If the average reader were to look at one of the fawning pieces on Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent “surge” against former Vice President Joe Biden, they may apprehend the two politicians as the contending frontrunners of the Democratic primary. With headlines like “Is Warren Becoming a Stronger 2020 Candidate Than Biden?” and “Elizabeth Warren surges and Joe Biden fades,” this assumption would seem only to be confirmed. Yet there is one candidate who, despite consistently remaining in the top three candidates throughout the entire primary and recently capping off the most lucrative fundraising quarter of any candidate this year, even the most liberal media refuses to acknowledge the existence of: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
The media is not the only culprit of this blunt political revisionism. The Working Families Party’s (WFP) recent endorsement of Warren, which at first seemed to be a genuine gesture of working-class approval for Warren’s policies, was followed by a clandestine obfuscation by the WFP of the voting procedures used to arrive at their endorsement. It was later revealed, of course, that the WFP slated their voting procedure so that party leadership votes were weighted as 50 percent of the total result, as opposed to previous endorsements where votes between leaders and members were weighted equally. In 2015, when a separate membership vote was last taken, Sanders won it by 87 percent.
These phenomena, among others, point to a worrying trend among so-called liberal establishments to privilege Warren’s visibility over Sanders’ — that is, if Sanders can even be said to have visibility in said establishments, which does not seem to be the case. Nevertheless, it is important to ask why, given their ostensible similarities in policy and reformist optimism, Sanders and Warren are treated so differently by some of the most conspicuous influencers of American liberalism.
The answer is quite simple; Sanders is antithetical to their class interests, while Warren is simply not — full stop. Granted, Warren has outlined substantial plans to counter digital monopolies and excessive lobbying, but she has also been worryingly vague on her plans to implement policies like Medicare for All, described herself as a capitalist “to [her] bones” and, despite her pledge to refuse high-dollar donations from wealthy donors, has been using transferred funds from her Senate run last year — which include those very same donor contributions — to underwrite her 2020 campaign. Her vision of “accountable capitalism” betrays a fundamental unwillingness to attack the heart of these issues while endlessly treating the wounds it inflicts on society. Meanwhile, Sanders has been introducing and correcting an exceedingly concise Medicare for All plan since his election to the House of Representatives in 1991 (when Warren was still a registered Republican), and his most recent fundraising quarter — mentioned earlier as the largest of any Democratic candidate in 2019 — raised $25.3 million from over one million unique donations, with an average donation amount of $18. He makes no bones about referring to himself as a “democratic socialist,” has correctly identified the failure of American capitalism tout court to provide for the needs of its citizens, and has identified economic rights with human rights to a degree far beyond anything from the Warren camp.
One must remember that 10 years ago, neither of these candidates would have been taken seriously. The mere fact that this op-ed can be earnestly written displays a more-than-welcome shift in the political discourse of the American left, and it is a metamorphosis worth celebrating by itself. But that does not mean that these two candidates are the same or should be treated as two sides of the same coin. There are disquieting inconsistencies, ambiguities and half-measures in many of Warren’s plans, which need to be interrogated by the individual voter. No less bewildering is her seventy-year masquerade as a Cherokee Native American, a declaration which even U.S. President Donald Trump was able to coherently castigate. These points of contention may seem small, but they may also be the difference between a 2020 campaign focused on a revolutionary, well-planned vision for American prosperity, and one based on defense from the confused jeremiads of President Trump. The 2016 election, one should remember, was the latter.
edit: a previous edition of this article claimed that Sanders was elected to the Senate in 1991. This was incorrect; he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1991, and assumed office as senator of Vermont in 2007.