Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thoughts on Warren and Sanders: How Much Change Is Needed in 2021?


The best of all possible worlds?

by Thomas Neuburger

I've written before comparing Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as presidential candidates, but only preliminarily. (See "The Difference Between Sanders and Warren, or Can Regulated Capitalism Save the Country?") But there's much more to say — foreign policy, for example, is barely touched on there — and also much is evolving in their positions, especially Warren's.

That earlier piece focused on the differences between these two candidates based on their economic ideologies. As I wrote then, "Though both would make the next administration, if either were elected, a progressive one by many definitions, the nature of the progressivism under each would be quite different."

In particular, I asked:
Can the current capitalist system be reformed and retained, or must it be partly nationalized — taken over by government — and reduced in size and capacity, for the country to be saved from its current economic enslavement to the "billionaire class"? In addition to questions of personal preference, Democratic primary voters will be asked to decide this question as well.

And the question applies quite broadly. The billionaire class also controls our response to climate change. Is it possible for a "free" market system — a system in which billionaires and their corporations have control — to transform the energy economy enough to mitigate the coming disaster, or must government wrest control of the energy economy in order to have even a hope of reducing the certain damage?
But there are other contrasts between these two as well, other differences, as Zaid Jilani, writing in Jacobin, points out. He begins where we began, with the ideological and philosophical differences:
Why the Differences Between Sanders and Warren Matter

Both are critics of the Democratic establishment. Both are foes of Wall Street. And both are substantive, policy-focused politicians. But that doesn’t mean Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren share the same worldview.

Sanders tends to focus on “post-distribution” remedies, meaning he prefers to use the government’s power to tax and spend to directly meet Americans’ needs — or replace the market altogether. His social-democratic ideas, like free college and single-payer health care, are now policies most Democrats have to tip their hat to at least for electoral reasons. Warren wants to empower regulators and rejigger markets to shape “pre-distribution” income, before taxes. Less likely to push for big-ticket programs, she wants to re-regulate Wall Street and make life easier for consumers.
So far this is familiar ground.

Different Theories of Change

But as Jilani points out, there are differences in style and "theory of change" as well. ("Theory of change" usually encompasses how a given policy change is to be accomplished, as opposed to what that change should be.) Jilani again:
The two senators also have distinct theories of change. Sanders has long believed in bottom-up, movement-based politics. Since his days as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he has tried to energize citizens to take part in government. He generally distrusts elites and decision-making that does not include the public. Warren, on the other hand, generally accepts political reality and works to push elite decision-makers towards her point of view.

When I worked at PCCC ["the most influential outside PAC supporting Warren" says Jilani], I was once told that Warren decided to run for the Senate after witnessing the amount of power she had as an oversight chair for the bank bailouts. She believed that “being in the room” with decision-makers in the Obama administration was essential to creating change.
About this he concludes: "While Warren wants to be at the table with elites, arguing for progressive policies, Sanders wants to open the doors and let the public make the policy."

"Elizabeth is all about leverage"

These are significant differences, and his observation goes a long way to explaining this item from a long piece published in Politico Magazine in 2016, an article otherwise about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Discussing why Warren refused to endorse Sanders, Glenn Thrush wrote:
Luckily for Clinton, Warren resisted Sanders’ entreaties, for months telling the senator and his staff she hadn’t made up her mind about which candidate she would support. For all her credibility on the left, Warren is more interested in influencing the granular Washington decisions of policymaking and presidential personnel—and in power politics. Warren’s favored modus operandi: leveraging her outsider popularity to gain influence on the issues she cares about, namely income inequality and financial services reform.

“Elizabeth is all about leverage, and she used it,” a top Warren ally told me. “The main thing, you know, is that she always thought Hillary was going to be the nominee, so that was where the leverage was.”

Warren, several people in her orbit say, never really came close to endorsing the man many progressives consider to be her ideological soulmate.
For many grassroots supporters of Sanders, who were also strong Warren supporters prior to his entry into the race, these revelations — "all about the leverage" and "never came close to endorsing" — took the bloom off the Warren rose. For whatever reason, that bloom appears not to have returned, at least not completely.

Jilani's observation in no way diminishes Warren's credibility or core desirability as a candidate. If you care about achieving your goals through "leverage," joining the Sanders campaign, which may have looked to you like a kind of Children's Crusade, would seem foreign to your way of operating.

The Bottom Line — Not Just Method, But Scope

While Jilani notes that many of Warren's past positions, for example, on charter schools and Medicare for All, have grown more progressive, she still doesn't seem to prioritize Medicare for All as strongly as Sanders does.

In 2012, Warren was explicitly opposed to Medicare for All (called "single payer" at the time). "Five years later — after decades of advocacy by Sanders had helped popularize Medicare for All — Warren [finally] decided to endorse the policy," writes Jilani. "But unlike consumer protections or financial regulation, establishing a single-payer health care system doesn’t seem to be a top priority for Warren." He adds, "It’s hardly a surprise that Warren didn’t raise single-payer during her first two campaign events in Iowa and when asked about it by a Washington Post reporter, [she] suggested she didn’t bring it up because no one else at the events raised it."

As noted above, if either were president, the odds that America will change for the better would vastly improve. But each would do that job in a different way. Each has a different philosophy of how government should work, and approach the process of change from different directions — though I have to give Warren credit for picking public fights with fellow Democrats when others are much more timid.

