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Elizabeth Warren falls for Trump's strategy

On the first day of her unofficial presidential campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren showed exactly why President...

Posted: Oct 17, 2018 12:21 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2018 12:21 AM

On the first day of her unofficial presidential campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren showed exactly why President Trump is such a powerful political opponent. Unlike most other presidents in recent decades, he has the capacity to set the terms of debate and to bring his adversaries into conversations they never intended to have.

Warren released a video that is in many ways extremely compelling. Drawing on Jimmy Carter's famous biographical campaign film in 1976 that helped to distinguish him based on his upbringing, Warren reveals to Americans how she is a genuine product of the "ragged edge of the middle class" that struggles every day to make ends meet in middle America.

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If the question of the 2020 presidential campaign ends up coming down to which candidate has a better understanding for the hopes, struggles and pains of average Americans, the video effectively suggests, it would be Warren as opposed to a President whose wealth was inherited and whose financial success came from shady tax practices. In the video, Warren also hits hard at the kind of racism that has influenced many of Trump's attacks, standing as a defender for Native Americans who have become the victims of the "blood sport" of politics.

But the video also plays into the President's hands by literally being framed around Trump. It starts with President Trump throwing out his "Pocahontas" insult to adoring crowds. After turning back to her family background and struggles for a bit, the video returns to Trump's suggestion that she lied about her heritage to advance her academic career.

We learn about a DNA test that proves there are Native Americans in her family background, however distant. Warren tries to make the case based on expertise. Trump offers insults; Warren, a former Harvard University professor, offers data.

The dangers of this strategy for Democrats became clear within hours. Instantly, the news cycle turned to debates about the DNA test. In predictable fashion, the rest of her message quickly faded away in the frenzy of news analysis. The upshot: Warren, one of the most intelligent and capable senators to have served in the upper chamber for decades, finds herself trapped in a Trumpian debate that has little relevance to the nation's future. Trump mastered this strategy years ago when he was a key figure in the birther movement that consumed much too much of the nation's energy on the phony issue of whether President Obama was really a US citizen.

As a candidate and President, Trump has continually done this to his opponents. During the 2016 primaries, Republicans were forced to contend with the nicknames Trump gave them on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton was swamped in a campaign that revolved around her emails, a minor issue that Trump exploited.

Every opponent since he took office has been forced to contend with the conversation topics he put forth: for example, the Democratic candidates in 2018 who suddenly find themselves using the final weeks of a historic campaign to talk about whether they are an unruly extremist mob.

Moreover, Warren's response is based on an assumption that evidence matters in these battles with Trump. President Trump has minimal interest in what the data says about almost any issue. He believes his "gut" is usually right and is usually able to find some fringe voice ("people say") to support his most outlandish claims.

Trump's political method is to repeat his messages endlessly regardless of what the facts show. Once he starts a conversation, he understands they are difficult to control and there is a 24-hour, instantaneous news cycle where information reaches the public before it is checked and verified.

Even after Obama produced his birth certificate, which Trump pointed to as a victory, he didn't stop from asking questions about the former president's origins. On a wide range of issues, from "voter fraud" to climate change, President Trump is never influenced by the data. When his opponents engage his debates by producing mountains of evidence to dispute his claims, he only uses their response to fuel the conversation in a way that does not serve their purpose.

In this case, Warren's response has not been helped by the fact that some liberals as well as a Native American organization have taken issue with the way she wants to claim this as part of her identity. By entering the debate, she unnecessarily opened herself up to these challenges.

Warren certainly has the capacity to shape a campaign around vital issues that she has played a major role in promoting — middle class insecurity, income inequality, consumer protection, gender equity and more. There is no need for her to relegate herself to what the President wants to discuss — or, more importantly, tweet about.

Any Democrat or Republican who hopes to seriously challenge President Trump in 2020 will have to be capable and willing to shape the national debate on their own terms rather than on those of President Trump. If they don't, President Trump, a master storyteller, can twist his opponents into knots as they dive deeper and deeper into a political abyss.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94573

Reported Deaths: 2870
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7017157
DeSoto544859
Harrison378073
Jackson341869
Madison321886
Rankin320276
Lee263368
Jones243878
Forrest240971
Washington218671
Lafayette211639
Lauderdale2015124
Bolivar179765
Oktibbeha175950
Lamar163934
Neshoba1548104
Panola144927
Sunflower142945
Lowndes141257
Warren138250
Leflore137781
Pontotoc124116
Pike121749
Monroe119966
Scott116825
Copiah116433
Coahoma113627
Holmes109458
Marshall108015
Lincoln107353
Grenada106835
Yazoo104130
Simpson101544
Union98324
Tate95837
Leake94138
Adams92236
Wayne87721
Pearl River86952
Marion84234
Prentiss82617
Covington80822
Itawamba78021
Alcorn77611
Tallahatchie76221
Newton76123
George75513
Winston73119
Tishomingo66537
Chickasaw66224
Tippah65017
Attala64325
Walthall59525
Clay58217
Hancock56921
Clarke56342
Jasper55915
Noxubee54515
Smith52614
Calhoun50712
Tunica48113
Montgomery45821
Claiborne45616
Lawrence42712
Yalobusha41914
Perry41318
Quitman3755
Humphreys37415
Stone36012
Greene35417
Webster33213
Jefferson Davis32911
Amite31410
Carroll31412
Wilkinson30118
Kemper28615
Sharkey26313
Jefferson2439
Benton2232
Franklin1913
Choctaw1806
Issaquena1033
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 132452

Reported Deaths: 2335
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19230342
Mobile13192291
Montgomery8711175
Madison767475
Tuscaloosa7355114
Lee576560
Shelby576550
Baldwin512449
Marshall388943
Calhoun339040
Etowah338447
Morgan322626
Houston275322
Elmore258647
DeKalb237519
St. Clair225535
Walker225080
Talladega209927
Limestone202119
Cullman186819
Dallas176226
Franklin174828
Russell17302
Autauga171425
Lauderdale166233
Colbert162126
Blount157314
Escambia157325
Jackson152711
Chilton151328
Dale134143
Covington133427
Coffee12898
Pike11729
Chambers114042
Tallapoosa113984
Clarke106317
Marion95228
Butler91138
Barbour8487
Winston71812
Marengo70219
Lowndes65127
Pickens63914
Bibb63510
Randolph62413
Hale61628
Lawrence60320
Bullock59314
Geneva5844
Monroe5798
Cherokee57516
Clay5537
Washington54913
Perry5396
Conecuh53011
Wilcox53011
Crenshaw52532
Henry4805
Macon47920
Fayette4299
Sumter42319
Lamar3552
Choctaw34612
Cleburne3346
Greene30215
Coosa1673
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