“There are many copies. There are people who didn’t have the same guts and the same courage as Sen. Bernie Sanders to run in 2016,” said Nina Turner, national co-chair of the Bernie 2020 campaign. “There are some people who sat on the sidelines when it was hard. There was only one person who stood up to the establishment and his name is Bernard Sanders.”
Turner spoke amidst a boisterous crowd of more than 25,000 people at Queensbridge Park in New York City at the “Bernie is Back” rally Oct. 19, where progressive powerhouse Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) endorsed Sanders. This was a clear shot at Sanders’ democratic rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for not choosing to run against the establishment favorite Hillary Clinton back in the 2016 democratic primary.
The mainstream narrative is that Warren is the same as Bernie but in a more palatable and electable package. For anyone with knowledge of each of these candidate’s track records, nothing could be further from the truth.
A few weeks ago, Sanders drew contrast from Warren by saying, “Elizabeth, I think, as you know, has said that she is a capitalist to her bones. I'm not.” But the differences go beyond what people might perceive to be nothing but ideological tags.
Here are the substantial differences that make these candidates anything but alike:
Often ignored from the consideration of voters, foreign policy is the area where a president has the most amount of say. Sadly, for Warren, this is her weakest area. For a candidate that touts her ability to have a “plan for everything”, her strategy here is ad-hoc and incoherent at best.
A few weeks ago, during a town hall in South Carolina, Warren told supporters that a two-state solution has been the "official policy" of the Israeli government for nearly 70 years. That’s an outright false statement. Israel has actively undermined and worked against a two-state solution for decades. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency recently reported Warren’s campaign manager, Roger Lau, called an influential pro-Israel voice in the democratic party, Mark Mellman, to assure him the founder of IfNotNow, an American Jewish progressive activist group opposing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, were not involved in Warren’s Israel Policy.
Warren also voted to increase the defense budget to a whopping $700 billion — a sum that’s higher than what President Trump had requested. This perfectly fits into her call to make the military “greener,” without questioning America’s interventionist foreign policy as problematic. She has proven to be no more progressive than standard democrats like Clinton or Obama in this area.
Sanders, on the other hand, has been one of the most influential anti-war, anti-military industrial complex voices in the Senate. During the third democratic primary debate, he proudly said he is the only person on stage to vote against all of Trump’s military budget increases. Sanders opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has led a bi-partisan effort to pass a resolution in the Senate, invoking the War Powers Act, for the first time in 45 years, to end the United States’ involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen.
In a further stark contrast with Warren or any other major candidate for president, Sanders has emphasized the importance of leveraging our aid to Israel in order to achieve any significant headway in keeping Israel’s racism toward Palestine in check. This move would be a real and first-of-its-kind penalty against Israel, that has engaged in cruelty against Palestine for decades with unwavering support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Medicare For All
Voted as the most important issue for democrats in poll after poll, Medicare for All may ultimately prove to be the litmus test for progressives this primary season. In response to Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-OH) desperate attempts during the second democratic debate to cast doubts over the merits of single payer healthcare, Sanders snapped back at him by saying, “I wrote the damn bill!” Though Warren had co-sponsored the bill in the Senate, her recent rhetoric indicates she might be pulling away from her initial stance. She has referred to Medicare for All as being a “framework”, when it’s a comprehensive bill in the congress, S.1129. Her website did not include a healthcare plan at all until recently, only to include language that indicates the existence of a private insurance under her administration.
To be clear, Medicare for All would ban private insurers from duplicative coverage, hence resigning them to cover only extraneous things like cosmetic surgery.
Sanders has made no qualms about his disdain for the private healthcare industry and its burden on patients who pay twice as much on an average as the rest of the developed world. He has, in unequivocal terms, said that single payer is the only way to go, sticking to a stance he has held consistently over the last 40 years. In a recent interview with David Axelrod, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he doesn’t believe Elizabeth Warren will follow through on Medicare for All. He said, “Give her some time, I think that she’s not in love with that. I think that she, you’ll wait and see how that all turns out...I know she’s pragmatic, just wait.”
