Bloomberg run should push Warren to the center — but won't

Bloomberg run should push Warren to the center — but won't
© Getty Images

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is stepping toward a presidential run. His move suggests that he, like so many others, considers Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Krystal Ball rips Warren's 'passive-aggressive' swipes at rivals MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Reject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead MORE (I-Vt.) too extreme to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE, and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Media organization fights Trump administration over Ukraine documents FOIA Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers MORE too weak to successfully represent moderate Democrats. He sees an opening.

By every normal political calculus, Bloomberg’s entry should press Warren, who is currently the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, to tack towards the center. By doing so, she could undercut the mayor’s bid. She knows that her progressive policies alienate many voters, and especially in the states won by Trump in 2016; polling in the toss-up states critical to 2020 success finds Warren trailing the president.

But this isn’t a normal race, and Warren is not a normal candidate. Warren cannot move towards the middle, for three reasons. First: Her political career is irrevocably tied to her antagonistic class warfare. Two: She would be destroyed on social media. Three: She already faces “authenticity” issues; wiggling on “Medicare for All” or on hiking taxes on the wealthy would fuel that charge.


Primaries generally move Democrats and Republicans to their outer flanks, causing candidates to perform complex pirouettes to secure the nomination only to later backpedal to win the general election. 

In 2012 Republican Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump MORE moved right to attract the Republican base; the New York Times suggested the milquetoast Romney was a “right-wing extremist.”

In 2016, Bernie Sanders pushed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMore than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls Trump is threatening to boycott the debates — here's how to make sure he shows up Trey Gowdy returns to Fox News as contributor MORE to the left on the TPP, which she had earlier called the “gold standard” of trade deals; she waffled and then buckled.

But Warren is different. She will not shift to a moderate lane. She is what she preaches, with almost messianic zeal.  

In the first debate, Warren scolded former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence Delaney to DNC: Open second debate stage for candidates who qualified for past events MORE (D-Md.) for his cautious approach, saying “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” Those are fighting words; you don’t back down from that.


In fact, Warren has not backed down once during her campaign. During the recent debate on funding Medicare for All, she vowed that the estimated $30 trillion in excess costs to the federal government would be entirely born by the wealthy and by corporations. She has promised the enormous health care takeover would not cost the middle class one cent. Challenged by numerous rivals on her math, she doubled down, saying “only billionaires” would foot the bill, an assertion that contradicts her own proposal.

Nonetheless she charges ahead, knowing that to back down would be to invite instant and painful retribution on social media, where the candidate enjoys the backing of loyal armies of “woke” enthusiasts.

President Obama recently took a swipe at those mostly young “woke” warriors, saying they are “as judgmental as possible about other people and [think] that’s enough.” “That isn’t activism,” the former president said, that’s just “casting stones.”

He is correct, of course. The legions of online champions and detractors have real clout, and have done much to shift opinion, especially among millennials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez to hold campaign rallies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas Overwhelming majority say social media companies have too much influence: poll MORE (D-N.Y.) has 5.7 million Twitter followers, and they are not a quiet bunch. If you want to be clobbered online, say something dismissive about any member of the “squad,” as AOC, Rep. Ayanna Presley (D-Mass.) Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarIlhan Omar responds to 'Conservative Squad': 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' Biden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (D-Minn.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibIlhan Omar responds to 'Conservative Squad': 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers Biden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll MORE (D-Mich.) are called. Those noisy newcomer congresswomen not only have the numbers, they have the passion.

Here’s what we know about tweets and posts on Facebook; the more incendiary they are, the more attention they get. Internet experts can attach numbers and percentages to these observations; they explain much about why the conversations on Twitter and elsewhere are so toxic.

They can tell you why Warren, with her 3.5 million Twitter followers, would not dare step out of line. While many of those followers reliably retweet Warren, and praise her every move, they would likely not brook a step-back from her assault on America’s most successful citizens, social media giants, insurers, fossil fuel firms, banks and all the other targets of her wrath.

Finally, Warren has to combat impressions that she is not authentic. Having passed herself off as having Native American ancestry for decades doesn’t help, nor does her past career as a lawyer working on behalf of wealthy corporations. For years Warren represented the kinds of businesses and causes she claims to hate, helping the conglomerate LTV, for instance, avoid paying the health benefits of retired coal workers.

The New York Times notes that, among other cases she revealed this year, “She advocated for a railroad company that wanted to avoid paying for a Superfund cleanup, and advised Dow Chemical as its subsidiary Dow Corning dealt with thousands of complaints from women who said they had been harmed by its silicone breast implants.”

There is nothing shameful in engaging in lucrative legal work while also teaching law. But her past practice could trouble the purists in our midst.

The New York Times dismisses Warren’s authenticity issue as a “sexist trope.” But you attract skepticism when you set yourself up as a paragon of virtue. Warren denounces, for instance, accepting contributions from PACs and corporations. But it turns out she did just that to run for the Senate, and then shifted funds over to jump-start her presidential run.

As a result, she already had the big donor money that some of her rivals needed to compete.

Bloomberg would be smart to enter the race; he would attract many Democrats who think Warren too toxic to beat Donald Trump. She should preempt that possibility by softening some of her positions, but she cannot. Warren is in a box of her own making; she has no way out.

Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. For 15 years, she has been a columnist for The Fiscal Times, Fox News, the New York Sun and numerous other organizations. Follow her on Twitter: @lizpeek.