Elizabeth Warren: More 'Hillary' than Hillary

Elizabeth Warren: More 'Hillary' than Hillary
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Even Democrats now see that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBloomberg: 'I'm going to stay right to the bitter end' of Democratic primary race The Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Sanders holds 13-point lead in Fox News poll MORE (D-Mass.) is more “Hillary” than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to start new podcast Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs MORE. Her precipitous poll decline, her need to appear to be the smartest person in every room and her recent accusation that Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBloomberg: 'I'm going to stay right to the bitter end' of Democratic primary race The Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE (I-Vt.) once told her a woman couldn’t win the presidency — they all point back to a past Democrats want to forget, but one Warren is resurrecting. 

As the parallels to Clinton get clearer, they become increasingly unfavorable to Warren and unappealing to Democrats. 

Despite Democrats’ overcrowded presidential field, Warren remains unique. No one has risen so fast — at one point trailing only former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary Sanders holds 13-point lead in Fox News poll MORE. Nor has anyone fallen so fast — having lost more ground than most candidates’ total support. 


She has a Gatling gun approach to campaigning. One policy proposal rapidly follows another – before one hits, another launches – to the point that she seems to have more policies than the rest of the field combined. But it is a short trip from having it all to know-it-all, from surfeit to suffocation. 

Yet despite her accomplishments, policies and place among the top tier of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, Warren still projects a proclivity to stretch. There is still a sense that she feels the need to push her narrative beyond itself — her claims of Cherokee heritage, that her father was a janitor, that she was terminated from a teaching job because she was pregnant. Her latest, a controversial conversation with Sanders and its aftermath, suggest a pattern has emerged. 

She recalls another candidate not far removed, but whom Democrats and America cannot remove far enough: Hillary Clinton.

Both Clinton and Warren chose legal careers. While Clinton immediately took hers in a political direction, Warren went toward academics. Prominent in the field of bankruptcy, she eventually landed a prestigious Harvard professorship. 

Both were determined to ascend to elite Democratic political circles but chose subtly different ones. Clinton aimed toward the establishment; Warren, toward the left. 


While Clinton’s ascent undoubtedly was turbocharged by marriage to Bill, a generationally gifted politician, she refused to let that solely define hers. Clinton won a Senate seat and set to the detail work of becoming a senator, not just a superstar. She did likewise as secretary of state, and then twice as presidential frontrunner and eventual nominee. 

Without Clinton’s unparalleled political opening, Warren has risen by appointments that gradually gave greater prominence to her ideas. Most notable was championing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Dodd-Frank Act, following the financial crisis. But, unable to become its director, she opted for a Senate run instead. 

In the Senate, her prior liberal accolades made her an immediate leader on the left. She took that to national prominence, rising with the left’s ascent in the party. With Sanders, she is fighting for the leadership of Democrats’ most forceful faction, as well as winning the nomination. 

While Clinton’s rise to the establishment elite was facilitated by her background, Warren’s rise to the left elite is inhibited by hers. Warren was once a Republican, a fact she tries to hide.  

As a result, her claims take on the appearance of compensating, of trying to join the left’s elite by personally identifying with its identity-group politics. The latest episode, her assertion that Sanders told her that a woman could not win the presidency, typifies this. 

Of course, her accusation raises a question of propriety in divulging a personal conversation. Its timing also is curious: Why wait over a year to recount it? And its content is also peculiar: Sanders would have been saying it two years after Hillary had won the presidential popular vote, saying it to a woman clearly interested in running and saying it about a constituency from which Democrats receive disproportionate support — and which he himself would be courting again. 

Even Warren’s confrontation with Sanders at the last debate underscores the Warren pattern. CNN’s tape recounts her accusation: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” The more direct and simplest charge would have been to say that Sanders was the liar. But that would not have so clearly cast Warren as the victim. So, instead her charge is that she has been called a liar. 

As the episodes multiply and Warren stalls, there is a growing sense that Democrats are seeing it too. In fact, they have already seen it — and seen it done better in the last election by Hillary. If Democrats are seeing this in Warren, how quickly will the broader electorate discern it? There is an uneasy feeling that Warren is not just running for president, but sprinting — and running from herself at the same time. 

J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.