If you were to read my Twitter feed you might get the impression that I am against Bernie Sanders for president. This is not the case. I was a firm supporter of him in 2016 and I still support him now. It is just that I support Warren more.
Part of this is simply that I think she is the right candidate for this time. And I have been a supporter of hers for many years. But the bigger issue is simply practical. For what I consider mostly ridiculous reasons, the establishment of the Democratic Party hates Sanders. And I am certain that if he were to become the nominee, they would indeed destroy the party in order to save it.
But I know the counter to this. Sanders supporters say that young people and other disaffected voters will come out in droves to support Sanders if he is the nominee. When has this ever worked? Remember in 2016, there were lots of people claiming they didn’t need to vote for Clinton because people would rise up against a Trump presidency. How’s that going?
I don’t doubt that if Sanders is the Democratic nominee, some people will vote who wouldn’t normally. I suspect that if he is on the ballot, the Peace and Freedom Party will see a lot fewer votes for president. But none of this is going to make up for the apathy — and worse — of the Democratic establishment.
But if Sanders gets the nomination or his campaign simply takes off, I will be a full-throated supporter. But there are a lot of Sanders supporters who make it hard to love his candidacy.
Warren the Neoliberal!
I constantly see people referring to Warren as a neoliberal. This is simply not true. And it has made me think there is more truth to Jonathan Chait’s claim that the term has no meaning. How is the candidate pushing a wealth tax and a breakup of large corporations a neoliberal?
In truth, on a policy basis, there is very little that differentiates Warren from Sanders. The more thoughtful Sanders supporters focus on his rhetoric. And I’ll admit that I too prefer his rhetoric.
However, it is something that inclines me against him. It annoys me to hear him refer to himself as a Democratic Socialist when he clearly is not. He, like Warren, is a Social Democrat. That is to say: they are both just traditional liberals.
My political opinions are a little complicated to boil down to a single word. However, the only word that even comes close is “socialist.” That is to say, I am an actual socialist. So I’m not keen on people taking the label when it doesn’t actually apply to them. And it annoys me even more when people slam Warren for saying she’s a capitalist to her bones when Sanders embodies that principle even as he claims to be a socialist.
Warren the Republican!
I’ve also seen a lot of criticisms of Warren for once being a Republican. This is very strange to me. What happened to loving the sinner reborn?
What’s more, look at the history of the candidates. Over the years, Warren has moved steadily to the left for concrete policy reasons. Sanders, on the other hand, has moved to the right in order to accumulate political power in the United States.
I am absolutely not criticizing Sanders for this. This is the nature of politics. But it definitely goes against the narrative that Sanders is somehow pure and Warren is just a capitalist apologist.
The Practical Side of a Sanders Presidency
What is it that people think is going to happen if Sanders becomes president? He will not have as much political power in the Democratic party as Warren will. Are we to believe that the people will rise up and demand that the Democrats get behind him? This is absurd — very much like the claim that the people would rise up against Trump. I have yet to hear a compelling case for how Sanders will accomplish his goals.
(Of particular concern is Sanders’ claim that he won’t get rid of the filibuster. All his supporters say in reference to this is that he’s lying for tactical reasons. I find this unlikely. Most people tell the truth while running for president.)
There is no mass movement behind Sanders. In fact, if you look at polling numbers, you will see that he is largely benefiting exactly the same way that Joe Biden is. He has name recognition and people remember him from the 2016 election. Yes, he has a hard-core base of support, but most of his support is soft and comes from low-information voters.
Sadly, what is most likely to happen if Sanders became president is it the Democratic Party would largely shut down his agenda. In the end, he would be seen as an inefficient president and it would be another blight on the term socialism.
Where Sanders Shines
There is one area where I much prefer Sanders to Warren. In terms of international affairs, Sanders would be notably better. Sadly most of the things that I would love in that case would be extremely unpopular among the American people. So it would represent at best a short reprieve from some of the worst excesses of American foreign policy.
I don’t mean for this to sound negative towards Sanders. As I said, I liked him very much. I will be proud to have him as my president. But I’m pretty tired of the pro-Sanders argument that there is some kind of categorical difference between Warren and Sanders when they’re absolutely is not.
Recently, Michael Brooks on The Majority Report dismissed Warren’s wealth tax by noting that Sanders version is better. Well, first I doubt Sanders would even have pitched a wealth tax if it hadn’t been for Warren. Also, Warren’s wealth tax is actually bigger than Sanders. But this is typical of a particular kind of Sanders supporter who just “knows” that Sanders is better than Warren without having any actual evidence. (Brooks has become absolutely hysterical in his hatred of Warren. It’s sad to see a smart guy lose it the way he has over the last couple of months.)
Sanders Needs to Up His Game
To some extent, I think the ridiculousness coming from some of Sanders’ most committed followers is due to the fact that his campaign is languishing. The threat of Warren has caused it to make some positive changes. But Sanders himself seems like he’s coasting
When you’re running for president, you really do need to excite people. And the truth is on the most important issues facing us, Warren is exciting people. Sanders is acting like he’s still running against one other candidate in 2016. Even worse: he’s acting like he’s the frontrunner.
Moving Forward Together
I’ll be happy if either Sanders or Warren gets the nomination. I have my preference (obviously), but that’s never made me attack the other.
My big concern these days is what happens if Warren takes off and Sanders crumbles. What is going to happen to the Sanders true believers? Is this going to be an even more absurd repeat of 2016 where they find every reason imaginable to explain why they “just can’t support Warren”? They certainly aren’t educating themselves about Warren except to cherry-pick anything they can find to claim that she is just a neoliberal they can dismiss. They just see her as “Not Bernie Sanders” and that means she’s bad.
I don’t understand any of it. A lot of Sanders supporters who acted as I did in 2016 are now acting like Jimmy Dore. And it’s even worse because these same people would be thrilled by Warren if Sanders weren’t running. To me, it’s simple: if you are excited about Bernie Sanders and you can’t get excited about Elizabeth Warren there’s something wrong with you. And it works the same way the other way around. It’s just that I haven’t see Warren supporters who spend much of their time complaining about Sanders (although I’m sure they’re out there).
Right now, Sanders’ campaign is in trouble. It’s been treading water for far too long. And this is the fault of Sanders. Warren’s rise has not been at the expense of Sanders. So if you really want Sanders to be president, work on rising him up, not tearing Warren down. The best that will come of that is President Joe Biden.
I just heard Michael Brooks claiming, based on a Sander-supporter caller who mentions that Warren being a woman makes him feel more comfortable voting for her, that the case Warren supporters are making for her is her gender. I’ve never heard that. It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with why I support her. And I suspect it isn’t a case people are making for Warren but just another strawman to go with his cherry-picked issues. The main takeaway, however, is that Brooks has nothing by derision for Warren. If she becomes the nominee, all we are going to hear from him is, “Well, she’s better than Trump I suppose.” I don’t think he’ll go full Jimmy Dore, but I can’t rule it out.