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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

They're already gunning for Warren

by digby

This is just the beginning, folks

Rebecca Traister at NY Magazine takes a look at early efforts to "Hillaryize" Elizabeth Warren:

The elite, ambitious candidate, saying one thing on the stump but another to wealthy donors, willing to cede big dreams for incremental, pragmatic fixes … You recognize her, right? Of course you do. She’s Massachusetts Senator and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren, who in the past few weeks has cosponsored Bernie Sanders’s new Medicare-for-all-bill, introduced a bill to preempt state right-to-work laws, prepared to take on leaders of Wells Fargo and Equifax on the Senate floor … and been hit with a blast of right-wing messaging and mainstream news coverage that feels positively uncanny.

The playbook that the right is running against Warren — seeding early criticism designed to weaken her from the left — is pretty ballsy, given that Warren has been a standard-bearer, the crusading, righteous politician who by many measures activated the American left in the years before Bernie Sanders mounted his presidential campaign. Warren is the candidate who many cited in 2016 as the anti-Clinton: the outspoken, uncompromisingly progressive woman they would have supported unreservedly had she only run. Yet now, as many hope and speculate that she might run in 2020, the right is investing in a story line about Warren that is practically indistinguishable from the one they peddled for years about Clinton. And even in these early days, some of that narrative is finding its way into mainstream coverage of Warren, and in lefty reactions to it.

It’s a literal investment, one that may mean that conservatives see Warren as among the most dangerous of their future presidential opposition. Last week, Politico reported on efforts by the right to obstruct plenty of potential Trump 2020 challengers, many of them up for reelection in 2018, including Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. But most notable was the $150,000 dollars sunk by conservative hedge-fund billionaire and Breitbart benefactor Robert Mercer into a Super PAC called Massachusetts First, built specifically to target Warren.

Mercer’s contribution to Massachusetts First is the biggest he’s made to any candidate or political entity in 2017, according to Politico, citing Federal Election Commission Records. And despite the fact that Warren is unlikely to face a perilous challenge in her bid for reelection in Massachusetts in 2018, radio ads funded by Mercer have been running all summer, painting the senator and former faculty member at Harvard Law as a “hypocrite professor” who was “raking in hundreds of thousands each year” while her students were “taking on massive debt to listen to Warren lecture them.” As Politico notes, these moves against Warren in the context of a race she’s not likely to be vulnerable in demonstrate that Republicans “are aiming to replicate the pounce-early-and-often model they used against Clinton in 2014 and 2015.”

But in Warren’s case, it’s not just the pace and timing of attacks that recall right-wing anti-Clinton strategy. It’s also the portrayal of her as hypocritical and untrustworthy. The Massachusetts First website describes its mission as providing “the full and real story” of Warren’s failings, a construction that suggests that her self-presentation is inauthentic, as Clinton’s was often presumed to be.

Then of course there is the emphasis on Warren’s personal wealth, here deployed in contrast to those struggling under the burden of student debt, casting as her victims the kinds of young people who were drawn to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign and its emphasis on free college. Presenting Warren as the wealthy establishment enemy of needy students is a particularly nifty trick, given that she has made the reduction of student loan debt one of her political crusades, and that this spring she joined with Sanders on the College for All Act. But even the radio ads’ evocation of Warren’s “lectures” offer a view of a woman who is not an ally of young people, but rather at didactic and disdainful remove from them.

The familiar themes of those radio ads bore fruit on a national scale last week, when right-wing Boston radio host Jeff Kuhner confronted the Massachusetts senator after her appearance at a Boston TV station, posting the video on twitter on September 18. The video shows Kuhner questioning Warren about the price of her Cambridge home and about her Harvard salary, repeatedly calling her a hypocrite, piggybacking on the narrative of the Mercer-backed radio ads: “You are part of the one percent … You are a multi-millionaire and you have a mansion in Cambridge, do you not?” Kuhner presses her. “You’re part of the one percent and yet you rail against the one percent. Do you not see the hypocrisy there?”

After posting the video, Kuhner repeatedly tweeted the clip at Donald Trump and conservative news outlets, alongside descriptions of Warren as a “phony Indian, a phony progressive & a phony senator,” who “made millions shilling for big banks, corporations & insurance giants” and “got rich by flipping homes, taking advantage of old ladies. She embodies crony capitalism.” Again, what was odd about the approach was not the revelation that conservatives hate, fear, and want to defeat Elizabeth Warren; it’s that they’re deploying a populist critique — one that questions, rather than emphasizes and makes a bogeyman of, her left bona fides — to do so.

By the end of the week, the Kuhner clip began to gain traction, and was posted at bigger and bigger conservative sites, including The Gateway Pundit, The Daily Caller, The Washington Times , Fox News, and The American Mirror, which was finally linked on Twitter by Drudge.

Most of the right’s coverage of Kuhner’s interaction with Warren described her as “frazzled” or “triggered,” claiming that she “scrambles” when confronted. None of that is true; the video shows her answering his charges cogently, pointing out that the kinds of economic policy she believes in — low college costs and higher wages — permitted her the degree of economic mobility she’s enjoyed. Nevertheless, the descriptive and highly gendered language used to frame the clip by the right closely echoes the popular portrayal of Hillary Clinton as spasmodic, easily rattled and high-strung, paving the way for fake news about Clinton’s ill-health and mental fragility. “Fake Indian Elizabeth Warren is so easy to frazzle; all one has to do is call her out on her lies and hypocrisy and she loses her cool,” read the Gateway Pundit.

Read on. There's more and it's all depressing.

With what we're learning about the American public's susceptibility to propaganda and outright sexism during the last election it's pretty clear the Republicans are already on it for 2020 --- and they know what will work against Warren. I wish I didn't agree with them but I do.