Elizabeth Warren will start her own ‘club’

Some women just bug men, Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson says in a useful article titled “Do men have a problem with Elizabeth Warren?” She cites Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton as problematic. Now, she writes, “Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has joined the club.”

But this is misguided. Like those psychological tests they give that ask what apples, pears and bananas have in common (all fruit, don’t you know) they tell you little about Elizabeth Warren, and to compare her to Pelosi or Clinton is to fully misunderstand Elizabeth Warren.

Warren does not join a club. She starts her own club. If I had to compare her with any Democrats in Congress today, they would be Jim Webb and Mark Warner, Democratic senators from Virginia, and North Carolina’s Sen. Kay Hagan (D). These three plus Warren might belong to a similar club, but leadership has not yet emerged for that club because it has been overwhelmed by the lagging generations of nostalgicos in both parties (the Republicans are starting to wear Stetson hats again and drink in the morning) and particularly the leadership of Clinton and Pelosi, which has driven almost half of traditionally Democratic Boston to be independents.

Warren “proved so annoying to powerful men in Washington that she didn’t get the job of running” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says Carlson. And powerful Dems, including Chris Dodd, didn’t help.

But “the club” idea brings problems to both Democrats and Republicans. It relates to marketing issues. The same “eek, a mouse” response the Senate committee had to Warren came to Sarah Palin, who brought apoplexy to both parties as well. Palin brought forth an entirely new political paradigm; a Jacksonian paradigm in a world in which Dems and Repubs had been governing as Hamiltonian since 1865. I guess it is just a simple twist of fate that their sudden presence is accompanied by natural disasters — earthquakes in Warren’s Oklahoma and hurricanes at the Republican convention when Palin appeared.

In marketing terms, politics is the same as anything else. The “eek!” factor accompanied Bob Dylan as well, and his agents and publishers had their own “club,” so he had to surreptitiously bring his music to New York clubs and the people direct. Warren will have a similar battle if people expect to compare her to Pelosi and Clinton and to be a footnote to Ted Kennedy.

The analogy does not hold up with Warren any more than comparing Dylan with Perry Como and Andy Williams, who owned his day. Warren will awaken a world that has been trying to be born here for at least 10 years but is still unable to bust out.

Carlson’s club analogy brought to mind the awkward moment when Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil, who owned the House when Boston owned politics, welcomed President Reagan to speak to Congress with the phrase, “Welcome to the club.” It was entirely inappropriate. The country had moved on to new paradigms, and keepers of the own temple like O’Neill were first to go.

The “club” error is compounded when Carlson says Warren “headed back to Massachusetts to try to reclaim Ted Kennedy’s seat for the Democrats.”

Scott Brown’s finest moment was when he famously responded in an interview, “It’s not Ted Kennedy’s seat. It’s the people’s seat.”

For people like myself who were born in Massachusetts and educated in public university there and whose families have been involved in politics there for 150 years, it was a refreshing moment. It was time to move on. The old club of Tip O'Neill and the Kennedys had become a burden. It was holding us back. But I think Brown brought little to his task beyond a barn coat and a truck. Now Elizabeth Warren has the opportunity to bring us forward.