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The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren

The mainstream media, and elite opinion, seem to be coming to a consensus on who’s going to be the next president of the United States and they seem to be breaking for Elizabeth Warren. Warren was given by far the most speaking time at CNN’s most recent debate and the overall treatment of her in the corporate media continues to be mostly favorable.

Of course a lot can change in a couple weeks, let alone a year, but the prevailing winds, as we’ve seen in the past, tend to blow in a certain direction-that’s why they call them prevailing. We experienced this very early in the process last time around with the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee.

The so-called cranks on the left warned everyone that this would be a grave error, but the powers-that-be seemed so self-assured that many went along with what many saw as a flawed candidate-too close to insiders, pro-intervention/war in a more isolationist time, unable to “connect” with average voters…

Well, as Ronald Reagan said, here we go again.

It seems that once again the anti left-wing coalition in the Democratic party wants to put forward a candidate that in plain sight, in many ways, is a representation of the old order that has been recently repudiated (think 2016).

To be fair, Elizabeth Warren is not singing the same tune as Hillary Clinton did. In fact, when sharing the debate stage with the neo-liberal likes of Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden, Warren is positioned well to the left of most 2019 primary opponents. But her very recent conversion to left-wing populism can be explained in two words-Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren may not have set out to be the centrist candidate to defeat the left insurgency, but at this point that would be her historic role.

Many on the liberal, and even left wing side of the ledger, want to argue that Bernie and Elizabeth Warren are identical when it comes to policy and politics. This is patently false.

Both in style and in substance the differences are significant.

To begin with, Warren is a relative newcomer to the left-wing cause, describing herself as a Republican and a conservative into the 1990’s. Why would you hold this against her you might ask? Aren’t left-wing ideas minority ideas and aren’t we trying to win people over to them? Well yes, but imagine supporting the Reagan administration and Bushes as they murdered thousands in Central America, race baited “welfare Queens,” incarcerated millions, and rolled back much of the regulatory structures enacted by labor and the New Deal? This wasn’t some idealistic Young American for Freedom yearning for a purer land, but a full formed Harvard Professor trying to roll back the historic gains of the 20th century.

For instance, look at her plans and policy formulas that will tax the rich and deliver health care for all.

I guess they are okay but they seem to miss the fundamental issue that has motivated Bernie Sanders his entire life-who wields power and for whom? And when implemented, do they fundamentally alter our institutions?

Whether it’s her approach to healthcare, foreign policy, civil rights, monopoly pricing or most importantly labor, Warren’s policies fail to fundamentally alter power in the United States, Bernie’s do. The distinction is important here. A Warren presidency risks repeating the same mistakes made by Obama’s administration. Like Warren, Obama the law professor came to Washington with a plan. This plan was usually the market compromise solution, the likes of which were meant to attract enough Republican votes and appease the Democratic establishment’s corporate overlords. But coming to the table with the final offer, so to speak, was Obama’s demise.

Can one President deliver such a program as radical as Sanders’ on their own? In a word, no. That is why the Sanders’ campaign has stressed social movements from the beginning. And not only during the campaign, but throughout Bernie’s entire life he has been a participant and a leader working to fundamentally balance the scales of justice to the side of the people. His slogan, “Not Me, Us” points to an approach that knows there is a fight ahead, not one that is won by the best plan. The incoming endorsements by freshman congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar are a testament to how the old order is threatened by Sanders and why they lean towards Warren, or worse, Biden.

A final issue to consider as elite opinion coalesce around Warren-how will Warren motivate the Obama coalition to beat Donald Trump?

Unfortunately, it seems she will be as vulnerable to Trump’s critique of elites as Hillary was. As a wonkish Harvard professor, with lots of plans, and a weak case for First Nations identity, she represents the image of what many around the world despise-a privileged do-gooder who thinks thinks they know more than they do and is more of the same. For many voters who are motivated by authenticity, she will represent what they hate-someone that talks a good game but in the end represents the established order that has created the current malaise.

The primary is not over and Bernie’s massive third-quarter fundraising haul, high profile endorsements, and solid debate performance (despite the limited speaking time afforded by the panel) all remind us that he is still in the fight. He continues to gain young and working-class voters in an attempt to expand the electorate, targeting those who sat out in 2016, or voted for Trump in some cases.

The question between he and Warren, unfortunately, seems to be among college-educated and primarily white liberals. Knowing that they will be the deciders in this primary cycle should be unsettling. If Warren is the candidate, the left will surely coalesce around her. But as long as Bernie is in the race, not to mention with a real prospect of winning, settling for Warren is again coming to the table with the metaphorical final offer. It’s a losing strategy.

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