Squashed

A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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A funny thing happening in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a high profile Senate race with two unquestionably qualified candidates. On the Democrats’ side, Elizabeth Warren has a resume that includes being a Law Professor at Harvard and being listed three times on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. (She is also one of the very few people who I would vote for over President Obama.) On the Republican’s side is Scott Brown, whose resume includes being elected to the Senate in Massachusetts as a Republican. (I’m totally serious when I say that’s a huge accomplishment). Considering the important issues at stake and the high qualifications of the candidates, we might hope for some actual policy discussion in this race.

Unfortunately, we’re getting a lot of jokes about whether or not Elizabeth Warren is 1/16 Cherokee. Or maybe 1/32. Apparently she checked herself off as Native American in a directory listing fifteen years ago but when pressed on her ancestry suggested that it was mostly family stories—presumably like one or two of my great, great grandparents who were Czech, though I couldn’t tell you their names. Let’s count the ways in which this is stupid:

  1. Checking a box in a directory listing.
  2. Fifteen years ago.
  3. How many of us know the names of more than two or three of our sixteen great, great grandparents? Tracking and classifying Warren’s ancestors that far back is a genealogical question so messy it’s tedious..
  4. Under the relevant tribal rules, 1/16 is still enough to claim membership, depending on whether that ancestor can be traced back to the right census.
  5. Who deputized the racial-identity police? And why?

Now Scott Brown’s campaign is suggesting that Warren somehow leveraged this into her position at Harvard. It’s absurd—because Warren is pretty unambiguously one of the most qualified, talented law professors out there. But to Brown’s campaign’s credit, the story has legs. It makes Warren look a bit silly. I leave the exercise of counting all the ways this is racist and horrible to the reader.

But I’ll offer one: The Republicans are asking us to disregard a woman’s myriad qualifications based on … her race. Enough of this.

I just read the National Review’s hit piece on Elizabeth Warren

I was amazed by how ambivalent the article was. It’s sort of a misfired madlib. I has all the usual, generic stuff Republicans say about every Democratic candidate. (Her election would be a disaster. She’s radical.) But the writer, Kevin Williamson, was supposed to put the where specific negatives should have been inserted mostly talk about how intelligent and accomplished Warren is. The worst the Williamson managed to say was that she didn’t fit in very well in South Boston on St. Patrick’s day as she’s not particularly prone to ribald humor and heavy drinking.

It’s like Wiliamson got the template:

Democratic candidate NAME would be a disaster because Democrats are Occupy Wall Street communists and this candidate embodies communist flaws by being NEGATIVE ADJECTIVE, NEGATIVE PERSONAL DETAIL_, and MASSIVE CHARACTER FLAW. All right thinking people should vote for the Republican, NAME, who is ADJECTIVE.

He filled it out something like this:

Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren would be a disaster because Democrats are communists and this candidate embodies communist flaws so smart, honestly kind of pretty_, and not a very heavy drinker. All right thinking people should vote for the Republican, Scott Brown, who is mostly a Republican.

Williamson only cites specific proposals of Warrens where he considers them pretty reasonable. Most of the article is spent discussing supposed personal or political failings that Williamson clearly doesn’t consider actual failings to suggest that she is “out of touch.” Or at least “out of touch with South Boston on St. Patrick’s day.” She is “smart,” “tough,” “principled.” I’ve been a huge fan of Elizabeth Warren since long before her candidacy was announced. But even I could write a more persuasive critique.

Tip to the National Review: Even if you’ve already commissioned the drawing of Elizabeth Warren with a hand drum, a bunch of tents, and a vacant expression and are proud of your headline, “The Occupy Candidate,” you can still spike the article. Every once in a while, we try to write something that just doesn’t come together. Let it stew in the drafts folder for a few months.

The 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee will be …

Earlier today, I asked people to let me know who they thought had a chance of winning the 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee. I promised to call the primary early in order to maximize my chance of completely embarrassing myself in hopes that you will recommend my blog.

Tumblr users proposed the following names.

  • Palin
  • Chris Christie
  • Jeb Bush
  • Tim Pawlenty
  • Rick Perry
  • Wu Tang Clan1

I’m also going to add a few of the usual suspects that other people toss around:

  • Mike Huckabee
  • Mitt Romney
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Ron Paul
  • Bobby Jindal
  • Mitch Daniels
  • John Thune
  • Haley Barbour
  • Scott Brown
  • Gary Johnson

And, for some reason, CNN’s 2012 contender article includes pictures of:

  • Michele Bachmann
  • Rick Santorum

Let’s start eliminating the easy ones.

