Thursday, March 05, 2020

Why it’s hard for Warren to endorse either Biden or Sanders

Andrew Koppelman

Few politicians stand for a distinctive ideology.  It wouldn’t make sense to talk about McConnellism, or Schumerism.  And the shrinkage of the Democratic presidential field, for the most part, doesn’t mean a loss of ideological options.  It’s no surprise that Buttigieg, Klobluchar, and Bloomberg all endorsed Biden after they dropped out.  They stand for the same Democratic centrism.  Their contest was about who would be the best messenger for it.

Elizabeth Warren is different – different enough that it makes sense to talk about Warrenism, as Will Wilkinson does in a new essay that is as shrewd an assessment of her as I’ve seen.  He makes clear that it’s far too crude to expect her to back Sanders in order to consolidate the left wing of the party.  He writes:

“Elizabeth Warren doesn’t want to nationalize manufacturing, seize the wealth that capitalists have stolen from workers, or radically level the distribution of income and wealth to align with some abstract ideal of distributive justice. 

“As far as I can tell, what Elizabeth Warren wants is the kind of democracy and market economy she thought we had when she was a Republican, but was scandalized to discover we didn’t have, thanks to the undue influence of self-dealing moneyed interests in the policymaking process. 

“Because the American republic is, in fact, in the midst of a spiraling crisis of corruption, there is more than a whiff of radicalism in a reform agenda focused on rooting out graft and restoring popular sovereignty. But Warren’s program is animated by earnest devotion to sturdy procedural ideals — fair elections, the rule of law, equitable and responsive political representation, and clean public administration— not left-wing ideology. It aims to realize a homely republican vision of America in which equal democratic citizens of every gender, color, and creed can vote their way to a system that gives everybody a fair shot at a sound education and a decent wage sufficient to raise a family in a comfortable home without becoming indentured to creditors or wrecked by the vicissitudes of capitalist dislocation.”

This is different from what Sanders is offering, and it’s certainly not Biden, whose support of the dreadful 2005 bankruptcy bill was what brought Warren into politics.  It is a distinctive ideology: robust capitalism, with a state strong enough to resist capture by nasty actors like the credit card companies who wanted to make it harder for people to get out of debt.  The familiar left-right categories don’t really explain it.  Wilkinson does.  He explains why it’s important for Warren, and Warrenism, to remain a force in American politics.  His essay is strongly recommended.

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