But to these two differences — philosophy and approach — let me add a third, a difference in sweep. The scope of change envisioned and attempted by a Sanders presidency would likely be far greater than that attempted by Warren.

In these times, with a massive climate tsunami fast approaching and a Depression-style rebellion in full view, can America, in this Franklin Roosevelt moment, afford just a better manager of the current system, a better rearranger, and survive?

There's not much question that Warren would better fix the status quo, and be a better choice as president, than 95% of the other candidates on offer. But would a Warren presidency be enough to bring us through this crisis as safely as Washington, Lincoln and FDR once did?

For many true progressives, I think that's the question she'll be asked to answer, and she has about a year, or less, to answer it.

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At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sanders and Warren may well be the best available as of this moment. But a 7% Solution only works in a Sherlock Holmes novel.

By themselves, Sanders and Warren are not enough to accomplish much. If either or both end up in the White House, who is managing the Congress in their support? Sanders generally, and Warren in particular, are in a better position to drive an agenda while remaining in the Senate than they would walled off in the Oval Office. History offers a precedent.

While still a Senator, Harry Truman made an incredible nuisance of himself while investigating the books of major war contractors. His particular target was the Martin Aircraft Company, manufacturer of the B-26 bomber. Martin was padding the bills, which Truman discovered while going over their books. Truman threatened to shut down any further purchases of the plane if Martin didn't clean up their act.

Martin and other companies pushed to have Truman replace Wallace as VP in 1944. In that office, Truman would no longer have the power and authority to probe their plundering. FDR only met with Truman three times, twice for only 15 minutes. By the time Truman made it to the Oval Office after FDR died, he was firmly in the grip of the Cold Warriors and turned to their cause off making the Soviets our next enemy even though the Axis was not yet defeated.

It is doubtful that Sanders and Warren would take up the cause of waging war on a means of waging war, but their isolation and lack of effective action would end up being identical. Corporations would be much happier if this isolation was achieved regarding their most effective nemesis.

I don't yet see who I could support in 2020 (sorry, Beto). But without solid and effective support in the Congress, the democraps will see to it that power is returned to the GOP and to hell with We the People.

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:30, a salient and pragmatic analysis.

"Both are critics of the Democratic establishment. Both are foes of Wall Street."

They say they are. But neither proved it. EVER! endorsing and campaigning for the greatest bank whore in history proves the opposite.

So, back to the title: How much change *IS* needed in (right fucking now!!!)?

If these 2 individuals really are change agents, they'd both publicly break from the democraps (Bernie has a big fundraising DB and could probably compete moneywise in 2020 without the democraps), found a truly left movement attempting to fill the vast void on the left that's been there since the Clinton democraps first started fleeing to the right in '82, extend invitations to all of DWT's (alleged) progressive heroes (AOC, Ro, Mark, Pramila...) to join, but most importantly, start publicly excoriating the democrap perfidy, corruption, lies; post numbers and name names.

The sooner they do this the sooner we'll find out what DWT truly is... an agent for progressive revolution or just another democrap sheepdog. If the former, then DWT and BA can jump on board, help with fundraising, candidate recruitment, advocacy and so forth. If it's the latter, all the dumbest readers here will be pleased that I'll never return.

SHORT of the above, nothing will ever change. And this author should know this.

If the democraps are still the party, we'll still be talking about this in another decade... or century... or just up to the point when mankind has its last generation on earth.

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A at 12;40 pm - All of us "dumbest readers" here would just as soon you leave and never return no matter what.

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get a certain amount of joy at poking at you 'dumbest motherfuckers in the history of hominidkind'. I thank you for validating my thesis.

even ostriches are smarter than that. They don't bury their head in the sand. it's an old wive's tale.

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really torn on this question. I think it's clear that Bernie is more of a transformative figure, but when the economy crashes, and it will in the next year or so, would I rather have him in the driver seat or Elizabeth Warren who lives and breathes to torture Wall St? Both would prosecute banksters and execute serious antitrust prosecutions, but I might trust Warren a little more there. Regarding progress in virtually every other area like healthcare, labor rights, and taxation I like Bernie more.

I think it's clear they'd be far better than anyone else in the race, but if they both show well in the campaign and the debates it's going to be a tough choice, and for the first time in my lifetime that's a good thing.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naïve, 9:48.

Warren would never break up banks. She's all about top-down regulating and oversight. Whenever the congress takes enough money from wall street, they instantly ignore their oversight duties... been that way since the '80s after Reagan had to lock up a bunch of S&Lers for fraud after he dereg'd them and they did what goldman et al did in the '90s.

Bernie SAYS he wants to break them up... but he'll be easily talked out of it by democraps in congress, who he's always apologized for his entire political life.

If you're looking for someone to fix the coming crater... you'll have to find another party and someone else to head it. these two are democraps and whatever they say will be tempered or reversed by their party.

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous LizardFace said...

Everyone wants change but no one wants to see it happen apparently, based on this comment section.

At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LF, absolutely true. presumably people who read here do want change... but they want to snuggle up with their old reliable democraps and make change impossible.

I always wondered why so many Christians who chant and sing about going to heaven to see their jesus and lord... just don't blow their fucking heads off to go there NOW!!

"everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die" is an old saying I heard from the '60s that I keep remembering.


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