Warren and Sanders: Compare and Contrast

Photograph Source: Matt Johnson and Elizabeth Warren – CC BY 2.0

To avoid being divided and conquered in 2020, progressive voters must choose between Warren and Sanders, their two leading, if not only, alternatives to the Democrats’ establishment candidate. Are there strategic differences between them relevant to making that choice that are accessible now?

This question was raised directly in a recent article by Elizabeth Bruenig, an opinion columnist at The Washington Post. Plutocrat Jeff Bezos’ WaPo offered an establishment answer to “one of the key questions in the race: What is the difference between Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)?” WaPo argued that the difference is one between Revolution and Reform/Regulation. This answer is strategically irrelevant because it pits two undefined and artificially opposed abstractions against each other in a manner designed to divide the bell curve of opinion rhetorically, according to progressive voters’ subjective reactions to variable qualitative notions of these two perspectives. At most this distinction would seem to reflect either some subjective sense of urgency or a weakness for hyperbole.

The progressive supporters of these two candidates, at one time called the “Warren Wing” of the party but now closer to its center, should be uniting very soon to meet the current democratic crisis. This will require the deployment of any and all appropriate policy tools, irrespective of how WaPo might define them on its abstract and artificial spectrum from “Revolution” to Reform. As discussed below WaPo’s ranking of Sanders and Warren is the opposite of a less superficial reality, though that is symptomatic of the more important strategic irrelevance of its litmus test for making this key choice in the first place.

Putting aside constitutional amendments – which, like Sanders’ proposed “Economic Bill of Rights,” cannot in themselves constitute change without detailed implementation – no political change in the US system takes place at anywhere near the broad level of abstraction as WaPo would have progressives believe should guide their choice between Warren and Sanders. Rather change is made through concrete policy which commonly takes the form of laws and regulations implementing that policy. In the relatively brief democratic eras of US history that came after the long Jeffersonian Age descended into rule by the Calhounian slave-power oligarchy that led to Civil War – Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, the New Deal and the last era with no other name but “the 60’s,” which lasted between the end of the anti-communist counter-revolution (1947-1959?) and the legalization of plutocratic corruption by Buckley v Valeo (1976)[1] – enough such change accumulated to shift power toward the people in some enduring ways associated with these eras. Zach Carter observes that in this real world of detailed political action, “both [Warren and Sanders] support an array of trust-busting, tougher regulation, wealth redistribution, public options and, where appropriate, nationalization. It depends on the problem they’re trying to solve. In practice, they end up supporting an awful lot of the same solutions.”

Calling these solutions Revolution or Reform has nothing whatever to do with either the effectiveness of the solutions or of their proponents in achieving them. The strategically relevant question is which candidate is more capable and willing to advance policy that can reclaim power from the plutocrats through cumulative well-considered legislative, executive, administrative and judicial actions rather than lamely capitulate to merely symbolic, piecemeal or ineffective measures.

The most important skill lies in sequencing reform priorities so that each priority reform can strategically support subsequent reforms. For example, anti-corruption reform opens up possibilities for all other majoritarian reform that is otherwise blocked by plutocratic corruption, such as progressive taxation, gun control or climate change measures all responsive to their own special interests. Accumulation of enough such reforms creates momentum toward a new revival of democracy in what would be a new era. A new era is sorely needed after the current long drought ruled by the corrupt Buckley plutocracy. Viewed from a distance and with hindsight such cumulative change could be called Revolution because power is systemically adjusted back to the people from their predators. Up close and immediate it would look more like a busy and carefully constructed sequence of detailed reforms. Because the plutocracy has great skill in diverting pro-democracy demands into non-strategic and even counterproductive dead ends each reform must be itself carefully-crafted to eliminate the loopholes.

Such eras of democratic reform have required skills and strategy, which are not conferred by either attitude implicit in the concepts of Revolution or Reform. Strategic leadership has been essential for the success of each of these democratic eras. From Tom Paine, Adams and Jefferson to Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Robert LaFollette and FDR, their unique service is usually recognized. Though not without reticence from having wrongly interpreted Obama’s clever disguise in 2008 to promise such leadership, it does seem to me safer to identify Warren’s real accomplishments and public character as legitimate earmarks of such a leader for historic times, whereas Sanders merely stumbled upon an historic moment in 2016 created and sustained by his self-mobilized supporters rather than himself.

One prominent politician purveyed this same erroneous shorthand WaPo concept before quickly correcting himself in a telling manner: “Elizabeth Warren is more of the reformer than Bernie the revolutionary, meaning one who sees making our existing system of government work better to serve all Americans. Whereas Bernie is more – at least the message is more – blow it up” (italics are added for emphasis ). The qualification here is the whole point. It recognizes Sanders’ established political style, which is to leave the explosives safely detonated solely in “the message,” with its blast never really allowed to escape into the real world of political action.

Zach Carter persuasively argued in HuffPost that such abstract political ideas, which are also found in various sources of “liberal and left-wing political discourse,” distract progressives from the real issue of plutocracy. Journalist Mat Yglesias underlines Carter’s point by reporting substantial evidence in support of his own opposite conclusion from that of WaPo’s superficial and largely unsupported characterizations of Warren and Sanders: “whenever [Sanders’] vote was needed to incrementally advance some progressive cause, it was there…. While Obama was in the White House, it was Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who attracted the ire of administration officials and congressional leaders by occasionally spiking executive branch nominees or blowing up bipartisan deals. Sanders, by contrast, was not a troublemaker at all. He talked about his blue-sky political ideals as something he believed in passionately, but he separated that idealism from his practical legislative work, which was grounded in vote counts.” In other words Warren put principles over party in the interest of advancing the issues she cared about, like a true progressive. Sanders’ messaging “revolution” was all talk and bluster but no show. Warren has been praised for “picking strategic battles she won with a specific set of political skills. ‘I would say she’s the best progressive Democratic politician I’ve seen since Bobby Kennedy,’” reports the political writer Robert Kuttner. Before she went into electoral politics Warren had already received credit from Obama and others for establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) a progressive half-billion dollar New Deal-type agency. Can another person be named who has been responsible for establishing a comparable key regulatory agency in recent decades? By contrast the not easily dismissed explanation about Sanders’ lack of such accomplishments is “in a business where personal relations count, Sanders is viewed as a brusque and inflexible loner.”

