Eric Levitz wrote an interesting article over at New York magazine, The Bernie vs Warren Debate We Need. It’s a good article and worth checking out. The gist of it is that people are making too much of their differences because the existing Democratic Party (to say nothing of the Republicans) will limit what they are able to do. So the debate should be about how good Sanders and Warren will be on foreign affairs and economic regulation — two things they can do on their own. What I like about it is that he recognizes that both candidates have potential advantages and that these need to be debated. What I’ve seen is mostly Sanders supporters claiming he is in all ways better than Warren, and Warren supporters ignoring the whole debate because she’s winning.
Levitz was on Majority Report Thursday. Sam Seder tried to be very even-handed in this. But he brought up an analogy that I think is telling. (I don’t want to spend the time to find the exact quote; it’s a 42-minute interview.) Roughly, it’s this: “It’s like Bernie can go 70 mph, Warren can go 60 mph, and Biden can go 30 mph. But it doesn’t matter because the speed limit is 50 mph.” Levitz more or less agreed with this. I don’t think he should have.
Stop Begging the Question
The article wouldn’t be that interesting if it were just, “Bernie’s better but it doesn’t matter.” That wouldn’t be something we should talk about. What Levitz is saying is that Sanders has better policies on foreign affairs. What’s that going to do for us if he’s president? Similarly, Elizabeth Warren has much more aggressive ideas for taming the domestic economy. What’s that going to do for us if she’s president? The point is that we should be discussing this and not just assuming that “Sanders is better” or “Warren is more popular.”
So Seder’s analogy begs the question. It assumes that Sanders is better. A more accurate analogy of Levitz’s argument is that Sanders can drive faster on freeways and Warren can drive faster in the city. Are we looking at the next administration driving more on the freeway or in the city? Discuss.
In conversations with Sanders supporters, Warren’s abilities to reform the regulatory framework through executive action are simply ignored. Nowhere do you see Michael Brooks doing segments on Sanders’ timidity when it comes to taking on big business. I understand that there is an argument to be made that the US is such a pernicious force in the world that foreign affairs are all that matter. But you need to make that argument. And the truth is, it isn’t an easy sell.
Engage Substantively — Not With Talking Points
I’m not naive enough to think that any of this will change minds. Those going in as Sanders supporters will still find that he is the candidate to support. The same is true of Warren supporters. But there are some important things here.
First, it means that Warren supporters and Sanders supporters can engage with each other on an honest level rather than caricaturing the other candidate. Second, it will allow supporters of one candidate to see the other in a more nuanced way. Third, it won’t lead to the creation of a bunch of talking points for the Trump campaign to use against whoever wins the primary.
I’m mostly talking to Warren supporters here. The truth is, we’ve lost the battle with Sanders supporters. And the worst time to talk to them is when the Sanders campaign is struggling.
I want to get Warren supporters on board with this now when she is ahead. Anything could happen. It might turn out that Elizabeth Warren has been having an extramarital affair with a Marine. (Note: actual smear campaign!) Sanders could pull out in front and win the whole thing. And I really don’t want to see Warren supporters do to Sanders what Sanders supporters are now doing to Warren.
Because I will fight just as hard against that.