Last night I had dinner with liberals (and I'm a liberal Democrat), and the way all talk goes these days, we went from appetizers to politics.
At the table were a number of Elizabeth Warren supporters and me, who voted for Bernie instead of Hillary in the last democratic primary, and who has given money to Mayor Pete's campaign this time around.
I'm a fan of Bernie's ideals, but believe Bernie's make-no-concessions attitude and his one-note (loud) presentation won't help his philosophical cause. Buttigieg's more moderate and inclusive approach, his mostly-unflappable intelligence, and his grace-under-pressure demeanor, make him the best candidate in my eyes to beat Trump — not to mention his military service and genuine faith.
If and when a Trump/Buttigieg debate happens, Mayor Pete will only need to give the president a few quiz-jabs on Scripture. Trump, who once promoted fights, would get knocked out, rendered incapable of landing one of his infantile low-blows against Pete's honest shots.
I'm a male and I'm white and I'm straight (so my demographic is Trumpian.) At dinner last night, I made a quick case why I believe Buttigieg is more electable than Warren. And I called out Elizabeth Warren for her adoption of Native American heritage, a claim that helped her academic cause. (For the record, I hate the misuse and overuse of the word appropriation.)
Immediately, I was told by one of Warren's supporters that I sounded sexist. It always hits me as ironic when the same people who criticize Trump for his labeling tactics, go straight to labels. This Warren supporter is a woman, who also happens to be a faculty member from Columbia University's School of Journalism. She claimed, forcefully, that Warren had checked the Native American box as a young woman of 18 and so shouldn't be held accountable.
I said I believed Warren had held onto her ancestral claim well past 18. No, the journalist insisted, cocksure, I was wrong, and I sounded sexist.
As soon as I got home (I didn't want to pull out my phone at dinner — etiquette!), I did some fact-checking. According to several reputable sources, I wasn't wrong. USA Today. Business Insider. These were the first pop-ups when I typed Warren and Native American into my search bar. Here's one quote, reiterated by several publications:
Records indicate that at various points in her career, Warren went between identifying as white and Native American. The year before she was hired at the University of Pennsylvania, 1986, she listed herself as a 'Minority Law Teacher' on the American Association of Law Schools directory, a tip sheet for school administrators. She continued to list herself as such until 1995 and was repeatedly referenced as a minority in Penn's yearly equity report.
This is fact. Not sexist fact. Fact.
Back to dinner. After I said I'd check on the Native American claim, I mentioned Warren's other claim — that she'd been fired from a teaching job because she was pregnant. Now that I'd been labeled a sexist, the rest of the Warren supporters jumped in, saying what had happened to Warren happened all the time to pregnant women.
I didn't dispute this fact. But I did say that I believed Warren's specific case didn't fall under this institutional (and unacceptable) umbrella, and that I'd check the record (again, I didn't reach for my phone).
Sure enough, when I got home, this is what I found, according to PolitiFact, an unbiased news source:
"… I worked with the children with disabilities. And I did that for a year. And then that summer—I actually didn't have the education courses, so I was on an 'emergency certificate,' it was called."
So, Warren indicates that her lack of credentials might have been an issue. Regardless, the school board offered to renew her job.
Warren noted that she later "went back to graduate school and took a couple of courses in education and said, 'I don't think this is going to work out for me.' And I was pregnant with my first baby. So, I had a baby and stayed home for a couple of years, and I was really casting about, thinking, 'What am I going to do?' And my husband's view of it was, 'Stay home. We have children, we'll have more children, you'll love this.' And I was very restless about it."
Warren's story is different as a senator and on the presidential campaign trail.
Again, not sexist. Fact.
That The New York Times or The Washington Post didn't pop up first during these two searches is no surprise — both sides of the media fence are biased in what they choose to cover.
Here's the problem. And it's the same problem the Dems ran into last election when their leader labeled the opposition Deplorables. The people at dinner, east coast, some academically connected, all liberal, immediately drew the Sexist card (or agreed with the draw) when their candidate-of-choice was questioned.
Was I hurt? Not at all — I've been called much worse. Was I bothered? Sure. In the same way everyone is bothered when their ideas (in this case facts), which are an outgrowth of themselves, are dismissed with an easy word. Call me a sexist and you must be right.
Sexist. Racist (a word often leveled at Mayor Pete in the Twittersphere). Deplorable. Un-woke. Words too often used as easy, dismissive labels. When Barack Obama correctly calls out cancel culture, he's in part referring to this kind of facile relegation.
When you're cancelled or relegated, a little bit of venom creeps in — it certainly does with me.
I admit that on the night of November 8, 2016 when Donald Trump won the election, I was excited. It was the kind of excitement I get from seeing a fight where the underdog wins, the kind that comes when I feel most anarchic, when I say screw the rules and do what I feel, not what I ought to do.
Having listened to too many dismissive liberals, having watched too much righteous grandstanding on the Democratic debate stage, having been labeled a sexist for calling out a female candidate on some real character flaws, I feel a little allied to the side that voted for Trump and, in about eight months, will vote for him again.
For the record, I used to admire Elizabeth Warren. She took on Wall Street. She understands the criminal nature of greed in America more than any other candidate. And before she decided to run for president, she seemed true to herself. Here's what I wrote about her on Newsmax in 2018:
When she spoke about economics and the need for Wall Street reform, she was engaging because she not only knew her subject in a complete, nuanced way, but her delivery was quietly confident. This was a professor teaching a master class and doing it with energy and poise and humor.
Then Warren threw her hat into the presidential ring and, the way it happens with all hardcore vetting, character-truths got revealed. If hardcore fans could more readily admit the character flaws in their candidates of choice, perhaps they wouldn't be so quick to pull out stock, easy labels.
Warren's transgressions are very minor in the face of Trump's major transgressions, which have eroded the value of our country. I can't stand the man. But last night's dinner-table debate relit some of that anarchic, post-Trump-victory feeling, a feeling very much connected to a destructive (and even self-destructive) high.
I don't wish another four years of Donald Trump on this country. But if he does win, seeing some of those overly-righteous, quick-to-dismiss faces on my side of the aisle marked by defeat, would lessen the pain.
This, of course, is my impulsive reaction. It's an impulsivity that puts aside my world view, a view very unlike Trump's. But these gut-felt moments do mean something. Gut level is where rabid partisanship resides. And rabid partisanship has unleashed the ugliness that's part of us all.
Adam Berlin is the author of "Both Members of the Club" (winner of the Clay Reynolds Novella Prize), "The Number of Missing," "Belmondo Style" (winner of The Publishing Triangle's Ferro-Grumley Award), and "Headlock." He teaches writing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and co-edits "J Journal: New Writing on Justice" (AdamBerlin.com). For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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