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Sen. Harry Reid — who apparently still runs the U.S. Senate despite the GOP being the majority — killed the President’s plan for fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Leading up to the big vote, Obama traded barbs with free-trade opponent Elizabeth Warren, with the language growing increasingly personal.
In an April conference call, the President rebuffed Warren’s claim TPP was overly secretive. “The one that gets on my nerves the most is the notion that this is a secret deal,” Obama said. “Every single one of the critics saying this is a secret deal, or send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they’re working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement.”
Warren then claimed the bill might undermine the Dodd-Frank banking rules. “This is hardly a hypothetical possibility,” she said. “We are already deep into negotiations with the European Union on a trade agreement and big banks on both sides of the Atlantic are gearing up to use that agreement to water down financial regulations.”
A few days later, touring Nike’s headquarters, Obama mocked Warren’s statement: “She and I both taught law school, and you know, one of the things you do as a law professor is you spin out hypotheticals. And this is all hypothetical, speculative.”
Then it got personal. “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” he said. “And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”
Warren was having none of it: “The president said in his Nike speech that he’s confident that when people read the agreement for themselves, that they’ll see it’s a great deal. But the president won’t actually let people read the agreement for themselves. It’s classified.”
Now that the trade deal is dead, other Democrats are complaining about Obama’s treatment of Warren. Sen. Sherrod Brown implied that Obama’s criticism was not only wrong, but sexist:
“I think the president was disrespectful to her by the way he did that. I think that the president has made this more personal than he needed to. I know he disagrees… I think referring to her as first-name, when he might not have done that for a male senator, perhaps? I’ve said enough.”
I was unaware that the use of first names was a tell-tale sign of the patriarchy. But according to the Left’s rules, Obama is a sexist, Warren is a racist and white male Sherrod Brown is both.
The Ace of Spades blog notes that Obama’s personalized attacks are par for the course. The right has dealt with this for years, but Democrats are shocked to see it used against them:
[Leftists are] very good at insulting people. As David French has observed, and I will never get tired of quoting, the left — particularly the academic left, which Obama likes to think of himself a part of — does not argue, it simply assigns stigma. It smears. It insults.
The idea is not to win on the truth of an idea, in the classic manner of philosophy, but to prove one’s political power to arrange a majority of Hatred against one’s opponent.
Ideas are not proven to be true or false in this small-minded, vicious little system. Rather, the people advancing ideas are either demonstrated to be the victors — the ones who are more socially connected and better able to gin up majorities of hatred — or the Racists.
The left does not talk about ideas; they talk about people exclusively, and they are only capable of labeling their opponents ignorant or acting in bad faith (racism, political motives, etc.).
Democrats have so immersed themselves in the language of identity and grievance, their ability to discuss issues seems to have atrophied. Regardless of the subject, every debate quickly turns into a battle over the victimhood status of the debaters. Whether the topic is tax reform, ag subsidies, or filling potholes, allegations of white/male/cis privilege will come up in the first two minutes.
This damages politics and civic life, but I don’t see progressives ending this behavior any time soon. It’s too tied in to their worldview which organizes people by category instead of allowing them to flower as individuals.