Which then is the true WaPo “Revolutionary?” The tame lion who talks a good game or the principled brinkswoman who plays a good game? It is Warren who complained to the NYT: “Democrats have been unwilling to get out there and fight.” Warren did fight during her campaign for and service in the Senate, even acquiring a reputation (among males, at least) for “stridency” as she was learning the ropes for coping with a systemically corrupt political order. We should doubt anyone within such a system who is not as strident or angry as Warren. That stance tended to enhance her power to change the system, at least until she decided to campaign for president as a way to acquire more power to reform it. She then appropriately revealed “a folksier, more accessible side that wasn’t always apparent in her role” in the Senate.

Former congressman Barney Frank, always a sharp observer of such matters, said of Warren, after she had barely completed two years of her brand new “strident” career in electoral politics: “Right now, she’s as powerful a spokesperson on public policy as you could be in the minority…. She has an absolute veto over certain public-policy issues, because Democrats are not going to cross her…. Democrats are afraid of Elizabeth Warren.” Can anything remotely similar be said of Sanders after his 30 years in Washington? Indeed, Frank expressed what Politico reported as a consensus view that “[Sanders’] legislative record was to state the ideological position he took on the left, but with the exception of a few small things, he never got anything done…. He has always talked about revolution, but on Dodd-Frank and Obamacare, he left the pitchfork at home and joined the Democrats.”

Warren acquired power to make change. After two more years she was so powerful that the Clinton establishment unsuccessfully pressured her to endorse Clinton in the primaries, and Sanders’ acolytes would blame her for not making Sanders the victor by performing as his unsolicited super-endorser. It takes exceptional strategic and other political skills, focus and commitment to gain such power in such a short time. Unlike Sanders, even Warren’s enemies do not claim she is ineffective.

Warren, no less than Sanders, has clearly stated that the reason for her candidacy is to fight “against a small group that holds far too much power, not just in our economy, but also in our democracy.” She says her purpose is not “to just tinker around the edges — a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change” of plutocracy, “a rigged system that props up the rich and the powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else.” WaPo must have missed these parts of Warren’s presidential announcement speech which promised this challenge to the power of the systemically corrupt plutocracy. It is the central motif of her campaign. And of course, “she has a plan for that” – her first plan. It is her bill S.3357. 15th Cong. – the “Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act.”

Warren’s announcement of her presidential candidacy made clear that she considers Trump to be merely a symptom of this larger problem – the detritus of a crumbling democracy. Just cleaning up the garbage is not going to solve the systemic problem of plutocracy from which he emerged. If not systemically fixed today with more than cosmetics, Warren understands, the corrupt plutocracy is capable of generating even more toxic products tomorrow.

Therefore, from the very start of her highly effective campaign Warren positioned herself in opposition not just to Trump but to the economically “rich and powerful [who] have rigged our political system as well. They’ve bought off or bullied politicians in both parties to make sure Washington is always on their side.” Like Sanders at his best, she calls this system by its proper name. “When government works only for the wealthy and well-connected, that is corruption — plain and simple.… Corruption is a cancer on our democracy. And we will get rid of it only with strong medicine — with real, structural reform. Our fight is to change the rules so that our government, our economy, and our democracy work for everyone.” She emphasized to Emily Bazelon, writing for the NYT: “It’s structural change that interests me.” She told TIME “If we want to make real change in this country, it’s got to be systemic change.”

Ignoring the fetid distraction of Trump to focus her advocacy instead on the necessary systemic reforms is a winning progressive strategy. Establishment Democrats will again predictably ignore this strategy, as they did in 2016, at their peril. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has already accurately predicted the result of sending what Naomi Klein calls, “tepid centrists carrying the baggage of decades of neoliberal suffering” to battle against mobilized totalitarians: “We have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we don’t have a presidential candidate that’s fighting for true transformational change in lives of working people in the United States.”

Warren has taken on the task of defeating, not appeasing, the corrupt establishment which is willing in 2020 as it was in 2016 to take just that risk in order to preclude a progressive revival. Warren’s plan is, “First: We need to change the rules to clean up Washington. End the corruption.” This is not an opportunistic aspersion by a political con-artist, like Trump’s totally phony “drain the swamp” slogan, soon belied by his own most corrupt administration in recent history. With Trump second to none in pandering to plutocrats, even a broad section of his own base has abandoned the remaining mere 23% of Americans who think he has made any progress on this central campaign promise. In Warren’s case, according to a New Yorker profile, “her agenda of reversing income inequality and beating back the influence of corporate power in politics…. are issues that Warren has pursued for three decades.” Her mission has nothing to do with political calculation. It constitutes hard-earned strategic wisdom about priorities.

Once the systemic corruption is ended all the other crises from climate change and energy to health and food policy and much more can finally all respond to currently disempowered majorities. Systemic anti-corruption reform sustains itself first through the watchdog agencies it creates; solutions for these other issues are not similarly sustainable once the corrupt plutocracy refocuses its purchased influence on any modest measures that may filter through its defenses in singular and usually highly constricted moments of reform. For example Obama’s singular unambiguous reform – the Iran nuclear deal – and other more modest Obama reforms have been killed or wounded by Trump, because Obama left the MIC, Big Pharma, Wall Street and the other components of the corrupt plutocracy with even more power than he found them. Through his strategic malfeasance, for motives that historians will need to pick over, Obama’s 8 years were therefore not just unproductive, but counterproductive for democracy and social justice.

For Warren this issue of the corrupt plutocracy is not just a majoritarian favorite adopted to boost a political campaign. Obama campaigned as one “tired of business as usual in Washington” who would “overcome all the big money and influence” there and get the “lobbyists … [who] dominate our government … system in Washington” and their “undue influence” out of ”our way.” But he woke up president not so “tired of business as usual in Washington”after all. Refreshed by record-setting campaign cash from the Wall Street plutocracy he did the opposite of what many thought to be his central campaign promise. Roger D. Hodge, Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism (2010) (Obama “the best friend Wall Street could hope for”).

Warren does not seem to be just another mendacious politician on this priority issue of the day. It is one for which Warren’s prior expertise and activism drew her into politics. This is uniquely her own issue, emergent from a highly successful academic and policy career which brought her into contact with the corruption which then shaped her views about its centrality. It is less that Warren needs to be president in the mode of the usual megalomaniacal career politician than that this paramount issue calls her to bring to the presidency her unique skills acquired during an extraordinarily successful career outside of electoral politics. Warren herself confides: “I know why I’m here. I have ideas for how we bring systemic change to this country. And we’re running out of time.” As a University of Chicago economist told the NYT, “Wall Street and its allies are more afraid of her than Bernie … because when she says she’ll change the rules, she’s the one who knows how to do it.” Such knowledge is a relevant strategic distinction, unlike WaPo’s “Revolution versus Reform” nonsense, for the very reason that progressive failure has for two generations been driven by lack of competent strategy not lack of motivational ideology.

