We have a problem because some voters—and let me be perfectly honest... I’m talking about voters who look just like me—have not stood up beside Elizabeth Warren to support her. Listen to me closely. I’ve said before that there are dozens of good reasons to vote for Barack Obama and one bad reason not to—and that’s because he’s black. Now hear me about Elizabeth Warren. There may be dozens of reasons for us to vote for her, but it’s crazy not to vote for her because she’s a woman, or because she’s a college professor or for any other superficial reason. [...]Massachusetts is a state that has never elected a woman as senator or governor (Jane Swift served briefly as governor after Paul Cellucci resigned; she had been elected lieutenant governor), and misogyny and/or sexism has been an undercurrent in recent campaigns against women running for those offices. Certainly that was the case in Scott Brown's brief campaign against Martha Coakley, followed up by 2011 tweets by Brown staffers (under the Twitter handle @CrazyKhazei) saying of Warren that "If you squint, she looks like Martha Coakley" (because, you know, these women, they all look alike at that age), and linking a blog post describing her as a "frightened sparrow" and a "delicate woman." That Elizabeth Warren is a woman and Scott Brown is a manly man is also of course one implicit message of Brown's relentless emphasis on his sports fandom, as Trumka suggests.
Do we want a buddy who will pat us on the back? Who wears a Bruins jersey with the boys? Or a leader who will fight for our right to form unions and bargain for a better life?
In 2008, when Trumka urged union members to vote for Barack Obama, race was the issue. Now, when he says "some voters—and let me be perfectly honest... I’m talking about voters who look just like me—have not stood up beside Elizabeth Warren to support her," race may be an undertone given Brown's barrage of attacks on Warren's Cherokee heritage, but the main message is about men. And, let's be perfectly honest, not just any men: burly men with mustaches. Working-class men. The men Scott Brown has worked so hard to establish cultural currency with through his pickup truck and being a Red Sox fan and his constant invocations of his difficult early years.
Brown is doing everything he can to paint Warren as "not one of us" to those men, by attacking her ethnicity, the fact that she grew up in Oklahoma, by calling her "professor" to erase her own family's financial struggles and paint her as an entitled elite. And always, always, he's subtly playing up gender to his own advantage. The rules of the game, of course, make it difficult-to-impossible for Warren herself to call this out—Brown would just use that to portray her as a whining woman. So, as a union leader, a former coal miner, a hunter, a big burly dude with a mustache—by background just the kind of man Scott Brown is telling "I'm one of you; she's not"—Trumka is well positioned to push back, hard, on that.