At a time when the leadership and international standing of the United States is in decline, we need someone with a fire in their belly to fight tooth and nail for the vision of a better world. We need an idealistic voice who clearly stands for the average American. But we need someone who will also show grace and unyielding hope when the progress we ache for inevitability falls short in such a mangled political system. That person is Elizabeth Warren. No one articulates a message of systemic change with the same vigor and wicked intellect. No one better expresses the emphatic anger of a plutocratic class run amok, running roughshod over the working class and ignoring the plight of a climate in crisis. She is the best of a considerable field of candidates.
While there are currently three or four candidates with reasonable prospects for the nomination, the most visible and interesting clash is distilled in the choice between Bernie Sanders and Warren. Vigorous infighting abounds between these two candidates’ supporters, but the conversation misses the fact that there is functionally little difference in the consequences of electing either of these excellent persons to high office. Both have similar philosophical views, and any large differences between them are smoothed by the insurmountable barriers given the makeup of the Senate, where any feasible legislative majority depends on conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who needless to say are not thrilled about proposals like Medicare-for-All.
Further frustrating change for decades to come is the new and very Trumpy Supreme Court, followed in tow by a federal judiciary now stacked with similar Federalist Society lackeys who will stymie any large legislation that would miraculously pass. The only practical differences between any candidate running then, is how they will run the executive branch, particularly through executive orders, staffing agencies, and conducting foreign policy. These inevitable barriers to all other policy make Warren’s skills as an expert crafter of policy crucial, and her bold agenda and rhetoric that much more powerful.
There is a lot to love about Bernie’s multi-trillion dollar plans to restructure the very foundations of American life. Ignoring the unlikelihood of any of his plans passing as they are, the fact is that rocking the boat so much and so quickly would garner intense resistance, backlash, and quite likely heartbreaking failure for his brand of politics should anything besides a grand overhaul be accomplished on his watch. The proposed ramrodding of an agenda like Medicare-for-All via shutdown style tactics that Republicans employed to try and dismantle Obamacare is an equally terrible idea to implementing systemic change because it will create endless court battles and political upheaval.
Sanders’ insistence that a grassroots movement will move heaven and earth to elect him and overhaul the entirety of American politics is admirable, but fanciful in a truly Marxist sense in that it ignores both human nature and the pressures of the status quo of American government, absent a collapsing state or bloody revolution. If Sanders cannot employ his moonshot theory of politics to winning the Democratic primary in a landslide, then his theory of change is moot anyway.
Elizabeth Warren’s platform represents a better understanding of the levers that must be pulled if anything remotely ambitious can be passed through congress or the courts. She built a federal agency from the ground up (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and made it a fearsome tool to advocate for consumers. Unlike Sanders, she is proposing an end to the filibuster in the Senate, the rule requiring 60 votes in the body to pass anything, which makes any legislation a non-starter because of a Republican party that revels in obstruction, and will have over represented power in the chamber in perpetuity. Anyone not proposing filibuster reform is hopelessly naive and unserious about long term solutions.
Sanders is a force pushing for a ideal of what this country should be. From Medicare-for-all to the Green New Deal, his policies are righteous and impossibly ambitious. These proposals are non-starters in even the best legislative environments, and must be ground down into workable policies. And yet these fantasy proposals are almost single-handedly responsible for shifting the conversation on the what is considered mainstream and reasonable to the American people. By staking out these positions with fervor, Bernie has shifted the conversation and Democratic politics for the better.
Warren is a coalition builder, a bridged balance between the Democratic establishment and progressives. She has deliberately not thumbed her nose too hard at the Party, and yet has a well known firebrand nature on the political scene that is uncompromising and intolerant of greed and corruption. She has a keen political sense and an arsenal of knowledge unmatched by anyone in the primary field. She is calm, poised, and collected, but passionate on the offensive, and unrelenting in debate and town hall settings. Being a leader of a big tent coalition like the Democratic party means representing a massive cross-section of interests, and Warren has the best position to finesse that.
She has the reputation of delivering withering critiques of corporate America (seen here, here, and here), rigorous oversight (here and here), and has never shied away from taking what she considers the moral high ground in a policy fight. She has a multitude of great, aggressive, but practicable ideas that are thoroughly researched and drafted. (See here). Warren can hail a rebranding of politics and out of the box thinking without being totally detached from reality.
There has never been a better opportunity to put a strong progressive candidate on the ballot. Trump, for all the strengths incumbency brings in his prospects for re-election, is uniquely vulnerable given his deep unpopularity relative to fundamentals like a strong economy. Moderately well informed voters that are critical of the Trump administration can recognize that Warren cannot enact the broad progressive utopia she preaches. Her thinking, temperament, priorities, and perspective are what is important; they offer a deep contrast to anti-intellectualism, and a reprieve from cruel, incompetent, and exhausting current affairs. More importantly, she credibly promises to improve the lives of millions of people even if marginal reform is the best to be accomplished.
If a Warren candidacy would be destined to immolate as many a pundit has prophesied, then better the Democratic party go down swinging with a real vision for the future instead of a contrived presidential candidate perceived as “safe,” which is neither inspiring nor truly guaranteed to win. A well tuned progressive agenda is extremely popular and necessary for a livable planet, and the Democratic party needs to run on such messaging unapologetically if it hopes to mobilize its base and new voters.
A Warren presidency would be an overdue rebuke to entrenched privilege and wealth that stymies this nation. The panic pieces by billionaires, big banks, and day traders quaking about how apocalyptic mild tax increases and oversight would be is a sign of how potent and serious her messaging is, and how threatened America’s elite interests are. Vote for Warren to meaningfully rally against corruption, inequality, a devastating environmental outlook, and governmental decay. Put Warren in the oval office to signal a new era of relentless advocacy for the American people that demands to meet the deep challenges this century holds for us head on.
Some Further Reading (will be added to over time):