I acknowledge that in 2016 I came very intensely after Elizabeth Warren. Like many of Bernie’s 2016 supporters I was hurt by her endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I think Warren has since almost made up for the error by coming forward with genuinely radical and necessary policy platforms in her presidential campaign, policies that remind us that she was once a people’s hero in the fight against Wall Street and can be once again.
Her plan to cancel student debt is as pivotal as Bernie’s Medicare for All or prisoner voting rights platforms. Her open challenges to Joe Biden on his ties to the credit card companies is commendable and so is the work she has put into protecting consumers for this entire decade. She deserves credit where credit is due.
With all of that said, I am still a little bitter about what happened in 2016. I realize it is somewhat trivial to complain about what could or should have been, but damn it I am genuinely convicned that if she had not played the 2016 primary as cautiously as she had we would not have a Trump presidency.
Here is what I mean, because Warren waited to endorse whoever won the nomination instead of endorsing Bernie from the beginning of his candidacy she hurt his campaign, a campaign that would have easily defeated Trump in the general election. Yes, I am still a “Bernie would have won,” kind of person and truth be told I probably always will be.
It is understandable why she waited to endorse the definite front runner instead of taking a stand early on. At the time it made sense as the politically cautious move to stand for a united Democratic party against Trump. However that caution came at a price. It hurt Bernie’s ability to develop the klout needed to counter harmful talking points spewed by the Hillary people.
When Warren endorsed Clinton she went from being a darling of the Occupy alumni to another mouth piece for neoliberals, at least in the eyes of Bernie supporters who also supported her. One of the reasons that Bernie, and Warren for that matter, have stayed so popular is that several of us who came out of the Occupy movement remember them as the only public servants to demonstrate admiration and respect for the movement and its sentiments.
So Warren did not only hurt Bernie by endorsing Hillary late in the election, she hurt herself. By endorsing Clinton and by endorsing her as close to the end of the primary as she did, she synonymized her name and platform with the vomit inducing identity politics of Hillary’s campaign. Instead of having her working class values and background tied to Bernie’s pro working class platform, she attached her identity as a woman to Clinton and by doing so she helped enable the “only sexists vote for Bernie” talking point of Hillary supporters, a talking point which erases and hurts all of the non male supporters of Bernie.
Had Warren endorsed Bernie from the get go, the myth of the “Bernie bro” would have been squashed and would have had no foundation to grow. Also, with her endorsement would have come her very extensive and supportive base, but now that base is arguably very much in the establishment camp because of her hesitancy to get involved with the primary until a front runner was decided. Warren is now synonymous with supporting establishment capitalist democrats like Hillary, which is folly because Warren’s policies are arguably much closer to Bernie’s than they ever were to people like Clinton, Harris, Biden, or Booker.
I want to make it clear, I do understand why Warren didn’t endorse Sanders, but I think it was a mistake that inevitably cost Bernie the primary and damaged Warren’s reputation as a challenger of big money capitalism, which in-turn gave us the shitty general election that birthed the Trump presidency.
But what hurt Warren the most is the fact that despite her policy and platform being much more in line with Bernie’s she endorsed someone with completely opposite values to her. Warren has much more incommon policy wise with Bernie than she ever will with the Clintons and Bidens of the world. The fact she did not make that clear in 2016 not only hurt Bernie but it hurt her, because now there are leftists like myself, who do remember her public challenges to Wall Street and her bold demands for consumer protections and market regulations. Now it is hard for me to get excited about her candidacy because I still view the Clinton 2016 endorsement as an act of political cowardice. I used to think it was straight up betrayal, but after getting involved with politics as an activist and as an organizer I’m willing to say I understand why she did what she did in 2016. However let us always remember that understanding an action is not the same as supporting it.
Will Liz Warren make the same mistakes this time? It is very possible that she will. Warren clearly is a politician who acts with caution. I do not fault her for being tactical but I will fault her if that tactic comes with compromising her values. However I can say that if she remains consistent with her demands for canceling student debt and if she does not backtrack support for Medicare for all then I would be genuinely happy with a Sanders/Warren or Warren/Sanders 2020 ticket. However I would be thrilled by the idea even more if she stepped up and admited that not endorsing Bernie in 2016 at the beginning of the primary was a mistake.
All in all, I do want to like Elizabeth Warren, I do miss the days where she and Bernie both were patron saints of the 99%. But until we address what happened in 2016 I will always have misgivings about her. I do not think Warren is bad, at least not as much as I used to, I do think she has to answer for 2016.