The Outsider, or the Great Pretender?

So Elizabeth Warren thinks she’s an outsider?

Let’s see, she’s a Harvard Law professor and U.S. Senator, a multi-millionaire and owner of a house reportedly worth $5 million.

How much of an outsider does that make you?

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206 thoughts on “The Outsider, or the Great Pretender?

  1. being a “maverick” is this sort of weird thing that’s a plus when you’re one of the two teams in the stanley black and decker memorial throne of blood tournament, but is also used an example of why third party contenders are also totally crazy.

    homeopathic maverickness?

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  2. She grew up working class (her dad was a janitor). She went to GWU for undergrad and left after two years to marry her high school sweetheart and later graduated from the University of Houston. She went to Rutgers Law School as a mother and also worked from home instead for a fancy firm even though she summered at the old school white-shoe firm of Cadwalder, Wickersham, and Taft.

    I’d say these are rather uncommon biographical and educational credentials. Hypothetically say she runs for President and wins the nomination and the election. She will be the first President since Reagan to not have an Ivy League degree. She might also be the first candidate since then not to have an Ivy League degree.

    She is an outsider against the DLC neo-liberal norm and does represent what Paul Wellstone called the “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.”*

    *This line is at least as old as the Kennedy administration. He used to like to tell crowds that it was great to talk to real Democrats instead of Washington Democrats.

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    • If you asked a sample of random people on the street “Is Rutgers in the Ivy League?” I’d bet that a greater-than-chance amount would guess wrong.

      If you asked a sample of random people on the street “Is someone who is worth, say, five million dollars, more of an outsider if she made that money herself than if she had inherited it?” they’re almost all going to say that the difference between making and inheriting that much money creates so large a difference between that person and themselves that they don’t care about splitting hairs concerning her “outsider” status — she’s “inside” a club of which they’ll never even get to see past the door. If other people in that club are a little bit snobby to her, well, it’s kind of hard to be sympathetic.

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      • I think there is a big difference between Elizabeth Warren and Bush II with his aw-shucks stick.

        Who would be a real outsider candidate (without making this partisan and a culture war fight)? How much are we going to call someone a pretender if we disagree on their politics. This very, very small sample poll does show people are intrigued by Warren and find her likeable:

        “But one politician escaped the voters’ ire: Elizabeth Warren. Six of the 12 said they would like to have Warren over to their house to talk, more than any other possible 2016 presidential contender they were asked about. They said she was “down to earth” and “knowledgeable.” When asked a separate question about which politician they would like to have live next door, they picked Warren over every other contender as well. Jenny Howard, an accountant with student-loan debt who voted for Romney in 2012 and Sen. John McCain in 2008, also liked Warren: “If she ran, she could be the next president because she is personable and knowledgeable and has a good handle on what’s going on in the country.”

        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/01/elizabeth_warren_does_well_in_peter_hart_focus_group_voters_not_excited.html

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      • What’s Bush got to do with it, ?

        Of the list of people, in either party, being discussed as Presidential contenders, I count exactly zero folks I would consider “outsiders.”

        If you’re a sitting United States Senator, you are, by definition, not an outsider.

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      • Oh, I take it back. Ben Carson. He might be an “outsider.” In that no “insider” takes him even remotely seriously. I tremble to the core of my being at the chain of events that would both lead to and follow from that previous sentence being rendered untrue.

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      • But how many will claim to be outsiders?

        Santorum, Cruz, Paul, Huckabee, Perry, and Romney for sure. Jeb and Hillary would have trouble, but even Jeb could say he’s coming to Washington to clean up the mess there.

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      • Doesn’t everyone since Bush the First run as an outsider? If there is someone else who’s run on the “I’ve done this job a lot already,” card since HWB, I’m not thinking of them.

        Most incumbents I see play some version of the outsider card — that’s usually why someone’s challenging them at all, in fact. Because they are an outsider who’s shaking up Washington and have the insiders running scared.

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      • Aherm- I think William & Mary has voted a few times about whether they should join the ivies or not. I think it’s considered a “public ivy” anyway. To be honest, I’m not sure the students particularly cared when I was there. It’s sort of a weird little nerd colony most of the time.

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      • To be a bit clearer, I think they were offered the option to join the Ivies and voted not to because it would affect their funding from the state and their tuition rates. At least, that’s what I heard when I was there. Might not be true.

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    • I also grew up working class (my mom worked the line at GE), went to a small conservative religious college, dropped out, worked as a bike messenger and cab driver, and then worked my way through a third-tier regional state college before getting my PhD at a not-top school, and now teach at a lower tier college, live in a working class neighborhood (my house is worth less than $90,000), and my view is farther outside the norm than hers. And I would feel embarrassed calling myself an outsider.

      Tell me again why I should accept that a multi-millionaire with a vastly higher prestige job and a house worth more than 50 times mine is an outsider?

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      • Not BSDI — Everyone Does It. It’s like claiming to represent real Americans, not the special interests. Or being a strong leader who’ll create a solid economy that provides good jobs for working families without raising taxes on the middle class.

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      • It is, but it stands in contrast, in an ironic way, to the storyline that we’re actually supposed to see her as an outsider. After all, if Bush tells us he’s an outsider, we just chuckle at the silliness; we know it’s not really meant to be taken seriously. But Warren is the anti-Hillary, she’s the great attacker of unfettered capitalism, she’s the great white hope of the left-of-center wing of the Democrats, so I think we’re actually supposed to believe it when she says it.

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      • After all, if Bush tells us he’s an outsider, we just chuckle at the silliness; we know it’s not really meant to be taken seriously.

        I think it’s meant to be taken seriously by the target audience, which neither of us was part of. But I could be wrong. I don’t know many people who were, and the pundits who repeated it were just cheerleading.

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  3. She is an outsider in the sense that a little over half the Democratic Party power structure is against her (and of course, 100% of the Republican Party structure)

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    • I can buy that, if she annoys the hell out of the opposition, and irks a good chunk of her allies, she is potentially a political outsider.

      But wouldn’t that definition have also fit Scott Brown?

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      • I suspect that, at least on this dimension, most of the Senate could reasonably call themselves outsiders, because we’re talking about a really narrow inside: those whom the party movers and shakers would prefer to support for a particular office or offices adjacent to it (the vice presidency, major cabinet positions, say). It’s both a very small group and a very narrow sense of “outsider,” but it makes sense, and it does carry some valuable information I suppose. That is, there are reasons why a few people are favorites of the parties’ power dealers, so that if candidates emerge who aren’t among those favorites, you have a pretty good idea about some of the things that they aren’t, even if you don’t know what they are.

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      • Thing is, and perhaps someone else has brought this up, I have a hard time believing she actually annoys the bulk of her party in any real way. It’s incredibly useful for a party to have firebrands like Warren to get certain voters, who might otherwise be apathetic toward party leadership, to the polls.

        Her “outsiderness” may very well be a useful party construct.

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      • mrs,
        +1, She’s not the Lawn Gnome from Cleveland, who was fond of grandstanding and being Holier than Thou (and actually needing herding from Pelosi and suchnot).

        She’s certainly not Wall Street’s favorite cookie

        ** my household correspondence with her has not affected me in any material way. It has probably benefited others though.

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      • She made a lot of money as a practicing attorney, too.

        But none of this means that she’s an insider; it depends on which particular clique you’re looking at. Having wealth is not necessarily a proxy for being an economic-power insider; and most people who have some wealth are not privy to the particular cliques of power she claims to be outside.

        So you’re right on the one hand, she’s definitely within the clique of the 1%; but I’d say she’s a thorn in the side of the people who are used to wielding economic clout and making the calls about how markets should run and how the rules should work.

        I’m quite proud of her; and most of the optics that she get’s criticized for are typically about how she says things; takes some practice to master those political skills. I’s say she’s a quick study.

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      • Yes, she did make money doing real law. I didn’t mean to deny her that, and as I said, I think she’s earned her money and I don’t begrudge her it.

        That said, I have to reiterate what I said to clawback below. I just have a really hard time imagining a lot of folks on this blog parsing the in-groups and out-groups with such careful precision if this was a wealthy conservative who’d said they were an outsider. And while I think I could essentially force folks here to say it right now, on this thread, because the paradox would be so evident if they didn’t, I think that within a few weeks that would change.

        And I think if this was a predominantly conservative blog, the dynamic would be the same, just with the names changed.

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      • to me, it sounds like you’re veering awfully close to a notion that the only people who can be ‘outsiders’ are those without any means; you’ve chosen to hang the distinction on economic access. This is a very narrow set of optics.

        With Warren, we’re specifically discussing insider/outsider status when it comes to the regulatory power of the state over financial institutions. You may not like her liberal proposals, but to suggest that she’s an ‘insider’ is nuts; it’s suggesting she was welcomed to the table, when the opposite is true; the insiders did their level best to keep her out of the room because she was a serious threat to long-term profits. We’ve discussed that threat here many times, in one form or another; that CFPB regulations would stagnate credit for lower-income earners, banking deserts, paypal lenders.

