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Current Affairs - September 23, 2019

"Perhaps I would feel less troubled if I really felt like I could trust Elizabeth Warren. But I can so easily imagine her compromising away critical parts of the left agenda. There are just so many troubling signs. TheNew York Timesreportedthat Warren “wooed wealthy donors for years” but stopped for her presidential campaign. She’s only forgoing big money donations for the primary, but not the general election, which suggests that it’s just a temporary ploy to appease the left."

... For the last few months, I’ve felt very uneasy about Warren’s candidacy, but not quite sure how best to express what was giving me the feeling. I worried that I was just biased by my attraction to Bernie. But I think I know what I’m fearing. I fear this is going to be Obama all over again. 

Let me see if I can sum up the differences that matter. 

The strategy might actually be more important than anything else. One of the most important things Bernie Sanders has ever said is this: “I’m going to run the Presidency differently than anyone else. I’m not only going to be Commander in Chief. I am going to be Organizer in Chief.” What does that mean? It means that Sanders is not going to stop speaking on picket lines when he becomes president. (Trump did not stop holding rallies. This was smart.) This was a critical mistake that Barack Obama made: He stopped organizing when he got into office. If you do not organize, if you are not constantly out in the country helping get candidates get elected at every level, you will hold the White House and nothing else. I have previously discussed the way Warren focuses on “plans” while Sanders focuses on “power.” Everyone knows that Elizabeth Warren has a “plan for that.” But if those plans are going to go anywhere, you need what Sanders is talking about: a “political revolution.” You need to overthrow the existing Democratic party leadership in the DNC and in Congress. You need to threaten to run primary candidates against anyone who doesn’t support your agenda. You need a giant on-the-ground operation of people who will lobby for your agenda and convince Americans that anyone who opposes it needs to be ejected from office. 

What I see in Elizabeth Warren is a law professor: someone who focuses on devising good plans, and then tries to get elected to carry out those plans. What I see in Bernie Sanders is a movement-builder: someone who understands that unless the president has millions of people behind them, ready to take to the streets, they won’t be able to cajole Congress into passing anything. And I think one of the fundamental problems with Barack Obama was that he was a law professor: He came up with a plan, and if he didn’t have the votes in Congress to pass it, that was that: The plan was dead. The law professor accepts political reality as “fixed,” while the movement-builder tries to get millions of people to act politically in order to alter that reality. 

It’s very clear that Bernie Sanders thinks the “political revolution” he’s talking about involves building the power of unions. His “workplace democracy” plan contains a dozen ways of making it easier to join unions and giving unions more leverage. This is because once a much greater percentage of working class people is unionized, unions will once again become an important political force. Their endorsements or non-endorsements will matter, which will give the left greater power to reward or punish Democratic politicians based on whether they support a left agenda. This is critical to actually getting our plans through. ...
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