Zach Carter’s argument quoted above can be interpreted to suggest another answer than WaPo’s misguided theory for this key question of the difference between Sanders and Warren. Some claim their differences are merely symbolic, “differences of temperament, style,” “and world views,” much in the same manner as the other candidates who are mining the plutocratic wing’s war-chest of symbolic and diversionary identity politics, and single issue politics, while at the same time they raise money from plutocrats to seed and foster those divide and conquer divisions and strategic errors among progressives. That argument goes that these are just different flavors of progressivism, wholly unrelated to strategic success. But to deny the existence of objectively important – indeed decisive strategic – differences between the two progressives in the race would also be just as wrong as the ridiculous and disputable subjectivity of the “Revolution versus Reform” distraction marketed by WaPo and others. It invites progressives to distribute themselves randomly according to the subjective appeal of various styles and smiles rather than be guided by disciplined thoughtful strategic choice which has become the decisive factor for recovering democracy.

In the face of such distracting theories of difference, it is important for progressives to debate and answer this question for themselves, well before the primaries, so as not to squander their resources of time, finances and conviviality fighting among themselves over largely subjective triggers during the important lead-up to the primary elections. For the primaries they must be strategically united in order to win against a plutocracy which rarely finds itself strategically impaired. I have argued at length elsewhere that the contemporary uniquely extended failure of democracy in America since Buckley – which can be quantified by the metric of rising economic inequality – is fundamentally due to the failure of progressives over two generations to unite behind effective strategy to fight the corrupt plutocracy as their priority. At those times of similarly profound crises in the past, progressives have successfully formulated and united behind effective strategy. In the United States, due to its own systemic cultural legacy of racist slavery, genocide, and imperialism, joined by more universally shared issues of patriarchy and plutocracy, there will always be fertile soil for the emergence of latent anti-democratic elements into a totalitarian mobilization when an authentic and competent opposition is laking. This was understood from early days, such as Franklin’s famous qualification “if you can keep it.”

Trump is the direct and predictable product of the progressive failure to have forged an effective opposition to corrupt plutocracy by the time of that strategic moment when popular trust has been lost in the plutocratic “center.” Lack of a unifying progressive strategy meant that volatile and highly manipulable proto-totalitarian element would look elsewhere. As Slavoj Zizek, Trouble in Paradise (2014) 115, posits: “The rise of Fascism is not only the Left’s failure, but also proof that there was a revolutionary potential, a dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize.” Proto-totalitarian Trumpism is what arises when progressives are unable to unite strategically.

The Plutocracy and its propagandists take a keen and well-financed interest in prolonging this division among progressives. They now back Biden, or Trump. Recent reliable polling shows Biden 30% – Sanders 19% – Warren 15%. This current data shows that supporters of the two progressives, if united, would defeat the plutocracy‘s status quo candidate. As the progressive choice between Sanders and Warren lingers through the summer of 2019 in a mere contest of subjective tastes it will aggravate yet another in a series of historical failures by progressives to unite strategically and competently at a time when the stakes are now the highest. Continued progressive failure to act strategically for decisively wresting control of the Democratic Party from its corrupt plutocratic establishment will only move the country further in the direction of totalitarianism. Sanders failed at this task in 2016 though progressives provided him resources and support to do the job. Yet another progressive failure to organize strategically behind a competent progressive in the 2020 primaries could be terminal. The likes of WaPo will not do it for them. The necessary exercise of their own strategic judgment in this choice needed to prevail in 2020 will be a useful exercise of an unexercised muscle by progressives. To elect a strategist progressives must master the strategy.

The purpose of this article is to discuss four issues for which there is evidence of an objectively salient strategic difference between these two leading alternatives to Biden beyond those already discussed. Though the “eminently beatable” Biden currently leads the plutocracy’s large stable of compromised candidates, it is difficult to imagine Biden not tripping fatally over his own serial, legendarily tone-deaf and unrepented gaffes. The plutocracy may need to draw on its deep bench in later innings. Progressives need be prepared. The objective evidence below can assist progressives in making the necessary early strategic choice between the two progressives for opposing the plutocracy’s eventual candidate which will help them to resist predictable distractions. The alternative to such a strategic decision is bickering over subjective, standard-free, factually contested assertions that too often seem to belie unattractive motivations if not actual bot provocateurs.

Some might object that 2019 is too early for progressives to rely on polls or even to make such a choice. My own experience in authoring a long 2015 Huffington Post article strongly supporting Sanders is that discerning use of early polling data can provide a reliable guide to what will remain as the decisive factors through to the end of the campaign cycle, and even beyond. The present piece is offered in the same spirit as my 2015 article which remains relevant as an example of how early the disastrous outcome of the establishment Democrats’ 2016 status quo approach could be predicted. Since the decisive factors are now discernible there is no advantage and great risk in delaying the inevitable choice that progressives will make.

I disclose my personal views at the outset, if they are not already clear. Though I supported Sanders extensively through advocacy and as a state delegate for Sanders in 2016, lending a good deal of my time and even some money to the effort, my experience produced high regard for self-organizing Sanders supporters but quite the opposite for the man himself. Certainly by the time of his craven speech at the Democratic Convention in July, if not earlier, I had concluded he was an incompetent betrayer of the important role and opportunity he had been granted by his supporters, which he wasted at a crucial moment in American history. When he is compared to Elizabeth Warren, I now find Sanders to be unreliable, inauthentic, and wrongly motivated as a career politician with no other relevant skill base. This perspective has been elaborated at greater length by Jeffrey St. Clair (2016), as referenced below.

Sanders is concededly good at expounding majoritarian policies and his nominal independence allows him rhetorical distance from the plutocratic wing of the Democrats, which creates guilt by association and a fat target for the proto-totalitarian (also called “populist”) right-wing. I do not deny the sincerity of his progressive views. He has a role. That role is not a leadership role. The problem with Sanders is execution. Chris Smith makes a similar point in Vanity Fair when he observes that Sanders “is very good at raising money….what Sanders was less good at in 2016 was spending his large pile of money to win votes. Particularly the crucial Democratic primary votes of women and African-Americans.… Sanders is showing little sign that he’s going to get it right this time around.“ Marketing strategy is not political strategy. Sanders ran a both lucrative and wasteful 2016 campaign in these respects and also in his failure to elaborate detailed strategy to support his big themes, which also drew justifiable criticism of his competence.

