Elizabeth Warren Should Have Been a Fighter All Along

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Elizabeth Warren Should Have Been a Fighter All Along

The big story coming out of last night’s Democratic primary debate was the severe maiming of the billionaire crypto-Republican Michael Bloomberg by a frothing mass of candidates led by Elizabeth Warren. It became clear after about 20 seconds that this would be a one-sided bloodletting, and it was Warren who kicked off the frenzy with a well-prepared cluster bomb:

Warren’s campaign has frustrated and annoyed me, starting with the moronic DNA fiasco and continuing to her ill-advised and cynical attempts to paint Sanders as a sexist based on an old conversation, but I found myself pumping my fist while watching this exchange, so deep is my loathing for Bloomberg and his attempt to buy the primary. It’s exactly the treatment he deserved, and though almost all of the other candidates landed a few body blows over the course of the night, nobody was quite as vicious and mean as Warren, and I mean those adjectives as the highest compliments. Back when she seemed like a credible progressive alternative to Sanders, this was what we expected—someone uncompromising, fearless, and genuinely scary on a debate stage. Bloomberg may have been an unexpectedly easy target, but it takes skill to execute when it matters, and the Warren guillotine sliced his metaphorical head from his metaphorical body with surgical precision.

Today, some liberals—particularly rich and/or famous ones—are rallying around Warren, but I don’t quite believe this is enough for a resurgence after months of missteps that translated into a slow fade. She had a brief moment in early October when it looked like she might overtake even Biden, but it’s been rough sledding ever since, and it’s almost definitely too late to reverse that momentum. It’s also true that debates matter less than those of us with our heads planted in the political circus tend to think. Still, if the assassination of Michael Bloomberg is nothing more than a last act in her presidential campaign, she’ll have done her party a tremendous service. Watch more of her evisceration:

Let’s put it plainly: It was the moment of any debate we’ve seen this cycle. The footage of Bloomberg squirming under the onslaught is now one of my five desert island movies, because there’s nothing quite as exquisite as watching an entitled misogynist surrounded by yes-people get exposed by the exact kind of person he despises—a powerful woman from a humble background. She ruined him. She flayed him, and left his carcass rotting on stage as an example to all the other closet Republicans and oligarchs who think they can operate outside the shadows on the American left.

What’s more, there’s nobody else on that stage, with the possible exception of Pete Buttigieg, who can cut someone to pieces with quite the same panache. She has the tone, the lightness on her feet, and the smell for blood that even someone like Bernie Sanders, with his relentless focus on message, can’t quite muster. That skill may not be much of an asset over a long campaign, where Sanders’s consistency is a greater skill, but it’s certainly useful in a debate.

How about some more? Here she is lambasting him on stop-and-frisk:

This was exactly what the party needed to stop the Bloomberg candidacy in its tracks, and it couldn’t have been more perfect, right down to their places on the stage—seeing Bloomberg in the same shot while Warren eviscerated him made for great optics.

On Wednesday night, Warren was armed with the courage of her convictions. That has not been true for large swaths of this campaign, and her bad choices have cost her dearly. Bloomberg brought out the best in her, and it’s hard not to indulge in the fantasy of how things could have been, if only she’d taken the fight to her enemies sooner, and been less hellbent on occupying a non-existent middle space between progressives and moderates.

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