Sanders Supporters: Warren Is Not the Enemy

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders
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!

Elizabeth WarrenI’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

Bernie SandersThere 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 there 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. [This was written before Sanders came out with an actual wealth tax. -FM] 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 [Polls since this was written indicate that he is losing support to Warren -FM]. 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.

Update

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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

18 thoughts on “Sanders Supporters: Warren Is Not the Enemy

  1. What I’ve heard from good Democrats is exactly the opposite of Warren’s gender being a benefit; some consider it an obstacle. AKA, if Hillary Clinton, the noblest, best and most perfect candidate since God nominated Washington can’t defeat a stone idiot, it must be because Americans can’t possibly elect a woman as President. AKA, we have to support Joe Biden in the primaries, because the important thing is beating Trump. You might think it’s way past time to elect a woman as head of state — Pakistan did so in 1988, and their record of equality is somewhere near our Virginia Slims ads from the era — but if you vote for Warren, you’re voting for Trump. A woman can’t win.

    This may be true, but we won’t know for sure until we try. I sure as heck never thought we’d have a black president in my lifetime; we did. This voting the tea leaves nonsense, trying to predict what other people might support or not, is pretty ridiculous and quite certainly antithetical to the concept of representative government. You might as well want a doctor to diagnose you with plague because eyeball worms are worse.

    • I have spent a lot of time arguing with people about this. I’ve done it for both Warren and Sanders. In Sanders’ case it is, “The people will not vote for a socialist!” When you consider that Sanders is not a socialist, that means people will not vote for him because of a word.

      I hate the electability debate for two reasons. First, the primary is the electability debate. People using this tactic are just trying to limit the primary debate to their candidate. The people who now most use this tactic are Pete Buttigieg supporters. Most Biden supporters who care enough seem to have given up on it.

      The second reason it’s nonsense is that most people who make the claim don’t have a clue what makes a candidate electable. Kerry was the “electable” candidate in 2004, but I’m convinced that Howard Dean would have won the general because he would have run anti-war campaign — which Kerry could not.

      • “The primary is the electability debate” — that’s become my go-to line. I’ve had way too many arguments with good friends who are good liberals where the conversation opened with what I thought was a simple question; “who do you want to win the primary?” “Bernie or Warren, haven’t decided yet” was my typical response. Because I haven’t decided yet.

        Well, this would always become righteous anger about how by voting for Bernie or Warren, I was really voting for Trump. Last I checked, I know how to fill out a ballot, and if I circle the oval next to Sanders or Warren or write-in Marvin the Martian, I’m not voting for Trump.

        So, now, I usually steer this conversation towards “you mean, who do I think can beat Trump” and they say “yes” and I say “whoever wins the primary, that’s the way this whole election thing is supposed to work.”

        • Right. My problem with the hyperventilating about Warren is that it sends a bad signal. Michael Brooks has said of course he will vote for Warren if she is the nominee. Yet the comments on his video are littered with people claiming they will never vote for neoliberal shill Warren. And I actually don’t have a problem with Sanders supporters criticizing Warren. I do have a problem with the monomania of it. I clicked on Majority Report yesterday — randomly, it was live — and Brooks was in the middle of an anti-Warren rant. Beyond anything else, it’s just boring.

  2. You were wrong about Hillary, Frank, and I think you are wrong about Warren too. I’d go into detail, but it doesn’t seem worthwhile as I disagree with pretty much every claim you make in this post, sentence by sentence. It’s as if you are living in an alternate reality.

    I’m not terribly happy with Bernie’s calculations (never have been) but he still seems like the only real choice. My first impression of Warren was favorable but the more I’ve seen of her behaviour, the less I trust her as a political actor, particularly since my primary concern is still healthcare reform, which I don’t believe she really cares about at all. As for which of them generates more support, just compare Warren’s “impressive” turnout for her recent Washington Square rally to that of Sanders’ similar event in 2016.

    • @paintedjaguar — I see Sanders as more of a Henry Wallace type (this is what’s broken, let’s change it already) and Warren as more of an LBJ/FDR type (I agree with you liberals, now make me do it). Much of what Sanders proposes are fantastic ideas that would get enormous pushback (just imagine how many ads health insurers would run), much of what Warren proposes are things Republicans would have a hard time opposing (a lifetime ban on Congresspeople becoming lobbyists). I see upsides to both approaches.

      I don’t know what Joe Biden stands for or cares about at all.

      • Centrists love that quote – it excuses inaction. In actuality though, both FDR and LBJ were quite aggressive and proactive in pushing their policies, both in public and behind the scenes. Replacing Wallace with party loyalist Truman, in tandem with the Dem’s 1947-48 Red Purge, radically altered the direction of US politics and government, and not for the better.