If Bernie Sanders has not, Elizabeth Warren clearly has learned each of these lessons from Sanders’ flawed campaign. She has been generating detailed policy at such a fast pace it is difficult to see anyone catching up to her, though Sanders has tried by feebly issuing a less nuanced version of Wilson’s college debt plan. Warren has demonstrated her ability to run a highly effective campaign on limited funds. Spending money effectively is a strategic skill. There do not seem to be any third-string cronies around her siphoning off funds into useless sideshows. One imagines that if Warren possessed Sanders’ 2016 mostly wasted pile of loot she would already have reorganized the Inauthentic Opposition party – as Sheldon Wolin described the Democrats in 2008 – into a true opposition party that it was designed by Martin Van Buren to be at its inception.

As for Sanders’ problem with reaching African-Americans, according to Rev. Al Sharpton his progressive rival has no such problem. Of course, “Kamala [Harris] connects with black-church audiences. Cory Booker, too,” says Sharpton. “And I’ll tell you who surprised me: Liz Warren. She rocked my organization’s convention like she was taking Baptist preacher lessons.” Warren thus readily solves the biggest demographic problem Sanders had and still has: black women, particularly in the south. And this Oklahoma woman might also surprise with her ability to use “southern charm” to flip the script for white women still living under the South’s unreconstructed patriarchy. Her primary-election campaign strategy has been preparing her with the experience to play an unprecedented role in American political history in the 2020 general election.

An establishment Democratic Congressman offered a similar observation about Warren’s potential: “If she can make the leap to being a candidate that played in the rural Midwest … it could be really interesting to watch.” By comparison Sanders, used to “giving the same stump speech at event after event, numb to the hunger of the beast he had awakened,” St. Clair (2016) 8, brings a known and dated turn to the stage, which like Biden’s has little potential to surprise on its up side potential among new demographics in this manner. The sooner Warren becomes the acknowledged front runner in the party, the sooner she can use her proven networking skills within the party to bring some order to the crowded primary field for purposes of deploying them effectively to reach various such disaffected demographics. She is the person most capable of turning the lemon of an overcrowded field of contenders into lemonade. Organizing such cooperation is something foreign to Sanders’ experience, which was demonstrated in his shutting out potential allies from his campaign. Yet it is a significant potential strategic factor that Warren can uniquely bring for the essential redefinition of the Democratic Party in 2020.

We already know Sanders capitulated to the plutocracy in 2016 for no reason that he could credibly explain. After promising his supporters to carry the fight to the Convention floor he folded long prior to the Convention. What exactly is to be gained by progressives in trusting Sanders not to do the same thing again? We now have the alternative of Warren who gives us no reason to doubt and some reason to trust that she will “persist” with strategic intelligence rather than capitulate under similar circumstances. She combines the unique qualities of a true policy expert with the ability to communicate. But most important she is someone who has not been a career politician, and therefore is not, like Sanders, “year after year: a politician who promises one thing and delivers, time and again, something else entirely.” St. Clair (2016) 18. In 2016 this habit, in the form of deference to the plutocracy he campaigned against, delivered Trump.

Having disclosed this general point of view toward the two progressives, I try to remove these subjective understandings largely derived from my involvement in 2016 on behalf of Sanders’ effort from the analysis below of four objective factors that distinguish Sanders’ from Warren based on opinion polling of their supporters. Those with a different experience than mine can nevertheless use these objective factors to make a strategic progressive choice. The issue raised here is not so much about the contested fact-based considerations above, but about the necessity for progressives to made a strategic decision based on uncontested objective facts. The argument is that there is no reason to delay making that strategic choice.


The first striking difference between the two progressives revealed by polls is the significantly different information levels of their respective 2019 supporters. The June 11, 2019, release of the highly reliable Quinnipiac Poll found that among those Democrats paying little or no attention to the campaign, Sanders is actually well ahead of Biden 36% to 22%, let alone Warren. This could be because such persons recall Sanders favorably from 2016 as the only alternative to Clinton while in their recollection Biden’s role in politics is probably somewhat vague. Biden’s last campaign was 2012 when he played only a minor supporting role for the main act. When she announced for the presidency, in turn, Warren was a relatively fresh face as a one term Senator. She had never thrown her hat in the ring of presidential politics prior to the current election cycle (unlike both Sanders and Biden).

Among people paying a lot of attention, however, Warren’s 17% support far outstrips Sanders at only 9%, which also leaves him marginally behind even Harris’s 11% and Buttigieg’s 10%. This means Warren is the clear alternative to Biden among those informed voters who are already paying a lot of attention to the contest, while Sanders is slipping badly as people pay greater attention. Here is the Q-poll data:


Little A lot Some None

Biden 32% 33% 22%

Sanders 9 17 36

O’Rourke 1 6 4

Harris 11 6 3

Warren 17 18 6

Buttigieg 10 6 6

It is to Warren’s inevitable advantage and to Sanders’ disadvantage that eventually nearly all voters will be paying at least some attention to the election campaigns. Paying a lot of attention halves Sanders’ support from those who are paying some attention. But even just paying some attention halves Sanders’ support again from those who are paying little or no attention, while it triples Warren’s support.

Another data point, from 538, supports this finding that Sanders is supported by the least informed progressive voters in 2019. (This contrasts with 2016 when the low information voters tended to oppose Sanders, who was then all but boycotted by the mainstream media.) The 538 pollsters counted twitter “exclusive followers” of the respective candidates and found Sanders finishing (at 63.2% exclusivity) second only behind spiritual leader Marianne Williamson’s faithful followers. These exclusive – nearly faith-based – Bern out twitter followers are presumed less informed about other candidates because they only follow St. Bernard. By contrast, among the candidates registering more than de minimis polling support,Warren’s followers were found to be by far the best informed by this metric (at only16.4% exclusivity). This evidence supports the separate Q-poll finding above that Warren voters tend to be significantly better informed than Sanders voters. Progressives’ dedication to democracy have at least arguably made them informed voters.


Sanders’ poor showing among informed voters may be due to what St. Clair (2016) 18 calls, “So much talk, so little action. The deeper you look at Sanders, the less substance you see.” Or it could be the more Warren becomes known, the more there is for progressives to like. Or both. In any event this stark difference in information levels of their supporters discussed above will objectively affect the distinctly different support trendlines for these candidates. Among the top five contenders, Warren is the only one whose trend line from the first monthly polling in March through June 2019 has been consistently improving, partly due to her masterfully conducted campaign. In that same period Sanders first lost supporters to Biden and then won them back to return both himself and Biden to the respective points where they had started out.

