Elizabeth Warren is generally perceived as a fresh new voice in American politics much like Obama was six years ago. She comes across as someone who is finally willing to stand up to the Wall Street bullies.
Some of that might have been sullied by the Heritage Foundation’s recent troll (apologies for the Jonah Golberg link, but sometimes he’s, wait for it… right). They wanted to paint her as someone, who despite appearances, does support corporate welfare.
It was admittedly a troll, so let’s pretend like it didn’t happen.
The more interesting event was her list of eleven commandments of progressivism.
Most of these fall in line with Catholic teaching: being tougher on Wall Street, embracing and funding science, a living wage, debt relief, universal healthcare, condemning discrimination (although religion is telling left out), immigration reform, and limiting the notion that corporations are people.
All of these points argue for reestablishing the common good against greed, corruption, and atomization. Beau!
But then right in the middle of the corporations-are-not-people-point everything breaks down as Warren scores points against Hobby Lobby and for (not longer rare) abortion.
Abortion is the single issue where the Democrats most bow down to the gods of libertarianism.
As Warren puts it in a very Randian idiom: “that women have a right to their bodies.” The phrase in itself sounds innocuous enough, but it hides a whole slew of assumptions that are in line with the notion Warren associated with the conservatives at the end of her speech: “I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.” Her position on abortion is of the same cloth as the “I got mine” Republicans, because it’s all about I got my body and I will dispose with it as I please. My body trumps anything else that might be connected with it or to it.What’s more, we live in a cultural atmosphere (created by both left and right) that sees children as not only a danger to our careers (most of us cannot afford to have children), but also a danger to the smooth functioning of the social order. Therefore we indulge in preemptive strikes (pre-venge) against them in the womb.
In a perversely Girardian vein this is presented as justified/good violence. Such a sacrifice is required if we are to maintain order. In other words, just as much as foreigners and welfare recipients are scapegoats for the Republicans, the unborn are scapegoats for the Democrats.
It seems irrational that the Democrats with their nominal commitment to the poor and downtrodden would abandon the most vulnerable (to the Republicans!).
I would argue that the Democratic party’s commitment to the poor and downtrodden is accidental. Most policy positions in American politics are staked out in a mimetic rivalry between the two parties. It just so happens that the Republicans followed the Thatcher revolution into divinizing greed. The Democrats have presented themselves as choosing the opposite. The one issue, and possibly the most monumental one when future generations look back on us, happens to be perhaps the only one where the Republicans are unambiguously not bad Samaritans. Of course, they’re only there because the Democrats dumped their earlier pro-life stance.
So let’s not pretend the differences between the parties are greater than they are. The differences are circumstantial. There are plenty of pro-choice Republicans and almost all the Democrats are in bed with big business. It’s also possible that the two parties might flip-flop in the foreseeable future on many issues that seem fundamental to what each party stands for right now.
So let’s not divinize either party and what it can actually contribute to the common good. Let’s not idolize Warren either.