Monday, August 20, 2012

Brown versus Warren: A pre-Labor Day view

It is always dangerous to prognosticate election results before Labor Day, but I am going to offer an opinion based on observation of one set of clues only:  The design of lawn signs.

Look at these two.  First, the incumbent's, Scott Brown:

Next, the challenger's, Elizabeth Warren:

Those of you not from Massachusetts may have been led to believe that this is a liberal state.  Not so.  While it is often portrayed as a highly Democratic state, look at this party enrollment:

The Republicans always come out and vote, the Democrats more sporadically.  So, the race is about getting the Democrats to vote and grabbing those unaffiliated voters.  Who are these people?  Well, in great measure, they are like most of the rest of the country, concerned about the same things.

But the dirty secret is that--like the rest of the county--they are less concerned about the issues than they are about the characteristics of the person running.  They want to trust and like their Senator.  And it is here that the Warren campaign has been faltering.  She/they seem to think that her substantive record and experience on issues will bring out the vote.  Her answers on policy issues are thoughtful and in full paragraphs, but they come across as dispassionate and intellectual.  They have failed, so far, to convey in a visceral way who she is and why we should like her.  Her lawn sign offers nothing to offset this.

What the Brown campaign understands is that this election is about personality.  "He's for us" on his lawn sign has double power.  "He cares about us" is part of it, but subliminally, "He's one of us" is the underlying message.  Scott always refers to Elizabeth as "Professor Warren."  He is appearing to be respectful, but he is really reminding the electorate that she is an untrustworthy Cambridge Harvard intellectual, while he is a normal person.

The lawn signs tell us all this.  Gee, I can even text Scott a message.  I bet he is likely to answer.

(Please note that this blog post is not about my personal vote or my preference in the race.  It is simply an analysis of what I see and hear.)


Anonymous said...

At least both of your candidates are reasonably intelligent, however likable. Consider Missouri in contrast, where one candidate says in 'legitimate' rape, the woman's body magically prevents pregnancy. Are there ANY qualifications for running for office?


Anonymous said...

And, while I'm in rant mode - we women are conditioned to emphasize our competence above all, since it is often called into question. I do not know either candidate, but I wonder if that is a factor here.


Stephen Owades said...

If you "text brown to 68398," you will certainly get a reply, since that message will subscribe you to his text-message news service. And, unless you have an unlimited text-messaging plan, you'll be paying to get campaign messages from him too. It's not exactly "warm and fuzzy" from my perspective.

Anonymous said...

As a male American Indian law grad -- I note that Ms. Warren forgot to add "Cherokee" on her sign.

That gave her an edge before, with Harvard and Penn - why not now?

How did Ms. Warren forget?

David Morf said...

Sad but true – process over content. Mr Brown likably delivers feel-good vibes to voters and market advantage to big business, while Ms Warren "just" delivers fair markets benefiting real people and heads-up employers alike. Bottom line, Mr Brown aids and abets money (i.e., doing this while saying that), and Ms Warren adds trust and value to markets (i.e., tells truth to power).

Anonymous said...

Native American
I want to comment that my being 1/32 Native American, Elizabeth Warren's comments about her Native American heritage fits EXACTLY with my experience.
I and my family are quite proud of this heritage. I have occasionally put down that I am Native American; my mother has done this far more frequently. Neither has done it in a way where we could claim benefits from this. We have done this in SUPPORT of the Native American presence in this country.

My Native American ancestors were forced from their New England homes by European settlers and sought refuge in Odanak, Quebec (aka St Francis reservation) which was run by French missionaries. These missionaries granted benefits to those who converted to Christianity. One benefit was that their name could be written. And only their French Christian name could be written. If they converted and accepted a Christian name, they could be married. Abenaki mating ceremonies and agreements did not count. They were considered to be "living in sin" no matter how long term or committed the couple was. Their children were considered to be illegitimate.

Therefore, when we did the genealogy thing, we could find only French names, then - nothing - for our family tree.

We could no more "prove" our Native American heritage than Elizabeth Warren could. But it is still family lore and we are proud of it.