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Biden’s and Buttigieg’s Sexist Attacks

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Groping for ways to bring Elizabeth Warren down, both Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have initiated new lines of attack that should strike attentive listeners as not so new and historically Republican. According to the dynamic duo of B&B, she’s too angry, too elitist—dare we say, too uppity.

As today’s Washington Post reports, Biden has said she espouses “an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics.” Buttigieg has said that Warren is “so absorbed in the fighting that it is as though fighting were the purpose.”

So once again, as it descended on Hillary Clinton and other women in politics, so the “likeability” question has descended on Elizabeth Warren. Warren depicts herself as a fighter, of course, as do countless, perhaps most, male candidates. But somehow, male zeal is treated as normal, while female zeal crosses some patriarchy-sustaining line into anger.

If Warren is angry, however, her crowds don’t experience it. She hangs with them, talks with them, lets them take a gazillion (by actual count) selfies with her once her talks are done, never leaving until the last selfie has been selfed.

As to fighting? Well, yes. She had to overcome the opposition of such big-bank stooges as Timothy Geithner, Obama’s Treasury Secretary, to get the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established. She defied Mitch McConnell in speaking against the confirmation of civil rights opponent Jeff Sessions as Trump’s attorney general, after which McConnell famously complained that “she persisted.” And in taking on Wall Street more forcefully than any leading figure in American politics for at least the past half-century, she’s entered into a long-overdue discourse that requires fighting if it’s to go anywhere.

And too elitist for the electorate? This from the two Democratic candidates who’ve taken the lion’s share of Wall Street contributions, while Warren has refused even to hold high-dollar fundraisers?

The more subtle argument behind the attacks from B&B is that Warren’s manner and professorship may be too schoolmarmish for working-class men, who comprise a disproportionate share of the electorate in Midwestern swing states. Once Warren has the chance to explain her working-class Oklahoma roots to the nation, that may cease to be the case. But Biden’s and Buttigieg’s attacks are a self-fulfilling prophecy: By calling her too angry, they kindle or reinforce some voters’ perceptions that she’s just one more angry woman—the kind that they’d never vote for even if her opponent were Donald Trump. Great job, guys.

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