        But I think you need to be really careful in thinking that wealth and success are a proxy for access to power. They certainly make access easier; but that access is not automatic, and the differences between a Jamie Dimon’s wealth and Warren’s wealth is probably is a magnitude greater than the difference between Warren’s wealth and yours. She’s closer to you; and that’s the real thing about wealth inequality that most people simply don’t get. The bottom half of the top 1% is closer to the bottom quintile then than they are to the top .01% by huge margins, and it’s that top .01% that have the money to buy insider status just because they want to.

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      • t sounds like you’re veering awfully close to a notion that the only people who can be ‘outsiders’ are those without any means;

        There is such a vast gulf between “those without any means” and “multimillionaire Harvard Law Prof/U.S. Senator.” It’s far bigger than the gulf between “multimillionaire Harvard Law Prof/US Senator” and “Jamie Dimon rich and influential.”

        You may not like her liberal proposals,

        Which, of course, has nothing to do with my point.

        but to suggest that she’s an ‘insider’ is nuts; it’s suggesting she was welcomed to the table, when the opposite is true;

        Nonsense. It’s to suggest that she damn well has made it to the table, welcome or not. If you’re sitting at the table you’re an insider, even if you’re not getting your way there.

        But I think you need to be really careful in thinking that wealth and success are a proxy for access to power.

        Now I know I’ve stepped into bizzaro world, because that’s exactly the line pushed by the left on a regular basis.

        She’s closer to you; and that’s the real thing about wealth inequality that most people simply don’t get.

        In absolute wealth, yes. In access to power? Don’t make me laugh.

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      • I am not the one who wrote a post suggesting that some amount of success equates to insider status; I’m arguing that insider status is generally granted by other insiders, and that Warren was not welcomed inside, she fought her way inside against a whole lot of money and effort to keep her out.

        So does anyone who wins a sit at the table, despite attempts to slam the door on them, equal insider status? What particular group are you thinking of that equals the insiders? You mentioned Santorum down thread; is he an insider? I wouldn’t say so, I’d say he’s much like Warren; where as GWB was, despite his claims to the contrary, very much an insider, able to pull on the threads of his father’s power base, from fundraising to political messaging.

        The real point here is that if you’re going to measure insider/outsider status, be clear about who’s granting that status and into which particular group.

        I could run for board of selectmen in my town, and if I won, I’d be very much the outsider; I stepped on too many toes as a reporter, and I would not be welcomed; so I’d say getting a seat at the table against the wishes of those used to deciding who to invite is pretty much the epitome of a successful outsider campaign; and you’re suggesting that that victory by an outsider automatically turns them into an insider. You may be right there, but only if the power structure transitions so much that the outsider’s champions now control the folks who have access. When it comes to financial protections for people without wealth, I have not seen a lot of evidence that this is the case.

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      • The bottom half of the top 1% is closer to the bottom quintile then than they are to the top .01% by huge margins, and it’s that top .01% that have the money to buy insider status just because they want to.

        The bottom half of the top 1% is closer to the rest in plain dollar terms, yes, but money has a declining marginal utility. There are only so many mansions that you can live in or cars that you can drive. Once you get above a certain point in wealth, it’s mostly about competing for positional goods.

        Dimon certainly gains his insider access both from his wealth and his position as CEO of JPMorgan Chase, so he is much more of an insider than the average merely wealthy 1% lawyer, but Warren is not the average merely wealthy lawyer. She’s a policy insider and now a U.S. Senator. She was part of a bloc that effectively kept Obama from even nominating Larry Summers as Fed chair. How many outsiders can claim to have that sort of influence?

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      • declining marginal value matters when it comes to things like houses and cars and servants and all, but I’m not sure that tangible goods and access to power function the same way.

        A nearly bottomless supply of funds from bankers opposed to regulatory reform means Scalia’s progeny can keep Dodd-Frank tied up in litigation over making sure every cost-benefit analysis for every comment on rule-making is done before the rule can be implemented to the point of never implementing rules for the law that insider-bankers don’t like.

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      • some amount of success equates to insider status;

        I’ll just note that “some amount of success” really downplays Warren’s accomplishments.

        I’m arguing that insider status is generally granted by other insiders, and that Warren was not welcomed inside, she fought her way inside against a whole lot of money and effort to keep her out.

        She won a Senate election. Everyone who’s won a Senate election has fought against a lot of money and effort to keep them out. She was not welcomed inside by some, but as a frosh Senator she was given a seat on the Banking Committee. By your standards, anyone who’s not welcomed with open arms by everyone is an outsider.

        So does anyone who wins a sit at the table, despite attempts to slam the door on them, equal insider status?

        “Equal”? That’s adding another standard, and I won’t bother with that. But if you are at the table, you are an insider. Particularly if you have influence, and for god’s sake, anyone who’s denying Warren has some influence is a liar. The standard cannot be “does everyone stop and listen to her and agree with her and nobody tries to push a different agenda than her.” This is politics, and someone is always trying to slam the door on someone else and block their agenda.

        What particular group are you thinking of that equals the insiders?

        Senators, for one.

        The real point here is that if you’re going to measure insider/outsider status, be clear about who’s granting that status and into which particular group.

        Voters granted her that status into the Senate. Harvard Law School granted her that status into the coterie of influential academics that politically influential people listen to.

        I could run for board of selectmen in my town, and if I won, I’d be very much the outsider; I stepped on too many toes as a reporter, and I would not be welcomed;

        So they wouldn’t put you on an important committee that you really wanted to be on? Then you’d differ from Warren in a very important way, eh? The Chairman of the Board, or the local elected executive wouldn’t consider appointing you to an important position? Then you’d be different from Warren in an important way, eh?

        you’re suggesting that that victory by an outsider automatically turns them into an insider.

        I’m arguing that a multimillionaire Harvard Law prof is not really an outsider, no matter that some group of insiders doesn’t like them.

        I’m arguing that you’re working overtime to pretend that a multimillionaire, highly respected scholar at one of the nation’s top two or three law schools, presidential nominee (even if ultimately blocked), who ran unopposed for her party’s nomination, raised the most money of any Senate candidate in the election cycle, defeated an incumbent with nearly 54% of the vote, and got appointed to an important committee directly within her area of specialty can in any plausible way be called an “outsider.” She is, and has been, deep within the circle of influential people.

        Just saying, “all those other people didn’t like her” isn’t even close to sufficient for making her an outsider.

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      • A nearly bottomless supply of funds from bankers opposed to regulatory reform means Scalia’s progeny can keep Dodd-Frank tied up in litigation over making sure every cost-benefit analysis for every comment on rule-making is done before the rule can be implemented to the point of never implementing rules for the law that insider-bankers don’t like.

        How is anything in that paragraph relevant to this conversation?

        Warren is as much an insider in the world of financial regulation as anybody can claim to be. That is not a bad thing, but it is a true thing.

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      • Warren, as an outsider, one insider status through the democratic process; she was not an insider before; she was excluded from the Dimon’s speed-dial (more likely, his lobbyists’ speed-dial) requests for certain considerations when it comes to how banking ought to be regulated, and that is the clique we’re discussing when we talk of Warren calling herself an outsider. She has every right to describe herself this way, it’s a legitimate claim based on the very, very public record of recent financial, political, and economic history.

        When she won that senate seat and the senate gave her that seat on the Banking Committee, she did so as an outsider, representing the interests of people who were not being represented in the discussions. Large share holders and traders were well represented at the table, the dude with $10,000 of credit-card debt, behind on his mortgage, and 2 years without a job? Not so much. Populist is a better term for her; but your diatribe here is petty.

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      • the marginal utility in money when it comes to power, access, and the ability to influence is at the point where further gumming of the works of public process, further money spent on distracting the public from that process, doesn’t gain any additional room to influence the process; the people who wield that power — the ability to gum up the works to their own end — are, I would say, the insiders. Politicians are often representing their interests, no?

        Now, today, yes, Warren is on the ‘inside,’ she had grudgingly earned that place on the infamous speed dial list. But she earned it as an outsider, and has every right to make that claim.

        I’m saying this based what I assume would be her definition of an outsider. And would point out that to even be able to make that claim the way she does — I am an outsider to the process, now working for the little man in the process — has the built-in assumption that now, today, she’s on the inside, but there still for the people who elected her, and not the financiers who wanted the Senate to make the CPFB disappear. That’s the inside/outside we’re talking about, and she’s outside.

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      • “Jami Dimon’s speed dial”

        If we can draw the circle small enough, then we can define anyone we want as an outsider.

        To steal and paraphrase from what j-r quoted below:

        1995: Advised the National Bankruptcy Review Commission and helped draft the commission’s report.

        2006-2010: Member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion.

        Member of the National Bankruptcy Conference, an independent organization that advises the U.S. Congress on bankruptcy law.

