Let me answer the title question for the last time until after the Iowa caucus, regarding which the latest New York Times Upshot/Siena College survey has her a distant third behind Bernie Sanders at first and Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg at second.
A queer Latino encircled by fellow citizens of color who assert their identities in the form of pigheaded avowals of fealty to American power, I should feel as comfortable in the Bernie Sanders camp as a kitten on a sofa cushion warmed by a human ass. Then I consider Elizabeth Warren. To have been an Elizabeth Warren in the 1970s and 1980s required a series of compromises and comeuppances: remaining a Republican twenty years after Nixon, marrying poorly, believing in middle class nostrums. It’s harder to be a woman thinking her way out of corners in which male colleagues insist she still belongs. How fortunate to have been a moderately radical man coming of age in the Northeast: he didn’t deal with the institutional sexism of Ivy League institutions; then, decades later, surrounded by the men whom she thought were peers, the condescension and outright hostility from Treasury secretaries in the administration of the president who signed the Lily Ledbetter Act.
Supporters of her avowed friend Bernie Sanders will point to the Vermont senator’s estimable work in civil rights, for example. He was there first. There he was, in fact, in 1961 opposing the racist housing practices of alma mater University of Chicago. He organized with the United Packinghouse Workers of America. Warren, by contrast, spent her early years in jobs expected of a young woman: after a marriage forces her to drop out of college, she lands a job as a special ed teacher but gets fired for the crime of being pregnant — a crime as common as jaywalking in an America that never passed the Equal Rights Amendment. In the eighties during which the president to whose party she belonged she co-wrote a study on the effect of bankruptcy on working families. Sanders as mayor and congressman showed constituents how recognizing their bonds of citizenry magnifies their collective power; Warren recognized how administrative combinations stress if not destroy those bonds. Working from separate but not dichotomous positions at the problem of what Frank Norris called The Octopus, Sanders and Warren demonstrated the potency of an unacknowledged and unwitting liberal-Democratic Socialist coalition in an era when Democrats helped the GOP complicate their work.
I don’t agree with the Chuck Todd-blessed conventional wisdom. She hasn’t “stumbled” explaining M4A or whatever; if anything, her campaign was cursed by a number of moderate voters who mistakenly got the idea Warren was one of them. From the late summer to November she rose to front runner status because the specificity of her policies were recognizable and detailed enough to scare the shit out of Wall Street like Sanders’ broad gestures didn’t, and, to be fair, because American media can’t take a Democratic Socialist seriously. Elizabeth Warren is a Capitalist to Her Bones because like FDR that’s what she knows; as a woman, that’s the system under which she, to quote Hart Crane, made her meek adjustments. She’s a traitor to her class, like FDR, hence the incomprehension of the Larry Summers-Tim Geithner types struck dumb by their inability to buy her off. Incapable of joining a class for whom anti-Semitism remained a superannuated initiation rite and from whom he was alienated anyway, Sanders worked on the peripheries, being right and first and inflaming the hopes of millions whose belief in the Indispensable Man remains a necessary shibboleth.
It comes down to a simple axiom: it’s so easy for straight white men to be pure. So damn easy.