Theory of Change
Sanders calls for a political revolution, a sort of change that would hand over the power, long held by the political elite, media, billionaires and corporations, back to the people. He is the only presidential candidate to draw out a plan to reform journalism by protecting it at national and local levels, aiming to undo mega-mergers that have led to a handful of corporations having control over the information Americans consume through television and print media. He is also the only democratic candidate in history to propose a ban on all corporate donations to the Democratic National Committee and its convention, fundamentally transforming the democratic party and molding it into a grassroots funded organization that is free of corporate influence.
In August, the New York Times published an article detailing Elizabeth Warren’s efforts to reach out to the party insiders. “Through phone calls, texts and handwritten notes, the Massachusetts senator is continuing an unusually determined outreach effort to show party officials she is aligned with them,” reads the article.
How can one promise a bold transformation when you’re aligned with the same people that have no interest in changing the status quo? How can you work for the people when you’re attending big dollar fundraisers with establishment figures like Nancy Pelosi? How can you say you believe in democracy when you’re having hot tea with super delegates and trying to win over their support behind closed doors?
Make no mistake, Warren is not who she says she is. For all her progressive rhetoric, she is still deeply tied to the forces in the democratic party that have the same interests as centrist candidates like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Warren aims at a “big structural change” by mending rules of the game but not going as far as changing the game itself. The problem with her espousal of “moral capitalism” is that it’s an oxymoron. The sole purpose of capitalism is to exploit resources and generate profit. She may achieve marginal change, but it won’t take much time before the weeds of capitalism overtake her means tested reforms, and we’re back to square one.
Though Warren may be leading the polls in the democratic primary now, it’s not an indication of faring well in the general election. According to a poll that measured support for democratic candidates among independents, the largest voting bloc in the general, Warren registered a support of around 10% whereas Sanders fared the best with a 54% support. Warren also ranked as the sixth most unpopular Senator in the country with Sanders being the most popular.
What’s noteworthy here is that Warren’s popularity may only be limited to Democrats. Sanders has been the only democratic candidate beating Trump consistently in swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan. There is also a major difference in the coalitions of these two candidates. While Sanders’s top donors are teachers, nurses, farmers, truck drivers and waiters/waitresses, Warren attracts high income, graduate degree holders like psychologists, scientists, editors and psychotherapists.
Also, Warren’s support is disproportionately white, with 71% of her support from white voters, as opposed to Sanders’ 49%. She has failed to gain any traction with the African American community, a key voter bloc for the general, with only a palsy 4% support.
A multi-racial working-class coalition is the only way to win an election against Trump. Sanders inspires people who have been long disenchanted by the corruption in Washington, the same chord Trump hit when he said he wanted to “drain the swamp” before he fortified the same. Even though no democrat will touch Warren’s false claims of Native American heritage with a 10-foot pole and the media will continue to give her a pass on the issue, let’s not pretend Trump will not badger her for her dishonesty with the racist but effective moniker of “Pocahontas.” Can Warren, someone that’s barely been challenged on the debate stage so far, withstand these attacks?
There is legitimate concern that she does not perform well under pressure. She looked visibly flustered when a reporter asked her if her son would be allowed to sit on a foreign company’s board in her administration, referring to Joe Biden’s Ukraine scandal. “No,” she said initially before quickly walking back on her stance and saying, “I don’t know, I have to check.” Despite claiming a Native American heritage, she waited until it was politically safe to condemn the brutal and violent crackdown on the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors back in 2016. Sanders, on the other hand, stood in solidarity with the protestors and pressured Obama to declare Standing Rock as a national monument to protect it from the exploitation of oil companies.
The bottom line is Warren is no Hillary Clinton. If it was an election without Sanders, she would be the natural choice for progressives. But there are many indicators her progressive stances today are partly due to the presence of Sanders in the race. She’s better than Hillary but she’s no Bernie either. The matter of fact is, if it were not for the doors Bernie opened with his historic 2016 grassroots primary campaign, we wouldn’t have a Warren candidacy today. If Sanders is the gold standard, we do not have to compromise. We have history to make with this election by electing a president who is owned by the people and only the people. Bernie Sanders is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate and this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reclaim what’s rightfully ours.