We’re now seven weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, the first voting in the Democratic presidential race. After that, frontloaded primaries might decide the nominee by late spring. For progressives torn between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — or fervently committed to one of them — choices on how to approach the next few months could change the course of history.
As a kindred activist put it to me when we crossed paths last weekend, “Bernie speaks our language”—a shorthand way of saying that the Bernie 2020 campaign is a fight for a truly transformative and humanistic future. “Not me. Us.”
I actively support Bernie because his voice is ours for genuine democracy and social justice. Hearing just a few minutes from a recent Bernie speech is a reminder of just how profoundly that is true.
At the same time, many thoughtful and well-informed progressives are supporting Warren. While I’m wary of the conventional foreign-policy outlook that she laid out early this year and reaffirmed days ago, there’s much to applaud in Warren’s record and proposals on economic and social issues. Notwithstanding her declaration of being “a capitalist to my bones,” Warren has earned corporate America’s hostility.
Overall, Wall Street despises Elizabeth Warren. With some exceptions, the titans of “the Street” are highly averse to her regulatory agenda, fear her plans such as a wealth tax, and definitely don’t want her to become president.
What’s more, the power structure of top corporate Democrats is out to crush the Warren campaign as well as the Sanders campaign. Not coincidentally, corporate media attacks rose along with Warren’s poll numbers. The corporate system’s antipathy toward her isn’t as high as it is toward Sanders, but it’s pretty damn high.
Meanwhile, powerful status-quo interests are eager to see acrimony develop between Sanders and Warren forces.
“The year began with a weak-looking Sen. Elizabeth Warren posing no threat to Sanders; by summer, Warren had jumped past Sanders and the rest of the field,” the Washington Post’s David Weigel noted days ago. “Now, with Warren’s momentum fading, the two Democrats most broadly acceptable to the left have been splitting endorsements and capturing separate swaths of the electorate.”
Let’s face it. Supporters of Sanders and Warren will probably need each other if one of them is going to win the nomination.
Scenarios for Sanders or Warren to ultimately go it alone at the mid-July national convention in Milwaukee are unlikely. Much more probable is a necessity of teaming up to combine the leverage of their delegates.
In the shorter term, given the structure and rules of the Iowa caucuses coming up on February 3, tacit teamwork between Sanders and Warren supporters would benefit both while undermining the corporate Democrats in contention.
The approach taken so far by Sanders and Warren on the campaign trail suggests how their supporters ought to proceed in relation to each other—illuminating real and important differences without rancor, while teaming up to fend off policy attacks from corporate-backed opponents.
What continues to be in effect between Sanders and Warren—and what is needed among their supporters on the ground—is the equivalent of a nonaggression pact. At the same time, we should be willing to draw clear distinctions between the policy positions of those two candidates.
The need is for supporters to openly explain reasons for preferring Warren or Sanders while avoiding the start of a mutual demolition derby. In the process of strengthening progressive forces, it’s vital to defeat corporate Democrats, before proceeding to defeat Donald Trump.
“Electability” can be debated endlessly, but anyone claiming total certainty as to which candidate would be more likely to beat Trump is overreaching. At the same time, the need for a Sanders-Warren united front should be clear—as clear as the imperative of rolling back the monstrous right-wing power that has controlled the presidency during the last three years.