        2008: Appointed by United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to chair–not just be on, but chair–the five-member Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the implementation of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act.

        2010: Named by the President as Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to set up the new agency.

        But there’s a handful of people who didn’t like her, symbolized by Jami Dimon’s speed-dial list, and she wasn’t one of them. So despite working with the National Bankruptcy Congress, the FDIC, a congressional oversight panel on economic stabilization, and the Treasury, she’s an outsider.

        That doesn’t pass the smell test. If you’re tasked to work with multiple executive branch agencies, Congress, and a major influential NGO, you’re an insider. Period. It doesn’t matter what your political views are, and it doesn’t matter what your issue is. If major players keep coming to you to put you on their various teams, you are an insider.

        It’s all their in her resume, zic. Warren’s far more accomplished than you are actually giving her credit for, and her resume is the resume of an insider.

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      • James,
        I think you’re right. She is an insider, but that doesn’t mean what people think it means.
        For one thing, plenty of outsiders get blackmailed too.

        Also, I’d run Scaife as a conservative outsider. Curious to hear what you’d think of that, actually.

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      • I got that, even if no one else did.

        There’s this weird controversy about whether she used the fact of being Native American (1/32, which is good enough for the Cherokees, but not for some other nations) to get filing fees waived. I’m not sure if it’s true, and I’m not sure if it bothers me or not if it is true. Probably not, although it’s one of those things that can end up coming back to bite you because of the, as the word du jour has it, optics.

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      • IIRC and I don’t plan on googling because I am totally lazy, when the controversy started there was some question as to whether or not she was NA at all (she said there had been family stories of it), though (again IIRC) some historian later turned up evidence to support at least the possibility of the claim, at 1/32 (don’t recall if it was conclusive or if they just said, yeah, that’s possible).

        I don’t recall the filing fees thing, but I thought that Harvard had listed her as a “minority” faculty member, to beef up their “diversity” appearances (she claimed this was done without her knowledge or consent).

        None of which stopped me from making the same cheap and easy joke as the very first comment. Low-hanging fruit is the sweetest, you know?

        And on that note:

        Bill Clinton also claimed to be Native American

        He was just trying to explain why he was always carrying a tipi everywhere. HEY-O

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      • Apparently, so have HRC, GWB, and Obama, although perhaps none of these can be documented.

        And perhaps I shouldn’t have brought it up. I don’t mean to highlight the controversy (if it even actually qualifies as a controversy, rather than a red meat attack by a handful of folks throwing the kitchen sink at her) as something I’m critical about. I was just riffing of Jaybird’s joke.

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      • James, I don’t think you were the one to bring it up. But even if you did, I don’t think it’s a trivial problem only brought up to discredit her.

        In general, I find such claims highly problematic. In general, these aren’t people just casually mentioning their heritage without intending for implications to be drawn.

        Note this:

        Like many dubious narratives of whites passing for Native, Warren’s story takes many twists and turns, some of which receive a gloss in her new memoir, A Fighting Chance. In the book, Warren weaves her “Native American heritage” (specific references to the Cherokee have now disappeared) into a narrative of working-class struggle, with her “mamaw and papaw” handing down stories and recipes from their days in Indian Territory.

        There is very much a pattern of people claiming to be a part of Native American suffering, which they are, but it’s often on the other end. In Warren’s case, she has a no known relatives on the Cherokee registry, but she does have a known relative who boasted of killing a Cherokee. Such a person using the history of Native Americans to supplement their hard-luck story is highly problematic, and it stands on its own and not as part of any kitchen-sink attack. That other people have done something similar is sad and means that she isn’t unique, but it doesn’t mean it’s OK.

        (Regarding the linked piece, I’d recommend everyone read the whole thing.)

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      • I don’t know about elsewhere, but just about everyone where I’m from used to claim to have Cherokee or Muscogee (though they’d say “Creek”) blood, usually via a great grandmother or someone even more distant who was “full-blooded.” I think it’s part of the poor white mythos there, but it is incredibly shallow, and produces no real sympathy for the plight of actual Native Americans, historically or currently. This is a place where Jackson was, at least back when, still treated as a national and local hero by the very same 1/32nd or 1/64thers.

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      • Jay,
        Sure. i know a guy who got a scholarship based on being Native American (in PA — we don’t have any tribes left). He… was really, really uncomfortable with it (and hadn’t applied for it).

        Chris,
        Half of those people actually had African American ancestry, filtered through the “more acceptable” native american. People do blood tests on this, and then there’s occasional blood fights.

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  4. Hard to tell from the very poorly written article. The author completely removes the quote from its context, so we don’t know in what sense Warren claimed to be an outsider. I see no reason to assume she was making a claim concerning socioeconomic status, though. Judging from the subject of the article one would have to guess she meant she is outside the cozy relationship between government and Wall Street.

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    • I see no reason to assume she was making a claim concerning socioeconomic status, though.

      A careful distinction I’m sure you’d apply to all multimillioniare senators.

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      • I hope so. Luckily, though, it doesn’t take much effort to assume a quote from an article about finance industry regulation is about finance industry regulation rather than about how much money the speaker has.

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      • And, again, I’m sure we’d all be just as fair in making such careful distinctions about politicians on the other side of the aisle, because we all, here at the OT as elsewhere, have such a sterling track record of being as fair to the other side’s pols as we are to our own.

        That is to say, I’d be a lot more inclined to accept what you say if you were actually defending a conservative that way. It’s not that I think you’re lying. I just think that we all find it easy to deceive ourselves about such things.

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      • It’s cute how you’ve managed to make this about me. I remind you that it wasn’t I who assumed a quote from an article about finance industry policy is somehow about the speaker’s wealth. I only pointed out your assumption.

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      • No, actually we don’t. I made no assumptions about the meaning of the quote. I only pointed out your assumption, along with the clearly qualified (and realistic) “guess” that the quote concerned the subject of the article. This is quite different from posting a piece with the unexamined assumption that the quote was about something entirely removed from the article’s subject.

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  5. OOC, for everyone here saying Warren’s not an insider because of money, socio-economic status, etc.:

    Was Mitt Romney an outsider?

    Serious question, since I’m guessing most people who say Warren is would argue Romney isn’t, and I’m curious as to what it is that makes someone an outsider.

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  6. I hate to say it, but I kind of see where she’s coming from. Relative to Hillary Clinton, she’s an outsider.

    On an absolute basis, she’s clearly an insider. I don’t know that she’d admit that, but if she’s being honest, she should.

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    • On an absolute basis, she’s clearly an insider. I don’t know that she’d admit that, but if she’s being honest, she should.

      You can’t go absolute basis on this, you have to go relative to her peers (which is everyone that could plausibly get a nomination for president). It’s like saying, “Ryan Lindley is a terrible quarterback.” On an absolute basis, that is false, he’s better than 99.999% people at being a quarterback. However, in the universe of NFL quarterbacks, he’s a terrible quarterback.

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      • I had been thinking of making an NFL player analogy too! Yours is better than what I was thinking of though.

        But even if we look at the constellation of people who might run for president, she might be on the insider side of the spectrum. There are at least a few governors who could run who have never held either never held a federal office, or if they did it was a while ago. That seems more outsider-like than a sitting US senator.

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  7. What I find interesting about the discussion around Warren in most places is that she’s heralded (or excoriated) as a fire-breathing lefty, where as far as I can tell she’s largely a centrist Democrat who is mostly notable for wanting to make free-market systems work better for the country’s citizenry as opposed to the vampire squid that is the financial industry. That this brands her as a radical says a lot more about the country’s political/media establishment than it does about her.

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    • I think you’re right about this. Warren’s vision–whether or not she’s right or wrong–is about putting some fine-tuned controls on the market (in which her own money is invested), not about destroying it.

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  8. Anybody remember the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Dodd-Frank in the wake of worst financial collapse since the Great Depression?

