Having the right person in the room can mean something. It just doesn’t change everything.This was her ad released this week, to counter the Karl Rove guided attack on her candidacy:
It’s not that Warren’s supporters shouldn’t get lathered up about her. Staid appreciation for competent candidates has never made ballot boxes burst, and political dedication by its nature requires a degree of magical thinking: a privileging of optimism over lived experience.
But many of the people looking to Warren, as they did to Obama before her, are expecting material things — like readable credit-card pitches or safe bridges or jobs or a vote on a bill to create jobs — that are, at the moment, figments as imaginative as dragons and their slayers. And that’s dangerous, because when the person we decided was going to fix it all isn’t able to change much, it’s not just that we get blue but also that we give up. We mistake the errors of our own overblown estimations for broken promises. And instead of learning, reasonably, that one person can’t do everything, we persuade ourselves that no person can do anything.
The key is not just emotional investment in election-year saviors but also an engagement with policy. A commitment to organized expressions of political desire — like those that have been harnessed so effectively in recent years on the right — have been absent for far too long in Democratic politics. Now, with labor protests, campaigns to block voter suppression and personhood measures and the occupations of cities around the nation, there seem to be some small signs that liberals are remembering that politics requires more of them, that they need movements, not just messiahs. But their engagement must deepen, broaden and persist beyond last week’s elections and well beyond next year’s elections if there is any chance for politicians like Warren to succeed.
Because while she might provide her supporters and her constituents a voice that, if properly tuned, will rattle doors that are now gummed shut, what Elizabeth Warren cannot do is fix this mess herself.