The Decline and Fall of Elizabeth Warren
by Benjamin Studebaker
There was a time when everyone on the left in the United States liked Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), when she seemed like the most left wing option available in a sea of swamp creatures. Warren gave the left the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2011, and in return she became its darling–the person everyone on the left wanted to see run for president, the person everyone on the left hoped could someday win. This is the story of how that changed.
Today, party insiders increasingly believe Warren is politically tactless and young left-wing activists increasingly believe she is an obstacle for the left rather than ally. This happened in stages.
Stage I: Picking Hillary over Bernie
In 2013, 2014, and 2015, Warren consistently rode high in Democratic Party primary polls. When Hillary Clinton was excluded from polling Warren typically finished first, and even with Clinton included Warren often polled at 10-20%. This may not sound very high, but Bernie Sanders barely registered in these polls. When he was included, he received less than 5%. Warren had much stronger name recognition in these years. She had about four times his support. Over and over the left tried to draft Warren to defend it against Hillary Clinton, to at least make a show of demonstrating that there was some kind of left wing opposition. Over and over, Warren refused.
This left an opening. Sanders took it. Sanders knew his chances of winning were infinitesimal, far smaller than Warren’s. But Sanders really believes that it’s important to fight for the left to be heard in American politics and within the Democratic Party. He doesn’t believe in appeasing the centrists in the Democratic Party, he holds out no hope of being included in a centrist Democrat’s administration or being shown favourable treatment by a centrist Democrat’s legislative agenda. Bernie Sanders understand that as long as the Democratic Party is Hillary Clinton’s party, it’s not his party. It doesn’t care about his issues and his supporters. In the primaries, Sanders didn’t just argue that he was a better presidential candidate than Clinton–he argued for a “political revolution,” for a left takeover of not only the Democratic Party but of legislatures at all levels.
The Sanders campaign did far better than expected. It had a chance to win in Massachusetts. But when Sanders came to Massachusetts, Warren did nothing. Over and over the left begged Elizabeth Warren to come out for Sanders and help him in his hour of need. Over and over, Warren refused.
Warren believed Clinton was inevitable. Warren wanted favour from Clinton. Warren sold out the left to get it.
Then Clinton lost. And now, Warren wants her spot back. After abandoning the left, first by failing to have the courage to run, then by failing to support someone who did, Warren believes she remains entitled to lead the left of the party.
Stage II: Rejecting Democratic Socialism and Ignoring Indigenous Causes
But Warren’s left-wing credentials are pretty stale. Since Barack Obama withdrew her as his nominee to head the CFPB, she’s been involved in almost no consequential legislation. While Bernie Sanders has used the Stop BEZOS Act to intimidate Amazon into raising wages, Warren’s legislation is dead on arrival and galvanises no one. In the meantime, Warren continually distances herself from Sanders and his movement, refusing to identify with his “democratic socialist” moniker:
I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in markets.
She continues to call herself a Native American, even though Native Americans want her to stop doing it. Over and over again, Native Americans asked her to speak up for them during the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests. Over and over again, Warren did nothing. Warren claims Native heritage while ignoring Native American political issues. She does so on the basis of DNA testing which itself shows only a miniscule fraction of Native background (based on comparisons with samples from indigenous people from Peru, not the United States). She does this even though she herself was never given tribal citizenship, never grew up on a reservation, and never suffered racial discrimination on the basis of her appearance. Her behaviour is exploitative and racist, and young people in the Democratic Party have no time for it. Native Americans living on reservations face more economic exploitation than any other group in the country by far, and Warren treats them like scum:
Stage III: Falling for Trump’s Trolling and Embarrassing Our Movement
What’s more, she’s increasingly demonstrated tactical incompetence. President Trump makes a sport of goading Elizabeth Warren on Twitter. She always takes his bait, replying to him with piles of cringeworthy tweets unbefitting a potential Democratic Party nominee. When Trump goes low, Warren plays down to his level embarrassing her supporters and her party. Take for example this tweet stream from 2016:
Young people know that you don’t feed trolls on the internet, and Donald Trump is the biggest troll there is. When he makes these digs, a response of any kind is taking his bait. But to respond not just once, but to respond eleven times in fifteen minutes? She lets Trump get to her, she responds emotionally, and and she doesn’t know when to stop.