    Here’s wikipedia’s history section for you:

    History[edit]
    In July 2010, Congress passed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, during the 111th United States Congress in response to the Late-2000s recession and financial crisis.[3] The agency was originally proposed in 2007 by Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren.[9] The proposed CFPB was actively supported by Americans for Financial Reform, a newly created umbrella organization of some 250 consumer, labor, civil rights and other activist organizations.[10] On September 17, 2010, Obama announced the appointment of Warren as Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to set up the new agency.[11][12] The CFPB formally began operation on July 21, 2011, shortly after Obama announced that Warren would be passed over as Director in favor of Richard Cordray,[13] who prior to the nomination had been hired as chief of enforcement for the agency.[14]

    Dispute over director[edit]

    President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Richard Cordray as the first director of the CFPB on July 18, 2011
    Elizabeth Warren, who proposed and established the CFPB, was removed from consideration for nomination as the bureau’s first formal director after Obama administration officials became convinced Warren “could not overcome strong Republican opposition”.[15] On July 17, Obama nominated former Ohio Attorney General and Ohio State Treasurer Richard Cordray to be the CFPB first formal director.[16] However, his nomination was immediately in jeopardy due to 44 Senate Republicans vowing to derail any nominee in order to encourage a decentralized structure to the organization. Senate Republicans had also shown a pattern of refusing to consider regulatory agency nominees, purportedly as a method of budget cutting.[17] Due to the way the legislation creating the bureau was written, until the first Director was in place, the agency was not able to write new rules or supervise financial institutions other than banks.[5]

    On July 21, Senator Richard Shelby wrote an op?ed for the Wall Street Journal affirming continued opposition to a centralized structure, noting that both the Securities Exchange Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation had executive boards and that the CFPB should be no different. He noted lessons learned from experiences with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as support for his argument.[18] Politico interpreted Shelby’s statements as saying that Cordray’s nomination was “dead on arrival”.[19] Republican threats of a filibuster in the Senate to block the nomination in December 2011 led to Senate inaction.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Financial_Protection_Bureau#History

    Now where does this put Warren on the insider/outsider spectrum? Like I said to Hanley, it really, really depends on the clique you’re looking at; that’s what insider/outsider suggests; groupings of people. And here, we’re talking people with regulatory power granted by the government; and someone forced outside that process. So she ran for office, and she won. But don’t tell me that she’s not an outsider because she’s a successful person; she’s an outsider because she was actively excluded by a minority of powerful old men in the Senate who had a tremendous amount of support from the banks and credit-card companies she’d be regulating.

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  9. One can be an outsider in what is considered an in group. Miss Warren might be the only senator who Jamie Dimon doesn’t have on speed dial listed under the heading “people I call when I need my ass kissed.”

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  10. The quote is very worthy of criticism until she explains exactly what she means, which I don’t expect her to do.

    I would guess what she means is that she considers herself an outsider to what she sees as an axis of power between the highest tiers of the finance industry (Wall Street for short) and the major mover-shaker nodes of economic policymaking in Washington (Secretary of the Treasury & his inner circle of advisors; WH Council of Economic Advisors; Fed Chair, her advisors & top Board Governors, etc.).

    If that’s what she means, she may be wrong about the existence of that axis, but I don’t think she’s wrong to say she’s an outsider to those individual power centers. It’s certainly a very particular definition of ‘insider,’ though, no doubt.

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    • How is she an outsider to the inner-circle of economic policy-making? She is the intellectual godmother of the CPFB and was the president’s first choice to head it. The fact that there was too much opposition from Republicans does not make her an outsider.

      She also now sits on the Senate Banking Committee and seems to be able to exercise a certain amount of pull in blocking administration appointments that she deems to close to the center and right on economic issues.

      Why don’t we just call Warren what she is? A populist. And I use the term in the most neutral way possible.

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      • I think her quote kind of goes to this issue. I think what she’s getting at is that she has gained access in those centers by pushing her way into them with an agenda that most f the established players fought tooth and nail. I think her account would be that the president’s inner advisors had little interest in her CFPB, but that through fighting for it from the outside she got them to embrace it, but that ultimately. But I suppose if you want to insist that success with a regulatory body that the financial industry didn’t want to see established and that it took work to get on the government’s agenda counts as proof that the person who headed that effort was always an insider in those circles, or is an insider as a result of that success, I can’t instruct you not to see it that way.

        If you run for Congress “against Wall Street” on a platform that makes you an outsider to them and much of the economic (especially financial) policy making establishment – fighting the power of the “big banks,” and win, I don;t think it then makes you an insider if you gain seats on committees with jurisdiction over those reform areas.

        The logic of your resistance here would be that anyone who is an outsider and runs to try to reform certain aspects of the establshment by gaining power in them and changing them, to whatever extent he succeeds, is then no longer an outsider. It’s certainly possible for someone to immediately become co-opted and become an insider, but I don’t think that jut by gaining these footholds within the establishment it automatically makes you an insider. It depends on what you do.

        I think Warren with this claim is implicitly acknowledging that it would be possible for her to become a co-opted insider, and saying that because she’ll always *see herself* as an outsider, she’ll never be co-opted into insiderdom (by her reckoning). I see it more as a promise to supporters than a self-description.

        I did say that I thought she was more or less an outsider to the power centers I described, and maybe those power centers were even not exclusive enough for it to quite be the case. Regardless, my main intent was not to defend the claim but to give an account of what I think she might understand it to mean.

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      • counts as proof that the person who headed that effort was always an insider

        “Was always”? Nice try, Drew, but why don’t you leave the goalposts at “is now,” instead of trying to move them to a position nobody’s tried claiming?

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      • …though I did leave room for clarification that it’s not about what she’s always been (“always” as a stand in for “for much of her career, well before getting elected and creating the CFPB” – obviously I didn’t think anyone thinks she was born an insider – unless they do!?), but just about where her current position puts her:

        […]or is an insider as a result of that success[…]

        And the bulk of my comment dealt with the issue of where her current positions and accomplishments leave her with regard to this claim.

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      • …Also, more broadly I want to reiterate that I share the view that on a straightforward reading of the term the claim seems like a stretch, and I’m among those who would like to hear exactly what she means by it in her case, and why it’s true.

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      • Eh, now that we’ve talked about it and I know that it doesn’t mean anything, no biggie.

        It’s just something in how it sounded to me growing up that I don’t like – a personal disinterest or lack of regard for the person. Like, maybe some latent contempt coming through, or something.

        But now I have assurances that that’s not the case, and so I feel assured that it isn’t.

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  11. First, I agree with the OP: Warren seems to be for most purposes an insider.

    Second, I agree with those above who say that she is more of an outsider than Hillary is.

    Third, I agree with James that this type of discussion often tracks with our own partisan or tribal instincts. For example, I’m inclined to see Nixon in 1968 as something of an outsider–and he probably saw himself that way–even though on most accounts I have to admit he was an insider: e.g., his personal wealth and his positions as a 2-term VP and congressperson. (I don’t identify as Republican, and I think he was megalomaniac and bad for the country. But I tend to have a personal sympathy for the guy, which is why I’m willing to entertain the falsehood that he was an “outsider” where I’m less willing to entertain a similar claim from Warren, even if her claim is more valid.)

    Fourth, perhaps the better question is not “is she an outsider?” but “in what ways is she an outsider and in what ways is she an insider?” perhaps followed by “in what ways does the answer really matter?”

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  12. Let’s see, she’s a Harvard Law professor and U.S. Senator, a multi-millionaire and owner of a house reportedly worth $5 million.

    …why on earth would the fact that she’s a Senator matter to her ‘outsider’ status? That is literally making the claim there is no such thing as ‘outsider’ in politics, because, as soon as you’re elected, you’re not one.

    As for ‘Harvard Law professor ‘…are there any *other* Harvard Law professors in Congress? I’m not aware of any, and a quick search didn’t turn up any. More than half of Congress appears to be ‘businesspeople’ and lawyers. (And she is, indeed, a lawyer, which might be a reasonable point…but it’s not the one made here.)

    As for multi-millionaire…there’s a difference between ‘outsider’ and ‘not-wealthy’. Those words are not the same thing. Noam Chomsky is a millionaire, does that make him a political insider? Bill Gates is a billionaire, does that make him a political insider? And, again, this would seemingly require *no one* in national politics to be an insider, because essentially everyone elected at the national level is a millionaire.

    If the theory here is that ‘no one taken seriously in politics or has been elected is an outsider’, well, whatever. I prefer to define words so they are actually *usable*, so that claims seems rather dumb to me, but whatever.

    In my definition, ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ are relative to other people, and it’s often pretty easy to answer that question…for example, what was Warren doing a decade ago, compared to Hillary? Generally, the ‘insider v.s outsider’ question is really ‘how involved in politics has this person been before this point, and how well connected do they seem to be?’. It is often subjective, (How do you compare Gingrich to Romney, for example?), but it’s not the strange ‘no one elected in politics can ever be called an political outsider!’ position that James appears to have decided on.

    Meanwhile…

    This *specific* example is rather stupid to talk about: All we have a reply to a question that we don’t actually know. A question that could have, very easily, been about how she feels about taking on big finance, how she feels in a room full of banking people that used to be bank regulators and bank regulators that used to be banking people. Where she, quite obviously, *is* an outsider. We have no evidence she meant ‘political outsider’ instead of ‘finance outsider’.

    Hell, for all we know, she was talking about how she feels in her family life, because she’s the lone person who doesn’t care about football. (Not that the WP would have printed such a misleading thing, but that interpretation also fits her words.) It is *really* idiotic to try to make hay to a response to a *question we don’t know*.

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    • A question that could have, very easily, been about how she feels about taking on big finance, how she feels in a room full of banking people that used to be bank regulators and bank regulators that used to be banking people. Where she, quite obviously, *is* an outsider. We have no evidence she meant ‘political outsider’ instead of ‘finance outsider’.