One might ask, on what metric are Biden and Sanders interchangeable choices for some voters. The answer might add evidence for the low information finding above.

Both Biden (at 7% unknown) and Sanders (at 6% unknown) were both extremely well known to Democratic voters at the time of the May 21 poll on this question. This compared to Warren who was insufficiently known to 23% of such voters, including 32% of nonwhite voters. Assuming that the current directional trends for these top three candidates persist, this much larger number of voters who do not know her leaves Warren considerably more room to expand her support as compared to her two main rivals. When her vigorous campaign reaches this remaining nearly quarter of Democrats who do not know enough about her to form an opinion Warren will predictably gain something like a 1/3 boost in her support numbers. Beyond that boost, if Warren’s campaign continues performing at her three month upward trend rate, and Biden’s self-immolation continues producing his two month downward trend rate, Warren would overtake Biden in less than three months, by September.

In four polls taken on the question from 2013 to 2019 Warren has also increased steadily in her favorability rating from 17% in 2013 to 32% on May 21, 2019, while she at the same time increased her familiarity among voters. Here is that data:

            Fav Unfav Haven’t Heard Enough

May 21, 2019 32 41 25

Dec 19, 2018 30 37 31

Jul 08, 2014 24 15 61

Dec 11, 2013 17 19 63

Given Warren’s favorable trendline momentum, is Warren not already the predictable leading contender against Biden? Indeed, a recent CBS poll showed Warren beating Sanders by six points and only six points behind Biden on the soft question whether she is being considered by the Democratic voter. A recent national and several blue state polls also show her running ahead of Sanders. Even Chris Mathews can read this trendline.

This trend led some to another question, whether it is risky nominating Warren for the goal of defeating Trump? As of the date of the May 21, 2019 poll, 54% of all voters were already committed to “definitely” not vote for Trump. Only 37% of voters in a Monmouth poll say that Trump should be reelected in 2020. This should indicate that a relatively popular candidate like Warren (“being considered” more than Sanders) can step over that low bar to victory. Monmouth reports her “rating of 60% favorable to 14% unfavorable” among Americans while, among voters, Q-poll reports she has a 41% unfavorable opinion rating compared to Trump’s 57% unfavorable opinion rating. Several match-up polls recently showed her defeating Trump by small margins, and even finishing within the margin of error against him in Texas. Meanwhile the recent and more reliable Q-poll has Warren defeating Trump by seven points, which would constitute a modern (post-Reagan) landslide. Ipsos confirms her beating Trump by a very comfortable 6%.


It does not require a poll to conclude that at least some of Sanders’ supporters are attracted by Sanders’ self-description as a socialist, which no other current – nor perhaps any credible past – Democratic presidential candidate has done. Whassup with that?


“Mayor Pete” in his agreeable, measured, intelligent way has furnished a concise understanding of socialism as “a word in American politics that has basically lost all meaning. It is used by the right wing to demonize majoritarian policies, and the right question is whether an ‘idea is good or not.”’ A democracy appraises policy ideas one issue at a time on the basis of majorities, not on the basis of an abstract ideology. In the case of socialism, much less, the detailed content of that ideology has been notoriously disputed by its adherents for so many generations that it makes any direct implementation into policy impossible. Says Zach Carter: “It was even hard to pin down Karl Marx on a practical definition.” Carter thus writes: “The trouble for leftish intellectuals is a confusion over the terms ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism.’ Both words are extremely flexible, and their meanings shift with political currents. In an American context, it has never been easy to distinguish between socialism and reformed capitalism.” (link in original) Sanders is supposed (by many left intellectuals) to support the former and Warren “only” the latter. As the vaguest of directional signals this supposed distinction between them cannot determine nor predict any actual policies and is irrelevant to the paramount American struggle for a democracy within which notionally “socialist” programs could be adopted by majorities in the face of plutocratic opposition.

The term socialism in American politics, as Buttigieg says, has been used more often as a right wing propagandistic epithet against any policies which erode or limit plutocratic power than as a successful organizing concept for progressive action against the plutocracy. The brief era when the charismatic Eugene V Debs represented socialism in several presidential campaigns may be an exception. It does not help that the term showed up in the name of, and was the highly manipulable ideology of, a violently totalitarian state. The fact that “socialism” has serves more as a pinata for plutocrats than a lodestar for progressives was on full display in Bernie Sanders’ attempt, in his June 12 George Washington U speech on the subject of Democratic Socialism. The speech was intended to explain any advantage he seeks to gain by using such a contested term. Most of the references to socialism made in Sanders’ speech are about those who “use the word ‘socialism’ as a slur,” such as against FDR and his New Deal, or against other more recent majoritarian safety-net and regulatory programs. He then seeks to construct his meaning of the term socialism from the propaganda of his and its plutocratic opponents.

Sanders thus arrives at a definition of socialism in his speech that is indistinguishable from the far more meaningful term “progressive” in the US context. Sanders seemed to use “progressive” as a synonym for socialist when he referred to “I and other progressives” and referred to “FDR and his progressive coalition” while at the same time claiming FDR and his New Deal were models of socialism for him. In his speech Sanders even suggests that “freedom” is socialism.

This speech, intended to elucidate the key component of Sanders’ political identity, sowed understandable confusion among various commentators trying to make sense of it. After the speech three smart journalists chatted that his speech didn’t “really have a coherent answer” to the question why Sanders calls himself a socialist. None could find a rational reason for Sanders to highlight his claim to being a socialist in light of its most common use – as demonstrated in Sanders’ own speech – as a “slur” against democracy and its natural tendency to serve the majority over the interests of plutocratic or other minority elites. A Slate commenter called Sanders’ attempt to equate the New Deal, FDR and progressives all with socialism as “rhetorical pixie dust” because “his self-described ‘FDR-style’ platform isn’t really even socialism.”

In an NPR interview Sanders said “What I mean by democratic socialism is that I want a vibrant democracy.” Is there a reason he needs to import a label from Europe to only say that? The more he talks about it the more confusing his use of the term “socialism” becomes, the more it looks like Sanders is just blowing smoke on the subject and that the term lacks any cogent meaning in Sanders’ usage that could guide action different than any other progressive Democrat. To Sanders, socialism is the sum of the majoritarian policies that furnish the substance of his standard campaign speeches which are designed to achieve electoral majorities, the goal of any politician.

