To hear Scott Brown tell it, Elizabeth Warren is a “radical,” and possesses a “‘radical, Occupy Wall Street’ mentality.” Why, to hear him tell it, you’d almost expect her to show up at the debates with a bullhorn, wearing tattered blue jeans and a “We Are The 99%” T-shirt, with maybe a flower or two in her hair for good measure.
However, that seems unlikely. Because Warren’s views are not “radical.” In fact, they are perfectly sensible – is it really so crazy to expect credit card companies and mortgage lenders to be truthful? Or for the wealthiest Americans to return to the tax rates they paid during the Clinton years – a position Americans think would help rather than hurt the economy by a 2-1 margin?
Of course not. And so by trying to paint Warren as a “radical,” Brown is walking into a trap. He is, in effect, arguing to the people of Massachusetts that they may think he’s a bit too conservative, but Warren is WAAAAAYYYY too liberal, so they should stick with him. That’s a mistake, because once uncommitted voters see that Warren is not, in fact, the “radical” that Brown describes, they will not only be willing to listen to her ideas, but they will realize that Brown has been saying something that is not true. That can only help Warren, and hurt Brown, because it makes him look like he thinks he can’t win in a straight-up contest of ideas.
I’ve argued previously that Warren cannot win by demonizing Brown. But I suspect the converse is true as well: Brown cannot win by demonizing (or “radicalizing”) Warren. Both candidates should be concentrating on the merits of why they would be a better Senator than the other one. In that argument, voting records are absolutely fair game (no, Scott, it is not a “negative attack” to talk about your Senate votes), but name-calling is a mistake.