Michael Swartz / June 21, 2019

Warren, Sanders Fighting for the Left Flank

She’s trying to push policies that are just as radical but with a moderate veneer.

It’s taken a long time for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign to warm up. She was the first top-tier candidate to announce her 2020 run, having created her exploratory committee last year. And now, she may finally be moving into the far-left lane that her supporters were begging her to take when she opted out of a 2016 run against Hillary Clinton.

By taking a pass during the previous presidential election cycle, Warren ceded that wing of the party to fellow senator and avowed socialist Bernie Sanders — and she watched Sanders become a Pied Piper to a broad swath of the electorate. Those who “felt the Bern” in 2016 have mostly stuck with their septuagenarian socialist, but polling now suggests that Warren is tapping into that group. A recent poll saw her gain five points on polling leader Joe Biden, which placed her ahead of Sanders.

For his part, Sanders is now trying to write off the Warren surge as bought-and-paid-for: “The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie.’” Unfortunately, Bernie is beginning to come across as yesterday’s news, while Warren (who turns 70 tomorrow) seems a somewhat fresher alternative, having broadened her appeal to a more populist crowd and at times even sounding a little like Donald Trump. She’s made a pitch to the lunch-pail crowd by allowing her campaign to be unionized by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — albeit a few weeks after the Sanders campaign unionized.

Of course, in most other instances, Warren doesn’t sound at all like Trump. Remember, she’s the one came up with the so-called Accountable Capitalism Act, and the one who insisted that no one in America got rich on their own. Left-wing pundits argue that she and Sanders “generally agree on a lot of policy,” but the nuance comes where Sanders is “a democratic socialist” and Warren is “a social democrat.”

To take it further, “If you believe in capitalism and you believe it has gone a little off the rails in the last generation, but it remains the best system to maintain economic growth and democracy, then Warren is the better candidate for you,” explained Barnard College political scientist Sheri Berman. “Or do you believe that capitalism is inherently unjust, inherently unstable? Then Sanders is the right fit.”

That straddling of the fence between capitalist productivity and socialist power will only last as long as Warren can continue her charade as a policy wonk who “has a plan for it” regardless of the problem. (And if anyone can maintain a charade, it’s Honest Injun Elizabeth.) Warren has been talking about imbalances in the system “in a way that doesn’t suggest she’s a socialist or she wants to kind of blow up the economy,” said onetime Joe Lieberman speechwriter Dan Gerstein, who added that her approach is different than that of mainstream Democrats “tinkering around the edges” with policies like a minimum wage raise or entitlement reform.

Warren works hard to appear normal, taking lots of selfies and even choking down a beer like a regular Jane, but it’s worth noting that she hasn’t exactly lived like Joe Sixpack. Instead, she’s spent much of her adult life in the halls of academia, and her time in the ivory tower seems to correlate well with her party switch from Republican to Democrat in the mid-‘90s.

Of course, for Warren to appear truly “normal,” she’ll need to show some respect for those who worked hard to build their businesses and succeeded — unlike a previous president who once snidely remarked, “You didn’t build that.”

Try as she might, though, that lunch pail she’s toting around is still full of socialist baloney.

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