I recently had the pleasure of returning to the Dead Pundits Society podcast, anchored by Adam Proctor and Aimee Terese, to discuss Elizabeth Warren’s presidential candidacy. That podcast was recently pulled, but I have my own contributions to it, which you can still hear:
In it, we expand upon some of the arguments I made in “The Decline and Fall of Elizabeth Warren” in October. There are lots and lots of reasons to think that Warren’s candidacy serves the interests of the Democratic Party establishment:
- Warren declined to challenge Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, instead explicitly encouraging Clinton’s run.
- When Bernie Sanders stepped in to do the work Warren declined to do, she refused to endorse Sanders prior to the Massachusetts Democratic primary, a primary Sanders would only very narrowly lose.
- Warren explicitly refused to endorse Medicare For All in 2012, and while she announced support in 2017 she has continued to put out proposals for far less radical healthcare reforms, including new legislation in October 2018.
- Warren supported the Republican Party until 1996, because prior to this point she worried that “the government played too activist a role” in the market. This suggests that she’s to the right of the postwar Democratic Party. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders spent the postwar period criticising the postwar Democratic Party from the left.
- Warren has deliberately rejected Sanders’ “democratic socialist” label, declaring this past August that she is “capitalist to the bone”.
- While Warren has supported reintroducing the Glass-Steagall Act to divide commercial and investment banking, she has shown little interest in Sanders’ proposals which aim at directly shrinking the wealth and power of the financial sector. She declined to join him in supporting his Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act. Instead Warren launched her own, less radical proposal, the Too Big to Jail Act. Sanders’ proposal targets the structural power of financial institutions while Warren’s nibbles at individuals.
- Warren’s net favourability rating is low and she underperformed Hillary Clinton’s performance in her home state in 2018, even though 2018 was a stronger cycle for Democrats than 2016 was. Her performance in Democratic primary polling is much poorer than it was in advance of the 2016 contest. This means she’s a much less competitive candidate than she was when she first refused to run. This suggests that winning the presidency is not her primary objective.
At this point Warren has a developed a consistent record of failing to support or openly siding against the left faction of the Democratic Party in favour of its center. This, in combination with her poor numbers and early campaign launch (four months earlier in the cycle than Ted Cruz’s 2015 announcement) strongly suggests that her purpose is to siphon money and manpower away from more competitive left candidates. Warren may not be able to win the nomination, but if she can poach 3-5% of the vote from a strong left-wing candidate, and this may be all it takes to enable another centrist to claim the nomination. If this happens and one of these centrists succeeds in winning the general election, don’t be surprised if we see Warren in a cabinet position.
Despite all of this, much of the left remains reluctant to go after Warren because of warm feelings because in 2014 she was as far left as anyone dared hope the party would go. But this always said more about the state of the Obama-era Democratic Party than it did her–in 2019, she is far closer to Beto O’Rourke or Joe Biden than she is Bernie Sanders, and should not be counted as a genuinely left-wing contender.