This most recent episode is the best example yet of how easy it is to bait Warren. Trump dared her to take a DNA test and offered her $1 million if she could prove she was a Native American. Warren did it–implicitly lending credence to the immensely bigoted notion that all one needs to claim Native American identity is a microscopic level of blood relation. She then paraded around her embarrassingly low level of Native American blood heritage, demanding that Trump pay a bet it’s plainly obvious he won. Many, many left wing writers have gone on at length about how horrifying this is, begging Warren over and over to stop doing this, to apologise to Native Americans and let the issue die. But over and over she ignores the left and does whatever she wants. In the process, she gave the Republican Party a valuable news cycle with mere weeks to go before the midterm elections.
Stage IV: Attempting to Split the Left Vote in 2020, to the Advantage of the Center
If she somehow became the Democratic nominee in 2020, the entire election would consist of Trump calling Warren “Pocahontas” and highlighting the Democrats’ hypocrisy on race, encapsulated by the decision to nominate a person who is effectively Rachel Dolezal with a senate seat. But it won’t ever go that far. Millennials know how embarrassing this is. We won’t work for her in the primaries. She’ll never make it out.
Many older Democrats still don’t get it. They remind us that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was a great thing. They don’t like party in-fighting. Why do we have to oppose Warren’s candidacy in 2020? Why does our support for Sanders or Merkley entail bashing Warren?
There are two reasons why we not only must refuse to support Warren, but we must actively oppose her. The first is that Sanders was right in 2016–the Democratic Party must be transformed, and the left must be led by someone who is actively committed to transforming it. That isn’t Warren. Warren was perfectly happy grovelling to Hillary Clinton and hanging us out to dry. She will never lead a transformation of the party. She’s an appeaser, not a fighter.
The second is that there is a historic chance in 2020 for the left of the Democratic Party to win the nomination outright. The centrists are overconfident. Too many of them want to run. There will be a crowded field, potentially including some combination of Joe Biden, John Kerry, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Eric Holder, Michael Avenatti, Martin O’Malley, Michael Bloomberg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, and heaven knows who else. If the left can choose a single person, one democratic socialist to rule them all, it has an excellent chance of prevailing against a disunited and disorderly center.
Who can the left get behind? Bernie Sanders. Or, if he’s unable or unwilling, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the one and only senator to endorse Sanders in 2016. He’s the one we should write glowing pieces about–not Warren.
If Warren runs, some older Democrats who remain loyal to her because of the CFPB and insensitive to the cringey and racist way she’s handled the “Pocahontas” taunts will pick her instead of the left candidate, and the chance that a centrist secures the nomination will increase dramatically. This would be an utter disaster for the left. Warren must not run. She is now so widely mocked among millennials that she has no chance whatsoever of winning the nomination even if Sanders and his surrogates stood aside–and they won’t stand aside. Sanders and his supporters earned the right to lead the left by fighting for it when there wasn’t a lot of political capital to be had in doing so. They put their political careers on the line for us, knowing that if Clinton won she would scorn them. It’s not Warren’s turn–it’s theirs.
All a Warren run can do is damage the prospects of a left candidate who is far more electable and far more willing than her to fight the center. All a Warren run can do is give Trump more opportunities to call her “Pocahontas” and troll her into saying and doing foolish things. All a Warren run can do is remind the American people that the Democrats and the left only pretend to care about racism and about indigenous people.
Over and over we asked Warren to stand with us, to be one of us. Over and over she refused. It’s time we moved on and left her behind. It’s not 2014 anymore.
Never Warren. Sanders or Merkley.