Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Take the Woe Out of Warren


If asked publicly, most of like would say yes we'd like a candidate to be sincere. I doubt that...honest yes, but sincere can be a turnoff.

Oddly, Elizabeth Warren is at once intense and extremely likable. She has never lost her Southern, small city/big town charm. She's often witty and delightfully honest. Yet her intensity has led folk to tell her to lighten up and personalize her ads.

I've heard her speak many times and chatted directly with her quite a few. In addition, she was on the Left Ahead show last October right after she announced her candidacy.

Superficially, I note we share the same birth state (a rarity this far removed) and are the same age. From hearing and speaking with her, I like Elizabeth Warren. More important, I respect her worldview, her personal accomplishments, and her evolved clarity of political vision.

All of that aside, I understand pols and others noting she must do more than be right and righteous. I've long said that anyone spending two minutes with her would vote for her over Scott Brown. Yet most voters won't get that close that long. Moreover, she's up against a theatrical sort who plays an everyman he never was nor will be.

Brown has been successful playing your neighbor. He used this to great advantage against the icy AG Martha Coakley in the special election that sent him to D.C.

Ironies and contradictions abound. He grew up citified/suburban with a lot more money and resources than she. He went to one of the nation's most expensive private universities, while she worked her way through state schools. He did next to nothing as a state senator, while she pioneered and won in creating a major middle-class protecting federal agency. He fairly coasted his way to lawyerly wealth while she proved her way up through academia to earn a tenured Harvard Law faculty position. Both ended up wealthy, but only she has the accomplishments to show for it.

So, why, you might ask does former MA Gov. Michael Dukakis tell the commonwealth's delegation to the DNC convention, "Yeah, I know Elizabeth’s media hasn’t been as good as it should be, and she knows that, and I think you’re going to see some significant changes."? Well, he's brutal and right.

I'm not sure about her woman's issue. I personally have heard middle-aged women I know say she comes on too strong, even that she's bitchy. However, I have to agree with the Duke. Her ads can be dour and impersonal.

Brown has nothing much to say and he no compunction about lying. He seems to love himself and portrays his role as the most important, tie-breaking one in all Congress. But he still comes across as a swell guy in his aw-shucks ads.

She on the other hand may be too intense for her own good. That dogged enthusiasm was key to her running over obstructionist, financial-industry lapdogs in Congress to create the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Her combination of knowing she was in the right and keeping up the fight to victory made that happen. Certainly of the two of them, I'd trust only her to do what's right for us here.

In a state that has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate, many voters of both genders don't seem to know what to do with her. Yet in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, West Roxbury and Hyde Park among places I've heard her speak, she owns the crowds, men and women, the range of ages. There again, if you spend time with her, you are for her.

The photo above is typical of her posture. It was at Boston Mayor Tom Menino's annual block party celebrating his assumption of office. She listens to the people she's with and when she responds, she leans forward, answers fully and knowledgeably and with great intensity. She may be too much for anyone who wants politicians LITE.

Thus, in today's Globe, Frank Phillips analysis the problem and reports proposed solutions. These include that she seems stiff and unmoving in ads, that she doesn't use stereotypical local places, people and other props, and that she doesn't use supporters to speak for her. I'd also note that unlike Brown's her ads have real and meaning content to the exclusion of fluff and PR.

She shouldn't bring herself all the way down to Brown's big-smile/little-brain level. Yet I know this woman and know that she has a gracious personality as powerful as her intellect. She needs to put both on display posthaste.


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