        The more I see of Warren in action, the more I think she resembles Obama. Probably with less avarice and self-interest, but still not politically trustworthy.

        Republicans and centrist Dem’s (but I repeat myself) have demonstrated that they have no trouble at all turning on a dime to follow this week’s party line, regardless of previous public positions. I think it’s foolish to allow such to dictate one’s own stances.

        • Sometimes “make me do it” is an excuse for centrist inaction. Others, like Ralph Nader, have quoted it as a plea for more citizen involvement in politics: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2009/08/15/now-make-me-do-it

          I’d agree that Sanders is to Warren’s left (and neither to my left; I’d just as soon our military budget was cut about 75%). But I doubt Warren would bring the kind of Wall Street insiders into her administration that Obama did. Biden would, unquestionably.

          If you think she might, though, then by all means give Sanders your strongest support! I’m a firm believer in voting for the primary candidate you think would be the best in office, only choosing a “lesser evil” when it comes to the general election. As stated, I think voting for a primary candidate you’re not excited by because they’re more “electable” means ending up with a general candidate many others aren’t excited about, either.

        • “The more I see of Warren in action, the more I think she resembles Obama.” Obama had a history of being a moderate and ran as a moderate. Warren is running as a progressive and has been a progressive. (Insert “She was a Republican!” here.)

          I have read thousands of anti-Warren YouTube comments and Twitter threads and all of them are the same half-dozen complaints. And they are mostly about what Warren “really” thinks. And what that means is that their real problem with Warren is that they don’t like her. Fine! But don’t claim you can read tea leaves.

          Presidential candidates overwhelmingly govern as they run. That’s even been true of Trump. Yet I always hear this argument that “Candidate I Don’t Like” doesn’t really believe what they are saying.

          And what is this about “centrist Dems”? As far as I can tell, you only think there are centrist Dems Sanders seems to be the only candidate you can trust and he’s not technically a Democrat.

          • I DON’T trust Sanders – he’s made compromises & secret backroom deals, has broken promises to his supporters. I’ve been very aware of him since the early 90’s and never been a fan. He talks bigger than he delivers and I don’t like a lot of his political choices, but he’s pretty consistent, which is important. The best thing about Sanders is the people who coalesced behind him in 2016.

            The Dems ARE a centrist party, even at their best. Where they diverge from this it’s often in a positively harmful direction, like pushing identitarianism over social integration, something I think is a scourge on US politics. I understand the impulse, but it’s shitty ideology, both in philosophy and practice, being hierarchy masquerading as the opposite. A convenient distraction from bread & butter issues though. And they have become firmly neoliberal, the core tenet of which is an unwarranted faith in “market solutions” (if you were wondering).

            My biggest problem with Warren, other than her choice to run at this particular time, is that she seems to have really awful political instincts. My impression is that she is also conservative in temperment and a true believer in “markets” (with some exceptions of course). These traits make her overly malleable in favor of the status quo, tweaking rather than reforming. She says things like “I want to bring everybody to the table on healthcare”. Well we’ve already seen the results of that approach with Obmamacare. Ignoring history and pretending issues are still wide open is not a good sign. As I’ve said, I don’t despise Warren as I do the Clintons, I just think she is undependable.

            • I agree with you about Sanders. The greatest thing he did was to light the fire on the left of the Democratic Party. Following Chomsky, I think it could have been anyone. It was a fire that had been primed by years of neoliberal New Democratic policy. But he is the guy who did it.

              The Democrats definitely are a centrist party. For years, I’ve been moaning about the lack of an actual left-wing party in America. This is changing, however — just not as fast as you or I would like. I’m happy with the way the Democratic primary is going. It’s been a far better mix of ideas than I’ve seen in my lifetime. There are some candidates who I don’t believe at all. Pete Buttigieg would be a disaster. If he weren’t gay, I’m sure he’d be a Republican. And if he were 10 years younger, I’m sure he’d be a Republican. Others, like Cory Booker, I think are cynical but smart enough to go along with it. Regardless, there has been a big move away from the win-win neoliberal solutions being proposed.

              I have a problem thinking that Warren shouldn’t have run. My take on the 2016 campaign is that Sanders got ~45% of the vote because anyone would have. The vast majority of that support was anti-Clinton, not pro-Sanders. Thus, I figured (before he entered the race) that he wouldn’t do that well. Thinking Warren should not have run is assuming that Sanders would be doing a lot better if she weren’t. I don’t think that’s true. Warren gets a lot of support from Clinton voters. And the 2016 Sanders voters (roughly 1/3rd of her support) would have gone with Harris or another candidate if Warren hadn’t run.

              I don’t understand this dislike of markets. Socialism is about worker control of their workplaces. People would still buy and sell things. The thing about markets is that we as a society need to set them up correctly. Under socialism, that would be the case. You may remember I wrote an article about this (criticizing Warren) earlier this year, Economics Doesn’t End Under Socialism.