It is at least clear, as many actual socialists complain, that Sanders does not accept the normal handy definition that one critical advocate of socialism provides: “Under socialism, there is social or public or perhaps ‘state’ ownership of major productive assets; under capitalism, these things are privately owned.“ This particular socialist prefers Warren over Sanders, and gives her a point for honestly saying she is not a Socialist while Sanders pretends he is by cleverly adopting the propagandist definition of plutocrats rather than the normal definition of socialists themselves. This writer also undertakes a sustained analysis concluding that “Warren is more an old style Progressive and Sanders more of a New Dealer… The proposals she advances [are] closer to genuine socialism than the redistributive (Social Democratic) measures seemingly dearer to Sanders’ heart.” Rep. Jamin Raskin, like Warren an accomplished former long time professor of law and author, similarly sees Warren as “kind of a return to the progressivism of the early 20th century” and Sanders’ ideology closer to “European-style social democracy…. kind of an old-school Marxian approach.”

For his followers who take him seriously, the most sense that can be made for purposes of comparing Warren and Sanders with respect to his claim to be a socialist is this judgment that Warren leans Progressive (for systemic, or “structural” change) while Sanders leans New Deal (for redistributional programs, more like European democracies). This formulation deploys terms which have concrete meaning and resonance in US political history unlike Sanders’ murky use of the term “socialism” to encompass both these other terms, along with democracy itself, and even freedom, justice and whatever other good and popular things are attacked by the plutocracy. Sanders’ term remains analytically meaningless and subjective to Sanders himself for connoting any predictable support for any particular strategy. His actual redistributive leanings are at once less strategic but easier to understand than are progressive systemic reforms which require a deeper understanding of precisely where the system is broken, how best to fix it, and the strategic gains from doing so.

Mat Yglesias who, as quoted above, found Sanders actual policy work less aggressive and more deferential than Warren’s suggests a reason it serves Sanders to deploy the socialist label. He reports on Sanders’ stint as mayor in a way that evokes his pre-presidential political career as a whole, that “if not for the ‘socialist’ label, there would be nothing particularly remarkable about his tenure in office relative to what any normal liberal Democratic mayor would do.” This observation suggests the real function of the term socialism for Sanders, which he cannot reveal and therefore covers up with both smoke and also his unconvincing and even false intimations, for example, that calling himself a socialist means he is building a movement (“in opposition to oligarchy, there is a movement” which he associates with socialism) or is inherently more aggressive or even effective in fighting the plutocracy (socialism “only way to defeat oligarchy and authoritarianism.”)

As Yglesias reports, “Sanders has spent the past 30 years very much not building up an institutional democratic socialist movement.” And anyone involved in his 2016 campaign understands he continued very much not building a progressive movement to replace the plutocratic wing of the Democratic Party that year. What he did do was sequester his mailing list with his non-profit “Our Revolution” to solicit money for professional activism. Like the Vanity Fair article quoted above, Jeffrey St. Clair, Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution (2016) 13, charges: “By 1994, it was apparent that the only movement in which Sanders was interested was the movement of liberal money into his political campaign trough.” This also described Sanders’ 2016 political campaign which primarily operated as a successful fundraiser of nearly a quarter billion dollars. Any nascent “movement [was] … snuffed out by its strange and stubborn leader.” St. Clair (2016) 8.

Sanders provides no historical support for the tacit suggestion that a socialist, as he defines the term, is more aggressive, reliable or effective than any progressive for fighting the plutocracy. This idea is demonstrably false, especially when applied to his own historic capitulation in 2016 to the Clinton ring without apparently bargaining for or receiving any strategic or otherwise significant concession for his supporters in return. This is all but unprecedented in politics which is a process of bargaining demonstrated electoral support for policy or personnel (a form of policy) concessions. Especially in the historic context of 2016 Sanders owed the corrupt DNC nothing and would have been justified in walking out like Roosevelt did from the similarly corrupted nomination process of the Republicans in 1912.

Debs, the model for a socialist presidential candidate in a plutocratic era, by comparison, never campaigned for the faux progressive Woodrow Wilson but rather from his prison cell charged that “no man in public life in American history had ever retired so thoroughly discredited … as Woodrow Wilson.” Ernest Freeberg, Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War, and the Right to Dissent (2008). This is not to suggest that the Clintons were necessarily as bad as Woodrow Wilson, but the comparison holds that Sanders’ brand of socialism did not make Sanders live up to the example that Debs set for a more aggressive socialist opposition to plutocracy. An even more relevant example from the 1912 election was the authentic Progressive leader Robert LaFollette who did support Wilson. But he first bargained for what turned out to be a strategically important appointment of progressive lawyer and LaFollette political ally Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court. Though the Supreme Court was strategically contested throughout 2016, even more profoundly so than in 1912, Sanders made no similar bargain with Clinton for his valuable refusal to fight at the Convention after he had promised his supporters he would do so.


Yglesias concludes that Sanders’ use of the term socialism is only “a shtick that’s taken him … far.” This “shtick” exploits the term’s actual function in US politics – as a derogatory right wing broadside epithet – for purposes of executing an unusual but effective, for Sanders, political rope-a-dope tactic. The more the right wing complained about his solely verbal “socialism” the more Sanders gained support in the Peoples Republic of Vermont, and elsewhere as voters started looking for more extreme and aggressive responses to the bipartisan plutocracy. If Sanders is attacked by the right for being a socialist that meant he would be perceived by his progressive supporters as an authentic even “breathtaking” threat to the right, even though his actual political accomplishments are merely “banal,” as Yglesias puts it, actually far less threatening to the plutocracy than the expressly non-socialist but authentically progressive Warren.

WaPo, for one, clearly bought Sanders’ “shtick,” as discussed above, along with many of Sanders’ voters. Now that a majority of especially younger Democrats approve the socialist label it cannot hurt Sanders in the primaries, unless primary voters are caused to believe that it makes Sanders less “electable” in the general election by likely losing the essential support of Independents more susceptible to right wing propaganda. Since other Democrats will not likely red-bait Sanders during the primaries, voters will not know the extent of the risk posed by this “shtick” until Republicans do so in the general election.