      I’m just going to leave this here:

      In 1995, Warren was asked to advise the National Bankruptcy Review Commission.[27] She helped to draft the commission’s report and worked for several years to oppose legislation intended to severely restrict the right of consumers to file for bankruptcy. Warren and others opposing the legislation were not successful; in 2005 Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.[28]

      From November 2006 to November 2010, Warren was a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion.[29] She is a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference, an independent organization that advises the U.S. Congress on bankruptcy law… On November 14, 2008, Warren was appointed by United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to chair the five-member Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the implementation of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act… Obama in July 2010. In September 2010, President Obama named Warren Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to set up the new agency…

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      • I think that someone who has been, for decades, arguing something the finance industry *does not want*, probably has a pretty good reason to feel like an outsider when put in a room with the finance industry and the regulators and other lawmakers that do whatever the finance industry says. Um, duh?

        ‘You, a high-school nerd, feel like an outsider when put in a room full of jocks and cheerleaders? Why? Don’t you *go to school* with them? How much of an outsider can you really be?’

        ‘You, a cop, feel like an outsider when you go undercover in a room full of criminals? Don’t criminal and cops interact *all the time*? How much of an outsider can you really be?’

        Sheesh, this conversation is stupid.

        For some reason it’s desperately important for James, and now apparently jr, to make the term outsider have *no meaning at all*.

        Please, enlighten us. Who *exactly* should be feeling like an outsider in Washington?

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      • Sheesh, this conversation is stupid.

        For some reason it’s desperately important for James, and now apparently jr, to make the term outsider have *no meaning at all*.

        No meaning? Nice try.

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      • Good lord, I didn’t even know about all that. But somehow because some folks didn’t welcome her with open arms and because her proposals have faced some opposition, she’s an outsider.

        By the standards I’m seeing proposed here, Mitch McConnell is an outsider.

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      • I noticed that neither of the people who replied *answered my question*.

        Who *exactly* should be feeling like an outsider in Washington?

        Is your answer ‘nobody, because everyone in politics is an insider’? If so, congrats, you’ve managed to define the word ‘outsider’ out of existence. (And we’ll all feel free to speculate why apologists for the banking industry think it’s important to try to paint Warren as an insider. It’s probably some sort of wacky coincidence…perhaps James and jr hate the comic book ‘The Outsiders’?)

        Is your answer ‘Outsider is a purely subjective term’? If so, you’re going to have to deal with the fact that plenty of people have give fairly consistent definition of the term, and are at least somewhat able to consistently rate people.

        Or do you have some actual names of Washington outsiders that are involved with politics?

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      • Is your answer ‘nobody, because everyone in politics is an insider’? If so, congrats, you’ve managed to define the word ‘outsider’ out of existence.

        This is the opposite of true.

        (And we’ll all feel free to speculate why apologists for the banking industry think it’s important to try to paint Warren as an insider. It’s probably some sort of wacky coincidence…perhaps James and jr hate the comic book ‘The Outsiders’?)

        And you are trying way too hard, right now.

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      • James,

        By the standards I’m seeing proposed here, Mitch McConnell is an outsider.

        I’m with David on this. Seems to me that by the standards you’re proposing not only is everyone in politics an insider, but anyone who owns an expensive home – or even a $90,000 one – is an insider.

        So either the term cannot be applied to anyone who is even remotely involved in politics, or the term is context dependent. Either way, it seems to me this post and thread is about an academic point regarding semantics and not relevant to politics in anyway.

        Except if it isn’t.

        I was actually gonna concede (what I took to be your intended point) earlier by saying that the strenuousity of objections demonstrated the partisan nature of how we interpret these words. But then I saw both you and j r engaging in the exact same degree of strenuousity in justifying your own views. Which I think are about a preferred semantics more than anything else.

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      • So either the term cannot be applied to anyone who is even remotely involved in politics, or the term is context dependent. Either way, it seems to me this post and thread is about an academic point regarding semantics and not relevant to politics in anyway.

        I’m suspect that’s what James was trying to say all along, it will turn out. That’s why I keep trying to get him to list someone involved in politics who *is* an outsider…because at some point, he’s going to say there is no such person, or only someone like Carson counts, and then we can actually move on from that. (Or he’ll list someone,at which point we might have a better idea of why he excluded Warren besides her being a Senator and wealthy.)

        Of course, if I’m right, this eventual revelation will make it *very mysterious* that this started with a post about Warren, and how *she*, specifically, wasn’t an outsider. And the example had to use a rather context-less quote about it to make it work.

        You’d think James could find a better example of silliness there, like when Newt Gingrich, of all people, called himself a political outsider. (Or the times various people have referred to Hillary Clinton that way, although I think she’s been smart enough to not do it herself.)

        Or, indeed, you’d think he could have said in the post ‘Hey, I don’t think anyone who’s been elected to national office counts as an outsider. No, not even Warren. {insert existing post here}’.

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      • Stillwater,
        Have you heard of the fallacy of the excluded middle? Because you’re doing it here, and I’m not.

        DavidTC,
        I’m not answering your questions because every prior discussion with you has a pointless exercise in trying to talk sense to someone who has none.

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      • OK, so not and are in one of those meta-conversations where they try to deconstruct the conversation instead of dealing with the facts.

        Here is a simple statement: If you have worked at the highest levels of financial regulation for 20 or so years, you are no longer an outsider in the field of financial regulation.

        That’s it. Really not much else to consider.

        Warren’s statement of herself as an outsider may have had some meaning 20 years ago, but she has long since worked her way from the outside to the inside. If we are to take from her that she still views herself as an outsider as a form of grounding or motivation, that’s fine. But that’s a bit like a fat C-suite business executive who talks about how he likes to stay lean and hungry to keep his competitive edge. We are not supposed to be taking those kinds of statements particularly seriously.

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      • Stillwater, let me try to clarify a bit.

        First, I have no clue as to what you mean by merely semantic, nothing to do with politics. When talking about public figures I don’t think the two are divisible. But if by nothing to do with politics you mean I’m not attacking Warren for her views, that is correct.

        Now let’s imagine a guy, let’s say he’s a preacher, middle class, and he’s not really been involved in politics. Then he runs for state legislature and serves two terms, then he decides to run for The House on a God, guns and zygotes platform and wins, after facing a tough primary fight against a party establishment incumbent. He’s an outsider. Maybe he becomes an insider, but he doesn’t walk into DC as an insider. This guy is real–he’s my congressman.

        Importantly, he doesn’t even compare to someone who’s a millionaire, who’s made a name for herself as an important voice on an important issue, who has the ear of the President and the Senate president.

        So despite the over-the-top and under-supported extrapolations of my argument being proffered by some folks here, there is a big middle ground between a Warren and someone who’s not in gov’t at all. And I’m astonished–maybe by now I shouldn’t be, but I am truly astonished–that folks are completely overlooking that middle.

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      • j r,

        You’ve not been understanding what I’m saying if you think I take this seriously. My first comment was that the whole post and subsequent discussion is ridiculous since it doesn’t matter what definition we prefer to view this stuff thru. (Screen shot below! I’ll let you look for it on you own!!!) I just found ya’lls insistence that other people were wrong really interesting, as if the context of a claim is completely irrelevant. As far as I know, no one has argued that merely being a Senator invalidates the claim of being an outsider other than you and James, which just amounts to stipulation regarding preferred semantics. As said before.

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      • If you have worked at the highest levels of financial regulation for 20 or so years, you are no longer an outsider in the field of financial regulation.

        Warren has worked at the ‘highest level of financial regulation’ for approximately _4 years_. (Or, at least, a *high* level.)

        Serving on an advisory commission 20 years ago whose recommendation was ignored is not ‘the highest level of financial regulation’.

        Neither is being on the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion. (That’s not *any* level of financial regulation, considering that they don’t even appear to make regulation recommendations, just general policy ideas.)

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      • James,

        About the folks overlooking the middle I can’t comment, but in my own case I will say that just as I can be inside my bedroom and outside the bathroom, so can a politician be inside politics and outside a certain type of politics. Hence my question below regarding a libertarian candidate who was elected to the Senate.

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      • You guys really want to double down on being wrong. , you keep talking about her being a senator, which isn’t even the thing that makes her an insider. And , you say things like this:

        Serving on an advisory commission 20 years ago whose recommendation was ignored is not ‘the highest level of financial regulation’.

        Neither is being on the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion.

        Here is a link to a listing of the members of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion: https://www.fdic.gov/about/comein/

        And here are the first two members on that list:

        Robert A. Annibale is the Global Director of Citi Microfinance and Community Development He leads Citi’s commercial relationships with microfinance institutions, networks and investors working across businesses and geographies to expand access to financial services in underserved communities. He also manages Citi’s partnerships with global, national and local organizations to support community development programs focused on responsible finance through financial capability and asset building; neighborhood preservation and revitalization; access to college education; and small business and microenterprise development. Since joining Citi in 1982, Bob has held a number of senior treasury, risk and corporate positions in Athens, Bahrain, Kenya, London and New York.