              I have some concern about Warren as a politician too. That’s why I’m looking forward to the next couple of months. Now that she has pulled into a strong second place, the media will start going after her. Biden will start going after her. We’ll see how she does. I think the whole “Pocahontas” thing was an important moment for her. She seems to have learned from it. But we’ll see.

              I have no doubt that on economic matters, she will do as she says. On international affairs, I expect to be complaining a lot — not because she’d lied but because she’s telling the truth now. (She’s still better than the rest of the field except for Sanders and maybe Gabbard.)

            • I’ll take one more shot at this. About markets: my objection is to the semi-religious belief in Markets – capital-M Market, capital-G God. Aka neoliberalism, aka the belief that competition is the fundamental mechanic of human interaction and motivation. The American public has been so thoroughly indoctrinated with this belief that even those who disagree are reluctant to say so without abundant hedging.

              As to why I get flabbergasted and feel there is something odd going on in your head, Frank, it’s statements like this one: “Obama had a history of being a moderate and ran as a moderate.” He absolutely did no such thing. Yes Obama was a moderate, actually a conservative IMO, but he ran promising radical change, not moderation. I don’t see how anyone can honestly dispute that. It was his campaign slogan, for Pete’s sake! Sure, I didn’t believe him for a minute, but that’s irrelevant. Your statement about Obama is like claiming the Bush gang didn’t promote the Iraq invasion because contrary facts were publicly available to those who cared to know. See what I mean? The fact that pols use legalisms and include “outs” in their language doesn’t mitigate or excuse their intent to deceive.

              • Obama ran on “change” but also getting rid of partisanship. So the change he was talking about was not a move away from our economic system but a move away from gridlock. We’re getting the same nonsense from Pete Buttigieg today. There are always Democrats who push this stuff. And frankly, it sounds good. The problem is that it is naive. The Republicans don’t fight against every idea no matter how conservative because they don’t understand. They believe in power and that is all. Obama never got as much respect from the right as when he finally realized this. I too thought Obama was full of it when he ran. But I also saw that he literally wasn’t offering anything but technocracy, which contrasted well with Bush’s general incompetence.

                Yes, the problem with markets is the way people think about them. I’d get rid of “semi” and say that a lot of really powerful people have a religious belief in markets — in particular the idea that markets are perfect. Markets are useful. They should be part of the system for distributing stuff to people. But business needs to be controlled democratically (by the workers who run them) and markets need to be controlled democratically to make sure they work for the benefit of society.

                Ultimately, a socialist economy would need safety nets just like a capitalist economy. Of course, ultimately, we need anarcho-communism — or something similar. But on a practical level, we still have a society in which most of the people have been propagandized into believing all that free-market bullshit. And it’s a very difficult task to even get white workers to see that they have more in common with black workers than white capitalist pigs. (I did see a recent article about a study that found that people in private-sector unions were less racist than people not in unions. So that’s hopeful. If we can bring back unions.) It’s weird to me because the truth is so obvious. But I see the same kind of thinking everywhere. There was that recent thing with the college admissions cheating scandal. I was amazed at how many liberals I know lost their shit about it. Yet these same people can’t work up much outrage about billionaires giving millions to universities, which then let their kids in. This far greater outrage is, of course, perfectly legal. It’s not that I care about these upper-class parents. But I can identify with them a hell of a lot more than I can Jared Kushner’s father. And this is the fundamental problem we face in pushing leftist policy forward. It’s far too easy to get everyone outraged about minor-scandals and non-scandals than it is to get them to even notice the people with real power who are fucking us all over.

    • It’s an alternate reality from yours, that’s all. We’ve been through this many times before.

      • Yeah. You put the puzzle together differently. But it often seems that we are actually using a different set of pieces, ie quite different sources of info. And you pay more attention to what people SAY than I do. Watching what they DO has been more reliable for me.

        • I don’t think I particularly pay attention to what people say. But I do believe that people usually do say what they mean. You have to listen carefully, though. An obvious example of this is when a conservative says they want to “protect Social Security” it doesn’t mean the same thing as when a liberal says it. It always amuses me when commentators say, “Look! Something they can work together on!” Um, no.

          Rather than a puzzle, it’s probably better to think in terms of painting a picture of the same reality. Or you have to imagine that the puzzle pieces are different sizes for us. That is: one piece that is small to me is large for you.

  3. Well, just one example (it’s like picking at a scab). You say “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.” In fact you make this assertion twice. Well I DON’T remember that at all. The sort of folk who claimed that the public would “rise up” against Trump were (and are) centrists/Clintonites, not Sanders’ base. People who didn’t want Hillary thought that she would just cement the neolib status quo and put the left back to sleep, as with Obama. This is what I mean by an alternate reality.

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