Sanders vs. Warren: who is the true progressive?

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Things have been heating up in the democratic primary as we go through various primary contests. Seeking to differentiate themselves, hopeful democratic nominees are beginning to attack others to their left and right. Until recently, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were the exceptions to this due to their informal non-aggression pact. 

It began iJanuary when it was revealed that Sanders volunteers were in possession of a script with anti-Warren talking points. This caused some fighting, but the final nail in the coffin was the leaking of Sanders and Warren’s conversation at the 2018 meeting where Sanders allegedly stated that a woman could not win the presidency. Warren commented on the leaks, stating that they were true, while Sanders again denies them. 

This came to a head during the Democratic Primary Debate in January, where Sanders and Warren were questioned about the meeting. The two further sparred when Warren claimed she was the only candidate on stage that had beat an incumbent Republican in the last thirty years, which Sanders pointed out was false, as in 1990 he beat an incumbent Republican representative. This fighting has prompted many progressives to ask: “which is the best choice for the democratic nomination?” 

I believe Sanders is the better choice among the two. Sanders has the progressive bonafides and popular support that Warren simply cannot encourage or create. This has been borne out in recent polling, which shows Sanders leading nationally and in early primary states. 

Sanders ability to reach people besides the coastal elite which are normal democratic voters was proven by his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders will only build on this momentum, seeing as he is favored to win in Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, Minnesota, and other early and Super Tuesday states. Compare this to Warren, who placed in a distant third in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire. 

Continuing, Warren’s past calls her electability into question. The elephant in the room – something which nobody has mentioned on a debate stage yet – is Warren’s inconsistency regarding her Native American heritage. While she has apologized and the democratic party seems to have moved on, I don’t think can expect President Trump will forget.  

Trumps opponents in the 2016 primary were labeled with nicknames like “Lyin’ Ted” or “Low Energy Jeb,” and Warren already received a nickname that has stuck: “Pocahontas.” Unlike the other nicknames, Pocahontas carries some weight, as it reminds Americans of the fact that Warren had continually claimed and benefited from her status as a Native American when she was entering into law and teaching. Compare this to Trumps nickname for Sanders – “Crazy Bernie” – which frankly isn’t all that effective. 

At a glance, Warren and Sanders policies may look the same, however looking into the details of their proposals reveals a striking difference. Warren describes herself as a “capitalist to my bones,” while Sanders opts for the label of a Democratic Socialist, evoking imagery of Scandinavian countries and their social democratic parties. These labels are borne out in their policy proposals, where Sanders often presents more broad and bold proposals, with Warren proposing more moderate and muted changes. 

While Warren does wish to make the outcomes of capitalism fairer by placing restrictions on it, at the end of the day the same fundamentally imbalanced system will be in place. Sanders, on the other hand, seeks to redesign and balance the system. It seems obvious to me who the true progressive choice is. 

Illustration by Jack Kruger