On a policy level, the term “socialist” does facilitate the kind of sleight of hand Sanders executed in 2016 when he ran a campaign on the basis of the progressive principle that it is necessary to take back democracy from the corrupt plutocracy first, as Warren contends and Sanders correctly then claimed, in order to subsequently accomplish other progressive majoritarian goals. Sanders, for example, had warned during the January 17, 2016 debate: “Very little is going to be done to transform our economy and to create the kind of middle class we need unless we end a corrupt campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy.” But when it came time for him to passively surrender to the plutocrat’s candidate Clinton without a fight at the Convention, however, Sanders suddenly and without any accountability to his grass roots supporters abandoned this priority on which he had campaigned and shifted to a wholly inconsistent excuse for supporting the leading practitioner of the corrupt campaign finance system at that time. His excuse was that the Democrats had included some promises in their platform on spending programs that were neither, in a ruling status quo plutocracy, normally possible to deliver nor sustainable, if somehow they were delivered. Jeffrey St. Clair (2016) 4, 20, correctly predicted that these “planks … will get promptly embalmed” and criticized Sanders for accepting them in return for his support of Clinton – calling Sanders “a political coward who feared retribution,” even suggesting an undisclosed “Faustian deal” with Clinton.

“Socialism” is such a slippery concept that it allows Sanders to juggle policies and priorities in this inscrutable fashion as it may suit his own political needs. At its heart in US politics socialism has always represented this same flawed strategy that political reform should not be a sequential priority over economic reform. Instead socialists can shift among the actual priority and what amounts to popular distractions from that priority. It is instructive in this regard that in US history TR came before FDR. The Progressive Era necessarily preceded the New Deal. This is because structural democratic reforms made by even the Progressives’ uncompleted reform agenda enabled adoption of the majoritarian New Deal policies. It is a fundamental error to put the New Deal cart before the Progressive horse. Absent a democracy, progressive economic reform is unsustainable at best. Pursuing both at once loses the focus and weakens the alliances necessary for victory for democracy over the plutocracy which is prerequisite to victory on the remainder of the majoritarian agenda. Any actually contested difference between socialism and progressivism mostly adds up to debate over this highly consequential strategic error.

Slavoj Zizek, Trouble in Paradise (2014) 120, demonstrates that this fundamental strategic error of flawed priorities remains essential doctrine for socialist intellectuals even today. Zizek unsuccessfully argues the case for not prioritizing the fight against systemic plutocratic corruption. He would rather confuse and dilute this priority goal with advocacy for redistributional socialism, an old failed tactic from as early as 1848 which he treats as if it were a new insight. Having brought all his formidable polemic powers to bear on this central subject of his analysis, Zizek fails to make a credible case that “the universal goal” for the Left – the only thing that “can save us from” the prospect of an authoritarian future – “is only the unity of the struggle for freedom and democracy with the struggle for social and economic justice.” Because bad strategy produces defeat the opposite is true.

The pernicious influence of this old socialist “unity” of goals doctrine, which involves building a platform for a new party, rather than strategic sequencing of goals to take over an existing party, is one of the causes of progressive failure in the US, such as in 1912 when Debs diluted the progressive vote by running for president on such a “unity” platform against the Progressive Party. The Progressives finished second but could have narrowed the margin with those socialist votes which instead went in futile search of “the universal goal.” Contrary to Zizek, this strategic socialist failure to prioritize defending democracy against rule by a corrupt plutocracy is a cause of the proto-totalitarian Trump, as it was in 1912 a cause of proto-totalitarian Wilsonian repression, Jim Crow racism, gratuitous war, state propaganda, etc., and termination of the Progressive Era.

Sanders’ June 12 speech was similarly promoted by his campaign as promising to explain “How Democratic Socialism Is the Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy.” Like Zizek, Sanders did not explain; and it is not. The strategic meaning of socialism as Sanders uses it is precisely to justify, as he did in 2016, the strategic error of failing to keep the focus on overthrowing the plutocracy in alliance with the majority who supports democracy prior to using the hard won machinery of democracy to enact majoritarian economic reforms. Returning again to the best understanding of the difference between Sanders and Warren on this spectrum of socialism is that Warren is both more strategic and also more socialist in a positive sense (according to an actual socialist) in her emphasis on systemic (“structural”) reform as her first priority. Sanders we may legitimately fear from experience, might sacrifice such strategic focus to win some incremental popular redistributional victory deemed to be idiosyncratically “socialist” which the ruling plutocracy might nevertheless tactically concede to relieve pressure for systemic reform.

Contrary to WaPo’s argument that Sanders is distinguished from Warren as a revolutionary, polled progressive voters who self-identified as “very liberal” (i.e strongly progressive voters) seem to know better. In May Warren decisively led Biden 30% to 19% among these progressives, of course, but also led Sanders at 22%:

total / very liberal

Biden 35% 19%

Sanders 16 22

O’Rourke 2 4

Harris 8 13

Warren 13 30

Buttigieg 5 6

April 30

Biden 38% 20%

Sanders 11 19

O’Rourke 5 4

Harris 8 15

Warren 12 26

Buttigieg 10 11

Similarly, confirming Warren’s solid lead among these “very liberal” voters by looking at their least favorites, Warren, at only 2%, has the fewest voters among all candidates who say they would not support (“would be unhappy with”) her nomination. This compares very favorably with both Biden at 16% and Sanders at 8%. These most progressive voters (“revolutionary” in WaPo’s analysis) apparently do not buy Sanders’ socialism gambit and prefer Warren.


Minnesota is something of a Democratic progressive bellwether state. Sanders crushed Clinton there in 2016 by 61.7 to 38.3% due to its caucus system that rewards motivation and high turnout. But Sanders’ abject failure of organization left the establishment in charge of the party. The party establishment which thrives upon low turnout and knows it is “much more expensive” to run a primary campaign, supported the legislature’s change of Minnesota into a primary state in order to avoid the serious risk which progressive caucusers, motivated by presidential politics, posed to the party insiders’ continued control of the party – should progressives ever get organized. Obama had won the nomination in 2008 on the basis of dominating the caucus states, and in 2016 Sanders’ relied even more than Obama on caucus victories. Minnesota’s new 2020 primary will now be held on Super-Tuesday one month after its neighbor Iowa kicks off the 2020 election season. This primary is one Warren must win.

In a Minnesota poll conducted June 8-12, 2019 Warren had a narrow lead in Minnesota over both Biden and Sanders while also running 5% ahead of MN Senator Amy Klobuchar. This should be expected in a progressive state. What is unexpected is the gender gap also revealed by these results. With Biden there is little gender difference in his support, but with Sanders there is a considerable gender gap among Minnesota progressives. Sanders leads among men (at 30%), but gains less than half as many female supporters. Warren leads among women (at 27%), but attracts less than half as many male supporters. Klobuchar voters also show a gender gap. It is therefore likely that Warren will get a disproportionate share of Klobuchar voters after Klobuchar realizes the futility of a campaign where she trails even in her home state, and finally drops out. Until then, if nothing else, Klobuchar is likely depressing Warren’s victory margin in Minnesota.