        Michael S. Barr is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and at the Brookings Institution. He served from 2009-2010 as the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions. Barr was a key architect of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and played a central role in the Administration’s housing finance policies. At Michigan, Barr teaches financial institutions and international financial regulation, among other courses.

        What a plucky group of outsiders, huh? They’re just like that team of misfits in the summer camp movie that you’re rooting will beat the rich kids across the lake.

        Also, you don’t have to just throw out your unsupported opinions. It took me five minutes to find that information.

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      • no one has argued that merely being a Senator invalidates the claim of being an outsider other than you and James

        Except I never said that, did I?

        I threw out a number of factors that I think make her an insider, J-R added a bunch of other factors that are far more insider-ish than the ones I listed, and then you come along and claim that we’re saying that one single factor, in isolation, is _the_ determining factor?

        Really? That’s how you want to approach this?

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      • Well, here’s the text in the OP:

        a Harvard Law professor and U.S. Senator, a multi-millionaire and owner of a house reportedly worth $5 million.

        How much of an outsider does that make you?

        Each of these conditions isn’t individually sufficient for insiderness the way you phrased it, but collectively they are. (I guess?) So maybe I shouldn’t have carved out the other three. Nevertheless, I still think the topic resolves to applying a preferred definition of “outsider” (or “insider” for that matter) to Warren’s comments, a topic I don’t really have any opinions about other than those I’ve already expressed.

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      • So you don’t actually have an opinion on the issue, but you’re going to jump in and make misrepresentations and commit logical fallacies anyway? Must be a slow night in Colorado.

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      • What a plucky group of outsiders, huh? They’re just like that team of misfits in the summer camp movie that you’re rooting will beat the rich kids across the lake.

        Yes, because what I clearly said was ‘Serving on the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion makes you an outsider’. Oh, wait. I didn’t say that *at all*. Just because something that *doesn’t* make someone an insider doesn’t mean it *does* makes them an outsider.

        Me: Ordering a pizza does not make Warren an insider.
        You: All Presidents in the past forty years have ordered pizza, what a plucky group of outsiders.

        Serving on random pointless advisory committees is something *everyone* in politics does. It does not make them an outsider, and it does not *automatically* make them an insider. (I’d be willing to hear an argument that a *specific* advisory committee could, but the advisory committee would have to be a pretty powerful one. Something that advised the president, for example.)

        On top of that, you have apparently forgotten your claim wasn’t just that Warren was an insider, but that she worked at the ‘highest level of financial regulation’ for 20 years. Which is sheer nonsense. An advisory committee, is not the highest level of regulation. (It’s the *lowest* level of regulation, if that.)

        And this is spectacularly silly in the case of ComE-IN. While you were at the ComE-IN’s web page, did you happen to *look at their results*? They’re a twice or thrice a year group that meet for four hours worth of *panel discussions*. That’s it. That’s all they do. There is exactly one committee report, five pages long.

        It’s akin to calling someone an industry insider because they were on a panel discussion at Comic-Con. (And then pointing out they sat next to the head of Sony Pictures.) Well, sure, I guess they *could* be an insider. Or not. Being on a panel doesn’t really prove anything.

        The National Bankruptcy Review Commission, OTOH, was an *actual* commission, and did make legal recommendations.

        But I must point out a fact that Wikipedia seems unaware of, now that I’ve done some research into the NBRC: *Warren was not a member of the commission*, she was merely the drafter of their recommendations. And a ‘senior adviser’, whatever that means.

        Likewise, I feel I must point out that the entire commission was lawyers and judges, not the financial industry. (Granted, this makes her a *legal insider*, but I think we all assumed that to start with, teaching at a law school and all.)

        And, of course, while slightly higher than ComE-IN, also not anywhere near the ‘highest level of financial regulation’.

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      • I was in danger of becoming frustrated with this conversation, but now I’m in a totally different place. If Elizabeth Warren doesn’t count as an insider in the world of economic policy and financial regulation, then the term insider has no meaning. That’s really the long and the short of it.

        I am, however, not just purely in awe at the lengths at which you can go to rationalize the plainly obvious. I am downright impressed.

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    • Have you heard of the fallacy of the excluded middle? Because you’re doing it here, and I’m not.

      It doesn’t apply here, because the middle would be inside.

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  13. The question is always “outside of what,” and zic at http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2015/01/19/the-outsider-or-the-great-pretender#comment-980067 is closer to the truth as relates to usage in American politics, as not referring to wealth especially on the level of Warren’s wealth, at all. She certainly wrote nothing to deserve the Professor’s derisive tone. “Outsider” in American national politics has at least since Goldwater, probably since Andrew Jackson, possibly since George Washington, has always meant “outside” the governing establishment at the time. It is always a contestable definition, and everyone’s an insider compared to me, and, by the Professor’s definition, we’d have to go looking for authentic outsiders on Skid Row, or perhaps in some other species or amongst the choir invisible. Socrates 2016! – though come to think of it I still have a Roger Rabbit for President T-Shirt somewhere, never worn, maybe his time has come. Truly an outsider. This side of Toontown, no one or hardly anyone who is successful enough to be considered a credible candidate for the House, much less for the Presidency, is going to be an “outsider” vis-a-vis the American political-economic system as a whole. Generally, the fact you’ve heard of the candidate means that he or she possesses some form of “access,” and that, if she ever was an outsider economically, is not one any longer.

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    • ““Outsider” in American national politics … has always meant “outside” the governing establishment at the time. ”
      I wonder how long it’s been since this has actually been true. I think over the course of my lifetime, at least, when someone has been described as an “outsider” in election-speak has simply meant “someone just like you,” where “you” is a kind of universal subset of anyone hearing the message at that time.

      I don’t even think most people who use the word for their own candidates actually believe that about them anymore. I think it’s like saying that they are people of character, or that they “stand for freedom,” or “going to clean up Washington.” I think saying “So-and-so is an outsider” has just become a shorthand way of saying, “this guy’s on my team.”

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      • I think this is more how you heard it than what it’s meant.

        That’s because there really isn’t any definite meaning for the term. People use it and mean different things by it at different times. The only thing really to be concerned with is what a person meant by it when they said it; the only way to assess “truth” in such cams is to first know that.

        The truth and meaning of Warren’s “I am an outsider” depends almost entirely on what Warren’s meaning there is. That’s the question to at least first) ask about her statement. (My view is that it is much more a statement of self-conceptopn than it is trying to be a statement of objective self-description. And those are two very different meanings.)

        Addressing whether it’s true before doing that is basically impossible. There’s practically no objective meaning of the term in the broad political context that we can rely on.

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    • Interesting that when I wrote that comment, , I was thinking very much about how you stressed the importance of defining what you meant when you said, “free speech.”

      It’s very easy to bandy about a term that means whatever it the listener wants it to mean, my favorite amorphous term over the last decade or so has been ‘sustainable.’ But insider/outsider get there pretty easily, too.

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  14. I think there’s a parallel to the Tea Party v. Establishment framing that you so often see on the other side of the aisle. In a literal sense, this never means anything, because there is no coherent establishment in the Republican Party that is distinct from the Tea Party. Instead, the Tea Party is one faction within the establishment. But if it were simply a statement with no meaning, politicians wouldn’t say it. What it means is that the speaker is identifying with one faction within the party while also asserting that the faction is weaker than opposing factions and that those opposing factions are responsible for outcomes that the speaker and voters don’t like. Warren’s claim is very similar. Hanley hears a claim that just not true, while Democrats hear that she’s opposed to the Chuch Schumer types in the Democratic Party that have a disproportionate share of influence and are responsible for coddling of financial institutions and other monied interests.

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  15. I’ve never held that interpretation of the word, Tod. I’ve always understood the word to mean something like “outside the current political establishment where the mutually interconnected political hooks create dysfunction, ineffectualness and corruption,” or something along those lines.

    One of the problems in a discussion like this, it seems to me, is the temptation to interpret the word’s semantic content based on how a person thinks other people understand that it. Which is weird all on it’s own. On this very thread, we’ve had a whole slew of suggestions re: the semantics of the word “outsider”. Which is the right one? Does it really matter?

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    • “One of the problems in a discussion like this, it seems to me, is the temptation to interpret the word’s semantic content based on how a person thinks other people understand that it. Which is weird all on it’s own.”

      Huh. I had’t thought of it in that way. That’s a really good observation, Still.

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    • @stillwater: “outside the current political establishment where the mutually interconnected political hooks create dysfunction, ineffectualness and corruption”

      Yep – one way to define the American Idea, even, and for Fukuyama the central political problem of human societies. There’s also felt to be an inside that’s so deeply and purely inside it’s always outside, especially to insiders, and the identity of the person who will turn out to express it best at any given time may be somewhat unpredictable or mysterious. Whatever it is, it begins to disappear at the moment it produces success. Not all elections are “change” elections in which clear outsiderness conveys significant advantages, however. There are also “fear of change,” “stay the course,” “who cares?” and “hard to say” elections – which in some cases will be arguably as much a sign of political good health as of disease.