Rick “Frothy Mixture” Santorum doesn’t stand a chance. First, Dan Savage forever tainted his name. Second, it looks like there will be some other far-right folks who will drink his milkshake.

Michele Bachmann? No way. She might run to consolidate attention and power—but she’s even less credible than Kucinich.

According to my 93-year-old Great Aunt, Newt Gingrich is a resurrected nightmare from the nineties. He had his chance.

Around this time last cycle, I predicted Giuliani would be the next President. I’m not going to make that mistake again. Giuliani not only lost last time—he lost in such an embarrassing manner that he’s going to have trouble even being taken seriously.

Ron Paul is a perennial favorite in some crowds. He could perhaps get 15% of the vote in the general election. He’s quirky. He’s fun. He’s unelectable. The Republicans know this.

Gary Johnson is sort of like Ron Paul—except with even less name recognition. A lot of libertarian-leaning conservatives are excited about him—but that’s not enough to secure a nomination.

Jim DeMint probably won’t run. He’s a power-behind-the-throne kind of guy. There are enough far-right conservatives in play already.

I’m also going to scratch Jeb Bush. I think we’ve had enough Bush for a while. I think even the Republicans are sick of Bush at this point.

New Jersey’s Chris Christie can also be scratched. He’s not hitting any home runs in New Jersey. He’ll need at least another cycle to consolidate power.

Scott Brown is also in the “too soon” category. He’s a Massachusetts Republican. The honeymoon with the tea party is over. Who would support him now?

At this point, we start getting into the candidates that could be more serious contenders.

Rick Perry (who I am adding via an edit upon terrillific's suggestion) would be an awfully interesting candidate. He from Texas. He's a big state's right kind of guy—and there's a good chance that this will be a huge issue in the Republican primary. I'm going to scratch him on the grounds that he's too Texas-focussed because it didn't occur to me to add him in time—and I really can't change my ultimate pick.

Haley Barbour is the platonic ideal of a Good ‘ole boy Republican. I can’t imagine him getting national support in the general election. And I don’t think he’s interesting enough to win the primary.

South Dakota’s John Thune is too much of an inside-the-beltway guy for 2012. His support for earmarks will hurt him. I think Jonah Goldberg’s take might be about right. “Thune is the GOP version of John Kerry: a candidate with very presidential hair who seems ‘electable’ despite not having done much of anything.” Still, a credible run by Thune isn’t out of the picture. If the Republicans decide to go the Milquetoast route, Thune could be a decent candidate.

Sarah Palin's negatives are too high. She gets a whole lot of support from about 25% of the country—but she polls terribly against Obama.

This leaves Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, and the Wu Tang Clan. I think Bobby Jindal will scratch himself. He’s very young. He has time. And the current rage-based environment won’t play to his strengths. Despite his disappointing State of the Union rebuttal, I think he still has good things ahead of him. But not the 2012 nomination.

Tim Pawlentey and Mitt Romney are both posers. They will lose for the same reason. They want it too much. They’ll pander to the far right when they need the far-right’s support. They’ll pander to the middle when they need to look centrist. In the end, they’ll lose because nobody trusts them. (Romney will also lose because Romneycare looks an awful lot like that constantly-lambasted Obamacare—and Romney’s “It wasn’t meant for other states” explanation isn’t going to convince anybody.)

Mitch Daniels is one of those smart and relatively moderate possibilities that political people tend to think are good candidates but voters tend to forget to turn out for. If he runs, perhaps he’ll stand out in the debate. Otherwise, he’ll probably go the way of Chris Dodd.

This leaves Huckabee and the Wu Tang Clan. By the flip of a coin—I’m going to guess the 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee will be … Mike Huckabee.

Obama will handily defeat him.


  1. This is Catbus's suggestion. If you're not already following Catbus, I suggest you get on board and ride the Catbus. 

Vote for Martha Coakley … I guess.

The Democrats have exactly the requisite sixty votes in the Senate. But they may lose one in a very tight Massachusetts election next Tuesday. Martha Coakley, who I’ve been a fan of in the past, is in a remarkably close race with Republican Scott Brown. I’ve supported Coakley since her district attorney years. (She’s a fellow Williams College alum. We’re a tight-knit bunch. Also, she went to my law school. We’re on the same side.) But the race is tight. Scott Brown has all sorts of Tea Party support and the Coakley campaign took too long to take the threat seriously.

And now that it’s close, the Coakley campaign breaks out crap like this. My support has decreased measurably. If you’re in Massachussetts, plug your nose and vote.

Edit: It looks like this was a Massachusetts Democratic Party flier, not a Coakley campaign one.