This surprisingly large Minnesota gender gap among Sanders’ supporters also appears at the national level with a 40% gap or more reported in two Q-polls (Q, 2,3,5) and (Q.2). Warren’s national gender gap like Harris’ is much smaller, suggesting the possibility that in progressive Minnesota Warren’s gender gap is more expressly due to Sanders pulling progressive males away from Warren rather than some special gender polarizing effect of Warren herself, which may not be registering consistently in the national polls. Warren is not identified with gender politics. Indeed the NYT reports that as an academic, “She challenged standard feminist thinking.”

As a politician Warren similarly runs on the issues and not, as Clinton did, on her gender. There is no need to go to gender to support Warren. She is one of the most accomplished persons in politics. Her strategy to make inequality and corruption her priority focus is exactly what the country needs. Identity politics is simplistic and ultimately counterproductive. It is appropriate that the first woman president does not solicit votes to simply check that box. Warren seems to understand, as Slavoj Zizek writes: “Authentic emancipatory events always involve ignoring particular identities as irrelevant…. Otherwise we will get just a conflict of nationalist passions manipulated by oligarchs.” Trouble in Paradise (2014) 160-61. Warren is authentically in pursuit of “emancipatory events” that will restore first democracy and then equality to the 99%. Not campaigning on her gender identity supports that authenticity, as does a vote for her irrespective of her gender. The apparent gender gap in support for Warren warrants further inquiry.

The element of Warren’s identity that does go to her authenticity in uniting the country for such “emancipatory events” against the ruling plutocracy is her background as a working class kid from Oklahoma who rose to the highest levels through a combination of her own considerable merit, grit, and the opportunity culture that the boomers then enjoyed and she wants to repair. Her gender is not the core message of that Lincolnesque story which is sufficient unto itself even without its gender subplot. By contrast Obama used his identity to disguise his elite family background and elite schooling. “He posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln,” judged Cornel West, but Obama was actually “counterfeit” –  a “Rockefeller Republican.” Both Warren and Obama ended up as law professors at elite institutions. But Warren’s academic career both traveled much further and ultimately reached much higher than adjutant instructor Obama’s did.

Obama has more charisma, to be sure, but where did that get us? Obama published no professional work but rather books about himself to help him rise to the top management of a rigged system. Warren published copious highly regarded professional work and popularized that work in books to expose, help others deal with, and change that rigged system. Warren’s success relies far less on identity than Obama’s did, which provides for their supporters an important guard against being “manipulated by oligarchs,” again.

The men who are disproportionately propping up Sanders’ campaign account for more than double his lead over Warren in the referenced polls. When added to the multiple sexual harassment allegations against Sanders’ 2016 campaign, this gender gap among Sanders’ supporters is an embarrassing warning sign to progressives. It gives retroactive credibility to the 2016 “Bernie Bros” allegations that appeared, at the time, to be a deliberate lie aimed against progressives’ justifiable political rejection of Clinton.

Among these suspects of gender bias there is a kind of highly fact bound and contestable catechism held over by such voters’ 2016 disappointment: 1) apologizing for Sanders’ pre-Convention support of Clinton for nothing in return he could credibly explain as fulfillment of some irrevocable agreement he made to support the Democrat’s rigged choice, which thereby converts capitulation into evidence of strength of character, and 2) complaining about Warren’s non-involvement in the 2016 primary process as providing evidence of weakness. The opposite can be argued on both matters: Warren showed strength of character in being the only one of 14 woman Senate Democrats who held out against strong pressure to support Clinton up until the very same day in June that Sanders himself started his capitulation dance. And then what fool, or lackey, complies with the terms of an agreement that the other party had flagrantly breached by rigging the primary process against him? These divergent subjective interpretations of sketchy facts, cannot be conclusively resolved. But the one which stereotypically ascribes weakness to a female and strength to a rival male is suggestive of gender bias.

There is polling evidence of a 20% or more male gender bias among Democrats and Independents. Sanders, not Biden, appears to be its principal beneficiary. It may be premature for conclusive judgment, but if that 20% includes you, it is time to reconsider the cost of such bias. Gender bias is both an invidious tool of patriarchy and inherently unconstitutional, even in the absence of the ERA. See United States v. Virginia (1996). Yale professor Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works (2018), tells us “patriarchy is the very core of fascism.” If this weed has taken root among progressives and is not immediately eradicated upon its discovery by means of individual soul-searching then the American democratic project which now depends for its survival upon progressives finally uniting to take effective strategic action in the face of proto-totalitarianism is certainly doomed by the unexplored subjective fears or biases of progressive men.


Given the enormous stakes, in 2019 it needs to be asked of many of those statistically excess men in Sanders’ column whether they are sufficiently confident of the basis for their informed support of Sanders over Warren. Do the four objective differences between the two progressives explored above not call into doubt the potentially genderized basis of that support? Would these men not better serve their legitimate political goals by, 1) deeply interrogating the strategic bases for their choice. 2) seeking the unity that progressives desperately need well before going into the primaries against the plutocracy, 3) jettisoning all factually contested and other subjective justifications for choosing a candidate in 2020, and 4) avoiding credible charges, or at least the appearance, of gender discrimination?

If it is true that Warren is attracting support on her merits and not for her gender, the men who are supporting Sanders in excess numbers and at the same time prioritized a progressive victory in 2020 should make a primary choice only after they a) get better informed about Warren, b) read the writing of polling trendlines on the wall, c) not be fooled by Sanders’ “socialism” gambit, and d) eschew even the appearance of gender bias by immediately unifying progressive support behind Warren.

2016 was then, 2020 is already now. Warren is not remotely a Clinton.*

* This article is based in part on the author’s book, “Strategy for Democracy: From Systemic Corruption to Proto-Totalitarianism in the Second Gilded Age Plutocracy, and Progressive Responses” which is currently available as a free ebook.


1. Buckley, in an elaborate hoax of shell game logic, extended the freedom of speech to where it had never gone before – to undermine democracy by judicial diktat. Its pervasive illogic included what this writer has called the Robin Hood defense, equating money illegally paid to buy influence from politicians with First Amendment speech, using the novel rationale that such proceeds of crime might be used to buy political advertising. It was Buckley, not the more recent and better known Citizens United (2010), which laid the foundations for and quickly initiated the current extended era of systemic plutocratic corruption.

Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.