The top two progressives in the Democratic race finally seem ready to brawl.
One of the wonders of the Democratic presidential race is how little open sniping there has been between Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both obvious competitors in the progressive lane. Instead Warren and Sanders have largely refrained from taking potshots at each other, even during debates.
Well, that’s over. CNN reports on a pre-campaign meeting between Warren and Sanders:
The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement. They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters.
Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.
It’s certainly possible the Vermont senator agreed with Hillary Clinton that her sex had been a liability
in the 2016 campaign (though it’s worth noting the former secretary of state came pretty close; it’s also important to acknowledge Sanders denies this characterization of the meeting). But Sanders is also an economics and class-based lefty while Warren is of the more woke variety. Identity politics is an easier fit for Warren and an avenue for attacking the old man. Indeed, CNN’s MJ Lee continues, “That evening, Sanders expressed frustration at what he saw as a growing focus among Democrats on identity politics, according to one of the people familiar with the conversation.”
Sanders hasn’t been shy about suggesting the non-socialist Warren is too conventional. When most of The Squad endorsed him
during the height of Warren’s performance in the polls, it was commonly said that Sanders was the better leader of a multiracial workers’ movement than the favored candidate of affluent, college-educated white liberals. This is also an argument for Sanders being able to win back the voters Trump siphoned off from Democrats in the Rust Belt.
As I wrote
back when Bernie declared, however, today’s Left is differently motivated. Race, gender and gender identity animate more than class or economics, even as the Democrats shove their remaining candidates of color off the debate stage. Sanders has already been forced to disavow his past skepticism of unfettered immigration
, though he still says he’s against open borders
. But he doesn’t sound as convincing as woke Warren.
Sanders is likely to give as good as he gets, seemingly aware that he gave Hillary a pass on too many things ranging from the Iraq war to her “damn emails” four years ago. But it seems noteworthy that the temperature has risen as Warren’s standing in the polls has fallen, not the other way around. The next debate should be interesting.