financial crash elated Trump as an opportunity for cheap real estate grabs and the possibility of more Trump-named golf courses, how he bled vulnerable students dry, fleecing them with worthless degrees from Trump University, how, now, he cheered for Britain’s break-up with the European Union, even as it “sucked billions of dollars out of [Americans’] retirement accounts.”
Warren, the new Great Communicator, cuts out the euphemism and political-speak. She speaks with the eloquence of Reagan. And now she has found her target, her cause, her anti-muse. For, as Senator Warren exclaimed in sheer bafflement, “Donald Trump calls African-Americans thugs, Muslims terrorists, Latinos rapists and criminals, and women bimbos.” And as Clinton remarked, Warren can even make C-SPAN a must-watch event.