As an activist and a political commentator, I have seen presidential elections come and go with no substantive change for workers or poor people at home and abroad. The Democratic Party is not a party of the people. It is a party of and for finance capital and the millionaires and billionaires who make up its leadership ranks. It is a party that serves a bloated military apparatus currently wreaking havoc on the people and the planet. Activist journalism possesses an obligation to keep its analysis independent of the Democratic Party. The Bernie Sanders campaign, while limited in many ways, offers the opportunity to push the economic and political crisis of U.S. imperialism to its limit. We must defend the interests of the millions of workers and poor people who support Sanders' economic agenda while maintaining independence from the U.S. political machine.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have often spoke of each other as long-time friends. Throughout the primary, both Democratic Party candidates have refrained from criticizing each other in a meaningful way. All of this changed when Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of being a sexist and for using his campaign volunteers to drive a wedge between them. The accusations against Sanders are not only baseless, but instructive as well. It should be clear by now to anyone paying attention to the 2020 election that Elizabeth Warren always had much more in common with corporate candidate Joe Biden than social democrat Bernie Sanders.
This author has written about the ways in which Elizabeth Warren has benefitted from weaponized identity politics early this election cycle. Warren announced her bid for presidency amid vicious attacks on Bernie Sanders supporters as sexist and racist "Bernie Bros." She then proceeded to copy his political platform while offering means-tested versions of his policy proposals that leave out key sections of the U.S. working class. The Warren campaign has been protected from criticism by a white feminist narrative peddled by the corporate media that presumes her candidacy as favorable to Sanders on the basis that she is a woman. Yet the real reason that Warren has received tacit support from wealthy Democratic Party donors is her willingness to sooth their fears of a Sanders presidency with assurances that she will play nice with them should she win the nomination.
Warren's attempt to paint Sanders as a sexist is a poorly executed example of her loyalty to the Democratic Party establishment. Low moments have been a key component of Warren's rise to success. Warren lied about her indigenous ancestry to score a tenured faculty position at Harvard Law School. She claimed her father was a janitor when he was nothing of the sort. Then she claimed to have lost her job as a teacher after becoming pregnant. That didn't happen either. Now her political strategy is to convince as many people as possible that Sanders told her privately that a woman could not become president. Given her track record, few should be surprised that this strategy has caused Warren's polling numbers to drop while Sanders continues to rise.
The problem with politics in the United States is that the left is not radical enough or strong enough to influence public opinion on a mass scale. Despite Warren's entire political campaign being geared toward drowning out the more social democratic Bernie Sanders, there remain many on the left who believe criticizing Warren is a bad thing. From the moment she entered the race, Warren's adoption of Sanders' platform has been seen by many on the left political spectrum as a net positive. This was always a miscalculation. Elizabeth Warren always had more in common with someone like Biden and her recent political stunt only further exposes this fact.
Warren's decision to attack Sanders deflected attention away from Biden's own political record. Sanders' recent critique of Biden's "yes" vote to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq promoted former Secretary of State John Kerry to come to Biden's defense. In many ways, Warren's political maneuver to label Sanders a sexist helped Biden's campaign most of all. This may come as a shock to many. However, Warren and Biden are more aligned on the policy front than what their individual campaigns let on.
Biden's 2020 campaign is a no-frills defense of the neoliberal capitalist establishment. He doesn't attempt to win over progressives or leftists. Instead, he proposes a defense of the Affordable Care Act and has assured Wall Street lenders and shareholders that nothing significant would significantly change for them under his regime. Elizabeth Warren is different in form, but not in substance. She proposes big "structural change" but has no plans to radically transform the economic and political system. In the last debate, Warren failed to mention Medicare for All by name once. Her plans also fall well short of "structural change" when it comes to issues such as mass incarceration and war.
Both Biden and Warren adhere to the philosophy of incremental change. The difference is that Biden is alright with little to no change, while Warren claims to want immediate reform. Biden's base of support is wealthy, white, and conservative. The rich always appreciate honest (even if incoherent) positions that serve their interests, especially from a politician like Biden who has an extensive record serving creditors, prison unions, and militarists. Warren's base of support is wealthy, white, and liberal. Affluent professionals appreciate Warren's "big ideas" but ultimately want the same thing as Biden's base: an unchanged status quo.
Warren's decision to attack Sanders rather than Biden is not a mistake. The 2020 Democratic primary is at a critical juncture. Super Tuesday is just weeks away. Sanders is polling well in Iowa, New Hampshire, and California. He has broken several fundraising records and continues to win key political endorsements such as Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. If left alone, the Vermont Senator could be the Democratic Party's nominee for president. A Sanders nomination would engender the complete collapse of the Wall Street-owned Democratic Party establishment. What CNN calls Sanders' "gender problem" is really nothing of the sort. The real problem that the establishment has with Sanders is his support base comprises of workers and poor people whose demands for universal healthcare, education, and housing are wholly incompatible with the interests of the finance capitalist class.
Politics in the U.S. tend to become even more dumbed down than usual during a presidential election cycle. Power and class conflict are rendered secondary to a selection process where Americans listen to the platforms of politicians and proceed to choose a representative of the ruling class. Warren's mimicry of Sanders led some to believe that the two politicians were allies in a crusade to bring progressive and radical change to U.S. society. The decision of the Warren campaign to attack Sanders on the faulty premise that Sanders, once named an "honorary woman" by famed feminist Gloria Steinem, represents behavior more akin to Biden's gaffe-filled political career. On a more substantive level, Biden and Warren share a commitment to the status quo that Sanders has challenged with a people-centered political campaign. The problem is that the Sanders campaign resides within a political party that is hostile to the interests of workers and poor people. Expect the Democratic Party and its partners in the corporate media to step up their assault on Sanders in the coming weeks as the stakes continue to raise and the Democratic National Convention inches closer.