Elizabeth Warren is the presidential candidate with all the plans. That’s how she markets herself, anyway. Yet at last week’s debate, Warren dodged answering questions about her plans, and occasionally revealed she has none on important issues.
Consider health care, a top issue for voters. At the debate, Warren was first asked about Joe Biden’s attack on her support for a single-payer scheme: “He has actually praised Bernie Sanders for being candid about… the fact that middle-class taxes are going to go up and most of private insurance is going to be eliminated. Will you make that same admission?”
She would not, making it the fourth time in three presidential debates she has avoided the obvious. When pressed, she claimed that “for hard-working families across this country, [total] costs are going to go down.” Not even PolitFact is willing to lie this much about single-payer. Warren is riding with Bernie, but his “plan” does not specify how it will be funded. It will almost certainly require large tax increases on the middle class.
Warren later claimed, “I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.” The Kaiser Family Foundation recently polled those with employer-sponsored insurance and found “[n]early seven in ten (68 percent) give their health plan a grade of ‘A’ or ‘B.’” Even Democrats vastly prefer a candidate who would build on Obamacare over one who backs single-payer. It’s no surprise she would prefer not to talk about it.
Warren was next asked which things she can get done with Senate Republicans on gun control. Warren’s answer indicated she has no plan for this.
“We have a Congress that is beholden to the gun industry,” she said. “And unless we’re willing to address that head-on and roll back the filibuster, we’re not going to get anything done on guns. I was in the United States Senate when 54 senators said let’s do background checks, let’s get rid of assault weapons, and with 54 senators, it failed because of the filibuster.”
According to The New York Times, the influence of groups like the National Rifle Association has little to do with buying legislators and everything to do with informing voters. People who acknowledge that the natural right to self-defense is secured by the Second Amendment to our Constitution vote accordingly; those who do not have many other priorities. Perhaps Warren believes we should dissolve the electorate and elect another.
Moreover, in 2013, when Democrats controlled the Senate 55-45, the assault weapons ban received just 40 votes. The Democrat-controlled House does not have the votes to pass it now. Perhaps Warren wants to campaign on how corrupt her Democratic colleagues are, but probably not.
Warren’s third topic was immigration. She was asked, “[H]ow would you deal with the millions of immigrants who arrive legally but overstay their visas? And how would you stop hundreds of thousands of Central Americans who want to migrate to the U.S.?”
Warren’s answer suggests she plans to de-control our borders. She wants “to see us expand legal immigration and create a pathway to citizenship for our DREAMers, but also for their grandparents, and for their cousins, for people who have overstayed student visas, and for people who came here to work in the fields.” She is also on record for decriminalizing illegal entry.
On the second part of the question, Warren replied: “Why do we have a crisis at the border? In no small part because we have withdrawn help from people in Central America who are suffering. We need to restore that help. We need to help establish and re-establish the rule of law so that people don’t feel like they have to flee for their lives. We have a crisis that Donald Trump has created and hopes to profit from politically.”
The reality, in Venezuela for example, is that the Nicolas Maduro regime refused humanitarian aid for long time. Socialist tyranny, not President Trump, managed to impoverish a country with the world’s largest oil reserves.
What is Warren’s plan to establish the rule of law there? Proposing a Marshall Plan for Central and South America tends to overlook that the original Marshall Plan was preceded by American forces invading and defeating the governments of continental Western Europe. When the situation gets tough, Warren’s details are mysteriously absent.
Warren was later asked about trade, a subject on which she has published some details. But she avoided them on television, choosing instead to blame “giant corporations that, shoot, if they can save a nickel by moving a job to a foreign country, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.” If this were true, Warren’s plans to punish or transform corporate America would be disastrous for employment and job creation.
Warren’s problem is that the thrust of her trade policies is closer to President Trump than to Democratic voters (largely through negative polarization against Trump). She can attack Trump’s trade wars, but is not in a position to attract votes from those hurt by them.
Warren fared no better on other issues. Time and again, the candidate who supposedly has all the plans chose to avoid or misrepresent them. Although she was one of the candidates who spoke the most, her answers were focused not on policy, but on a narrative of America as a Monopoly game in which Rich Uncle Pennybags has an endless supply of “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.
If Warren becomes the nominee, however, she will find she has painted herself in a corner. If she sticks with her current positions, she will be seen as a far-left candidate. In 2018, Democrats were able to make significant inroads in suburbs, but Republicans still hold 71 percent of all suburban seats outside the Top 20 metro areas. Sticking with single-payer health care—and the taxes that come with it—will make it easier for President Trump to retain margins in suburbs and exurbs.
Conversely, if Warren is nominated and tries to tack toward the center, she will be seen as an untrustworthy phony. President Trump will use her abuse of Harvard’s affirmative action policies (i.e., her claim to be Native American) not only as a zinger, but a framing device for her entire candidacy.
For all of the talk about Warren’s plans, the only real plan she has is for the Democratic nomination. That is necessary but not sufficient to win the White House. Time and again, the candidate who supposedly has all the plans chose to avoid or misrepresent them. If Warren becomes the nominee, she will find she has painted herself in a corner.