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  16. Let me rephrase this.

    I’m running for my local school board. It is my first political campaign. Although I vote regularly, and have actually sent letters to my representatives, I’ve never personally worked on a political campaign for any politician or ballot measure, although I supported my wife’s doing so in the past.

    I’ve been involved in the school district for six years as a parent and PTA member. My wife is former PTA president for our school site and is the current council PTA president for the district. I’ve contributed to the local nonprofit that helps provide grant funding to the school system. I’m on my school’s site council (current chairman) and have been for three years. I’m on the district advisory council (current vice chairman) and have been for three years. I’m part of the district LCAP workgroup.

    Since I have announced my campaign, I’ve been invited to speak to the teacher’s union, the local realtor’s trade association, a progressive political group, another local political action group of Democrats, and the teamsters. The teacher’s union liked my answers, and offered their endorsement of the campaign. The rest are still voting. Some local politicians have met with me and offered assistance or endorsements based upon what I’ve told them.

    I’m a middle class white guy, in a district that is around 80% free-and-reduced lunch kids, majority-minority, African-American or Hispanic.

    Am I an “insider” or an “outsider”? If I’m an “outsider”, how much more “inside” do I need to go before I become an “insider”? If I’m an “insider”, what is it, exactly, that I’m “inside”?

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    • I’ve been involved in the school district for six years as a …PTA member. My wife is former PTA president for our school site and is the current council PTA president for the district. I’ve contributed to the local nonprofit that helps provide grant funding to the school system. I’m on my school’s site council (current chairman) and have been for three years. I’m on the district advisory council (current vice chairman) and have been for three years. I’m part of the district LCAP workgroup.

      You’re an insider of the school district. You are inside the group of people who can exercise some influence on what happens within the school district.

      Notice I excised “as a parent.” I don’t think being active “as a parent” necessarily constitutes insiderness. I.e., going to parent-teacher conferences regularly, volunteering on field-trips, contributing boxes of tissues and crayons, and so on, does not necessarily enhance one’s potential to have some influence in decisions; i.e., to be able to speak to people who have some decision-making authority and be heard by them. The rest does, especially collectively.

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      • The rest does, especially collectively.

        So I’m an insider into the district. But as someone running for the Board, could I say legitimately that as a non-politician, I’m an outsider to that body, itself?

        You see the distinction. Saying “I’m an outsider” typically is shorthand for “I am about to bring a new perspective to the political body that I’m trying to join/affect/whatevs”

        I think the perspective part is important. I mean, I’d call some members of congress outsiders even though they’re elected persons, they’re probably from privileged backgrounds, they obviously are politically savvy enough to get elected in the first place (which puts them squarely in the set of “insiders” when it comes to politicians, certainly).

        I would call Warren – for good and for ill – an outsider to the general party mechanism vis-a-vis the Democrats. That doesn’t make her not a Democrat, and it doesn’t make her not-many-other-things-that-Democrats-are, but she seems pretty clearly to reject the neoliberal branch of the Democrats, which demonstrably hold the upper hand in the central party structure.

        By my estimation, anyway.

        That makes her one kind of outsider.

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      • Patrick,

        Don’t forget she ran unopposed for the Dem primary. That’s not someone who’s really on the outs with her party’s leadership, unless the state of Massachusetts as a whole is.

        As for your position, as I said above, if we draw the line narrowly enough, we can define anyone as an outsider. Once you’ve been on the School Board for years, but never as the Chair, you can call yourself an outsider to the School Board’s leadership, too.

        But at a certain point, it just doesn’t wash that you really represent outsiderness in any meaningful way.

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      • …Which is fine, but I don’t think it goes to what Warren means with her claim. She didn’t say that she’ll always truly represent outsiderness in a meaningful way. She said, “I’ll always be an outsider. That’s how I understand the world. There’s a real benefit to being clear about this. I know why I’m here. I think about this every morning before I open my eyes, and I’m still thinking about it every night when I go to sleep.”

        To me, it’s clear she’s describing her own self-conception, and how that guides her action. I think if there was a way to formally disprove that she’s an outsider – that her self-conception that way was 100% factually baseless, the point of her statement about herself, and what she wants it to mean to supporters, would in her mind stand. I don’t think she really means it to be about whether she’s in fact an outsider, but about what the fact that she chooses to see herself that way means for her political mission, and why real outsiders should be interested in it. IN any case, to understand what she means there, whether assessing her outsider claim as self-description or as self-conception and expression of intentions, we would need more explanation from her.

        In that sense, I’m sympathetic to ‘s point about Nixon, even though I initially thought it was ridiculous to see a former VP as an outsider. (And I still do.) But it doesn’t really matter whether these figures “are” outsiders – that’s impossible to establish anyway. What matters is why the conceive themselves that way, and what it communicates about their political intentions (which may itself be bull, but in any case that’s the point).

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  17. James,

    If a true-blue, honest-to-God Real Libertarian (one who you yourownself agreed was the Real Deal) was elected to the Senate and said “I’m an outsider!”, is there a semantic interpretation of that word in which what that person said was correct?

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    • Hey, everyone, watch this question closely.

      James listed what makes Warren not an insider, and a Libertarian elected to the Senate would already meet one of those requirements, of being elected to the Senate (Duh), and probably meet another requirement, because while it is possible to be a Senator and not a millionaire, it’s probably not possible to be a newly-elected third-party Senator and not a millionaire.

      We don’t know if this Libertarian would be a Harvard law professor, or what aspect makes that ‘insidery’…is it the Harvard part? The law professor part? The lawyer part?

      But, anyway, we’re already starting at two out of three.

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      • See my thoughts on Sanders below. In brief, he’s not now (no ranking member on a major committee can reasonably be called an outsider), but he used to be. Time will make insiders of nearly anyone.

        Honestly, I’m not sure on Paul. He’s an outlier, but is he really an outsider? I’m dubious, but would be open to argument.

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    • Stillwater,

      Isn’t it awesome how DavidTC jumped in before I had a chance to answer and poisoned the well?

      But let me try to answer, and let’s see if you and I can manage to have a conversation around his idiotic bleatings.

      I could ask you to tell me more about this hypothetical guy, but instead, let me spin a couple hypotheticals.

      1. This libertarian is one of the Koch brothers. Not an outsider, no way, no how. Let’s say they ran as a capital-L Libertarian so they had no actual party in the Senate to belong to. I’d still say not an outsider, because they obviously have access and influence.

      2. In a state with plurality elections to the Senate, the Dem and Repub candidates so offend people–or have scandals–that they get only 32% each of the vote, and a LP candidate gets 34% (2% goes Natural Law, because why not). That winner is a local high school science teacher who never held office before. Outsider? Yes.

      Between those two carefully chosen to sharply contrast examples? Maybe yes, maybe no, depending on the details. But if the libertarian was a Stanford Law prof recognized as an expert in their field, and appointed to a number of important agency task-forces? No, not an outsider, even though being a libertarian would to some degree automatically put them near the outside, as it would for any 3rd party candidate.

      Bernie Sanders was mentioned somewhere. I wouldn’t consider him an outsider now (although he’s not a millionaire), because he’s the ranking Dem, I think, on the budget committee, a very inside position. But when he began in Congress, and for some time afterward? Yes, I’d say so.

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      • Bernie Sanders is not really a Democrat, though. This would ordinarily be a pedantic nitpick that should just pass, but it has direct bearing on the overall conversation. Especially with Sanders generating buzz about a Presidential bid for himself.

        Getting to the House of Representatives without a formal party appellation was no mean feat and the very definition of outsider moxie. Keeping that seat demonstrated he had established his own power base independent (natch) of the existing two party system (which at the time of Sanders’ first couple terms, was very competitive). Though once he got there and gave the Dems everything they wanted except for gun control, there was no ideological reason for them to oppose him.

        His Senate run was much more ‘insidery’. (per wikipedia). Leading figures in the Democratic party publicly declared “you da man” to Sanders’ Senate candidacy, clearing the field of Democrats and making a fairly standard (but expensive) one on one race between him and the Republican candidate.

        So, for the entirety of his Congressional career, he’s been able to be ‘outside’ and be the self declared socialist, but has never had to pay a political price, as the rest of the Democratic party is fine with him being DABNa-bit (Democratic in All but Name). That should and will change if Sanders will seriously challenge anyone in the zero sum game of the Democratic Party Presidential Nomination game. But he won’t seriously challenge anyone, and his outsider cred will remain unblemished.

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      • Kolohe,

        I argue that being granted ranking member status on a significant committee blows his outsider status. The Dems aren’t just letting him tag along anymore. They’re letting him lead.

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      • I’m arguing his outsider status was de facto shed some years before, sometime between the moment where his congressional reelections became inevitable and the moment of his (2006) Senatorial candidacy, which he won in a relative cakewalk. But because he’s not officially a Democrat, he’s able to ‘keep it real’ after a fashion. But he’s only able to that because there’s no downside for him to do it, based on the election dynamics of his state and he otherwise serves the national Democratic party interests.

