Column: There's a reason Elizabeth Warren is surging in polls

2019-08-26 | The Columbus Dispatch

Aug. 26--Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., held a town hall in Los Angeles on Wednesday in front of a huge audience. If you saw her just a few months ago, you would have been impressed by how she weaves her personal story into her policy objectives, the ease with which she can explain a complex problem in simple and direct language, and her skill in presenting lots of individual ideas under a big theme (give ordinary Americans a chance). Well, she has gotten even better.

For one thing, she's not telling exactly the same story. Sure, she tells how her mother had to get a minimum-wage job at Sears after her father had a heart attack. But we also hear about her three brothers in the military and her non-linear life and career. She has gotten "looser" and funnier. She interacts with the crowd more. She has less anger, more determination and more confidence. She is high-energy.

And she has put more substance into her three-part plan to end corruption, to use a wealth tax to pay for a whole lot of child care and education programs and to fix our democracy (e.g., end gerrymandering and voter suppression). If we do all that, we can make progress in a bunch of other areas.

There were a few striking things about her Los Angeles appearance.

First, she said virtually nothing about health care in her presentation. For all the time and energy that have been taken up on Medicare-for-all, it was not in her three-part agenda. She reminded the audience about Republicans' efforts to take away Medicaid, which pays for everything from addiction treatment to nursing home care. She affirmed that she believed in Medicare-for-all and asserted health care is a "right." There was not a detailed plan, however, for health care.

Perhaps this is strategic, putting Republicans on defense rather than quibbling with other Democrats, or maybe she is giving herself just enough latitude in the general election to propose some intermediary steps. In either case, she seem very much aware of how easily Democrats can be thrown on defense against a president who tried to eliminate the entire ACA.

Second, she doesn't run on gender specifically (vote for me -- I'm a woman!), but much of her agenda revolves around education, health care and child care -- all issues that matter a great deal to women.

Third, Warren still has difficulty attracting nonwhite voters, but it is not for lack of trying. She addressed everything from investing in historically black colleges and universities to police protection for transgender women of color. She stressed that however hard it is for the working class, it's that much harder for people of color.

In sum, Warren is a hugely impressive candidate. Whether her town-hall performances translate into votes, especially votes among critical African American voters, remains to be seen. But no one can say she doesn't "Dream big, fight hard."

Jennifer Rubin writes opinion on politics and policy, foreign and domestic, for The Washington Post. syndication@washpost.com