There are two things you have to understand about media coverage of Elizabeth Warren. First, her appeal in the Democratic primary race is highly concentrated among educated white progressives. And second, the mainstream media is disproportionately populated by … educated white progressives. This leads to a kind of default credulity in coverage of her statements and proposals. There’s a bit of “one of us” camaraderie that’s entirely natural and human, but good journalists recognize their biases and fight against them.
And that brings us to a fascinating phenomenon I’ve noticed in Warren coverage. Let’s call it the “Wait. What?” narrative. She releases a statement or proposal that purports to own her opposition or advance a progressive goal, she receives favorable initial coverage, and then good journalists take a closer look. That’s when it all falls apart.
The previous perfect example was the coverage of her big reveal of her Native American heritage. Remember that? She made a video. She released the results of DNA testing showing she had some small trace of Native American ancestry, and for about four hours the media responded as if she’d just destroyed Donald Trump. Then they took a closer look, realized that she was basically as white as your average Swede, and realized they’d been had. Ever since then, Warren has been in public apology mode.
History has just repeated itself, on a much more consequential stage. Warren has released her Medicare-for-All financing plan, she blasted out to all the world that she could remake American health care without raising taxes on the middle class, and smart people across the spectrum are responding with a resounding, “Wait. What?”