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  18. The brightest spot of Clinton’s 2008 campaign was when she embraced her insider status to parry some cheap polemic about lobbyists from one of her opponents.

    For some reason, this reminds me of the ‘wimp factor’ malarkey thrown at a man who survived being shot down by AA fire in World War 2, and among other things, had headed the CIA at one point.

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  19. Since the people that are Sen Warren’s biggest boosters also believe that consumate insiders FDR & LBJ are the greatest presidents in US history, maybe being an outsider ain’t all its cracked up to be?

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    • The comment on FDR/LBJ helps make the political point clear. In the analysis of many of Warren’s boosters, especially the ones from further left than she probably is, the location of the “inside” has changed significantly from LBJ’s days, and in a different way from FDR’s, when it was possible for an old-money WASP to get elected and re-elected Prez while welcoming the contempt of members of his own class and wearing it as a badge of honor, as he said. He was an insider and an outsider at the same time. Call it Warrenism: The central and defining problem for American politics at this time is the politics-high finance “nexus” – not a mere matter of a nice house and a mere $5MM fortune. It would be the only “inside” that really matters, though it will be thought biconditional with much else characterizing the Washington Consensus. She may have been involved in regulatory matters for 20 years, and arguably at a high level, and she herself may be in the 1%, but all of that is secondary to her position outside the operation of the nexus as her followers understand it, and to her opposition to entrenched financial power.

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      • I would argue that he was an insider who just said things that other insiders didn’t like insiders saying.

        In the view of Warren’s supporters, insiders have managed to purge such heretics, and now what insider FDR used to say it’s fairly clearly an outsider point of view for just about anyone to take, though not exclusively. But the “not exclusively” doesn’t really matter, because just because FDR once said something than an outsider is now saying, doesn’t mean that that outsider is really an insider.

        On LBJ, I’m just not sure Kolohe is right that Warren’s boosters think that about him. They’re big supporters of some of what he did, but how that affects whether Warren is an insider or an outsider isn’t immediately clear to me. It’s entirely possible that now in their view only outsiders tend to be supportive enough of the goals of the things that LBJ did that they liked. But even if that weren’t true, it’s still not clear to me why that would mean that Warren is not an outsider.

        I do think that Kolohe is right about being an outsider ain’t all its cracked up to be (I’d phrase it so that and wonder if his meaning isn’t more that being an insider isn’t necessarily as bad as it’s cracked up to be). I tend to think that populists apply to much of a “what are your connections/what’s on your resume” test to people who could be valuable insider voices for them. But I think the popular sentiment runs counter to that, I think Warren tends to share it, and I think she’s attending to that sentiment among supporters with her assertion of an outsider self-conception.

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      • that is correct, being an insider is highly underrated. The nature of the Presidenc – really, the nature of power – is normally not served well by someone who has not been inside The System sufficiently to grasp the leverage points, nuances, and pitfalls.

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      • Good, right. But let’s be careful. I agree, more or less (to the extent you’re at least trying to take the perspective of populists). We agree. But we’re us (not the populists), and they’re them (the actual populists). (Obviously I think I probably want more of the things that populists want than you do, but by no means do I consider myself one of them). Things look different when you’re someone else, somewhere else, wanting other things, though.

        I’m not prepared to assert populists are clearly mistaken in general to value outsider status as much as they do (though I probably think they are). I do think they overlook advantages that sympathetic insiders (insiders by their own lights) can bring them, though. But I think there are good reasons that things look different to them than they do to me (us).

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      • The nature of the Presidenc – really, the nature of power – is normally not served well by someone who has not been inside The System sufficiently to grasp the leverage points, nuances, and pitfalls.

        Amen, brother. From your mouth to the public’s ears.

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      • there’s a strong empirical case that the guys that are considered ‘great’ Presidents are precisely that because they were able to fuse populist support with establishment know-how. Those missing either part of that toolkit either fell short, or more often than not, never got to the White House to begin with. Lincoln, again, is the exception to that rule, but contra Yoda, it’s war that made him great. A Lincoln that would have merely had to manage an embryonic empire and the mid-stage transition from agrarianism to industrial capitalism – the job of the rest of the 19th century successors – is, of course, an untestable hypothesis, but I don’t doubt it would have been a completely different dynamic.

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      • This just goes to the indeterminacy of the term.

        I think a lot of populists would say that if people of those means at that time didn’t go into politics, that nevertheless didn’t make them outsiders. They were still inside the power structures they’re concerned with. Perhaps people of TR’s ilk didn’t go into politics because it wasn’t inside enough given where they started out. To me, regardless of what TR said when he got there, he isn’t remotely a candidate for outsider status. He was deep inside a power structure that was probably more powerful at that time.

        As says, a lot of hinges on what you care about someone being inside or outside of. There are a lot of power structures; people care about them in different ways.

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      • I think you get me here, but, since an earlier comment seemed unclear on that, I’ll just note that I don’t disagree about FDR or LBJ being “insiders” – or uninterested in portraying themselves as outsiders – in their day. Yet – as with TR, too, or with Obama – that positioning can change with events, including with the success or failure of one’s own initiatives.

        I argued that in the view of Warrenists the “inside” that it matters most to oppose, today, is the one “within,” not merely near to, the finance-politics nexus, though obviously not all Warrenists will use the same terminology, adopt the same program, voice the same opinions, and so on. In general, however, they are not extremists and radicals, but reformist in temperament and inclination even if open to perspectives that others (on the right) will view and portray as radical and extreme, disqualifying even to treat as arguable. The Warrenists to the extent they follow Warren’s example seem to believe that the system can still be induced to cure itself, with the right combination of legislation, jurisprudence, and civic mobilization. In that sense, of course they want to get “inside,” or move the center to a different spot, one that someone could be proud of occupying. They closer they get to any kind of success, the less “outside” they will be, but the less the new inside will resemble the old.

        The self-financing candidate – a Perot, for example – can sometimes manage a somewhat parallel positioning, since being a billionaire from Texas, whether or not you made your fortune with the help of a major government contract, makes you, in theory and by appearances, independent, which is almost a synonym for “outside” in this framework. I don’t think it’s obviously wrong to say that John McCain and his 2008 running mate also achieved outsider-independent positioning – almost as much a function of temperament as anything else – both then and at other times, even if in other respects one or both of them were as inside as conceivable. They don’t want to be absolutely independent and outside – they as much want to establish a different better set of dependencies.

        Since drawing upon independent and even adversarial forces, specifically by co-opting independent adversaries, is part of the system’s design, it will then of course be argued that such adversaries were never truly independent, or have become part of the problem, or are and always were pretenders or hypocrites. The Professor’s criticism is exactly as old as political ideas. For some, any form of success must effectively constitute proof of inauthenticity, or of having sold out, a common problem in many realms of political, cultural, and personal life, of no wholly good life in a bad world, also pointing to the theoretical instability of the liberal/libertarian concept that I mentioned briefly above.

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      • No, I agree he’s an outsider. Though maybe he’s the ultimate insider because everyone else went outside upon his election.

        Lincoln and Polk were the only two ‘outsiders’ who had transformatively effective presidencies. Maybe TR, depending on how much of an outsider one may consider him – and how effective he really was, as most of the new ideas of his presidency didn’t take permanent root until the Wilson or FDR administrations. And maybe also Reagan, though he’s now the model for the outsider who ascension to power was built on redefining who and what was ‘inside’ and ‘outside’

        (and this shouldn’t be read to diminish Ike, who was an outsider and had an effective presidency, but not a transformative one)

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      • That’s the point, TR is on the bubble, an edge case – plus, his career arc illustrates the tension of ‘insider’ v ‘outsider’ that makes the Warrenverse want to claim and maintain the mantle of outsider.

        If Ken Burns is to be believed, going into politics wasn’t something people of Teddy’s station did at the time, and then when he was there, he blazed his own trail, being both outside the contemporary national Republican ideological mainstream and the Democratic machine that ran New York City. The conventional wisdom has always been that Vice President Hobart’s death gave the the GOP party bosses the opportunity to put TR in the pitcher of warm spit slot on the 1900 ticket to get him out of everyone’s hair. if Leon Czolgosz hadn’t wanted to impress Jodie Foster, Roosevelt may very well have wound up a footnote to history next to Henry Wallace and George Clinton.

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  20. I don’t get where this whole “outsider” bit comes from.
    Well, actually I do, but think its stupid.
    In what other field of endeavor is inexperience considered an asset?

    “I have no financial experience, and can’t even balance a checkbook. therefore, I am the perfect outsider to be the CEO of Citibank! I will apply my down home common sense and clean up those career bureaucrats on Wall Street!”

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  21. I’d define political outsider fairly empirically.
    Who do the Powers That Be not bother to blackmail?

    There, that’s a simple, straightforward, even binary answer.

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