For anyone who has followed the 2020 election, a dominant narrative has unfolded when comparing nominees Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. This media meta-argument is that while these two candidates believe in two very different economic systems (i.e., capitalism and socialism respectively), they are ultimately advocating for the same types of policy (i.e., universal healthcare, taxing the rich, holding corporations accountable, etc.).
The argument goes: “Warren and Sanders want to push America far more left than it currently is, and if elected, the policies they implement won’t be much different from each other.”
While this outlook may feel right if you compare Bernie and Warren to the rest of the more “moderate” field (i.e., Biden, Klobuchar, etc.), these two progressives do have substantial differences that are worth examing. The purpose of this article is not to tell you which candidate is better but to accentuate those differences so all of us can make more informed decisions on voting day.
Bernie and Warren are not the same — they have different priorities and viewpoints — and if elected, they will advocate for different things.
The Philosophical Divide
Warren and Sanders are philosophically very different. Elizabeth Warren has gone on record saying she is a “capitalist to [her] bones,” but wants to regulate capitalism more strictly so that it “works.” Bernie Sanders has conversely identified as a democratic socialist, which is a political and economic philosophy that demands greater worker control over sectors of the economy than capitalism.
From a birdseye view, it would seem like these two candidates wouldn’t agree on much; however, Bernie and Warren do end up sharing many similar objectives (e.g., breaking up Wallstreet, providing free college tuition, ending political corruption, etc.). With these policy aims in mind, the claim that some commentators make is that they are rhetorically different but politically similar. As Tara Golshan wrote in Vox:
“Sanders and Warren are clearly two separate human beings. But within the liberal-to-left political intelligentsia there’s a debate: Are they actually the same?”
The frustrating thing about this analysis is that while Bernie and Warren share a consensus on many issues, this philosophical divide (i.e., capitalism vs. socialism) does impact how the two candidates approach policy. Even if both these candidates agree on a problem (and they do agree on a lot ), how they solve that problem is impacted by their worldviews.
A great example of this is their 2020 climate change proposals, which unsurprisingly fall along these same aforementioned philosophical lines.
Bernie Sanders climate change proposal involves roughly $16.3 trillion in public investment over ten years. His plan would do a significant amount and spans the gamut from completely decarbonizing the energy sector to environmental justice.
He plans to pay for this massive amount of funds through, among other things, job creation via infrastructure spending, suing the fossil fuel industry for pollution as well as requiring them to pay higher fees, and increasing taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. We can see how his populist, worker-oriented mindset has created an emphasis on government involvement at the expense of the managerial class’ profits.
Warren, on the other hand, has been wonkier in her approach. It should surprise no one that the “plans candidate” has developed multiple plans to tackle climate change — i.e., a 100% clean energy plan, a green military plan, a green manufacturing plan, etc. Many of these solutions work on incentivizing positive behavior through fees, research, and subsidies.
These solutions would cost somewhere around $4 trillion over a similar ten year period. How Warren will pay for these plans is a combination of government action and private enterprise. She plans, for example, to:
1. Require defense contractors who have not achieved net-zero carbon emissions to pay a fee.
2. Reverse the Trump tax cuts to increase revenue.
3. Use the federal procurement process (i.e., what products and services the federal government buy) to grow a green marketplace.
As we can see, this philosophical divide does matter, even in the areas the two candidates agree on. Bernie Sanders is generally more in favor of creating direct, systemic change, while Elizabeth Warren prefers a combination of lawyery solutions and technocratic prowess. This difference is why Sanders frequently speaks openly about a political revolution, and Warren flaunts her policy-wonk status. In the words of political operative Anita Dunn to Buzzfeed News:
“As much as people try to lump them together, they are stylistically very different. He is trying to create a movement. She approaches so many of these policy issues as a good lawyer or powerful cross-examiner would. She looks for ways where the laws can be improved.”
Their theories of social change are fundamentally different.
Warren and Bernie have differences that are beyond implementation, however, and there are key areas where they do openly disagree.
The Single-Payer Divide
The debate over healthcare has been at the center of the American discourse for over two decades. With the help of a Democrat-majority Congress, the Obama administration passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA, “Obamacare”) in 2009. The ACA used a combination of government and market-based mechanisms to expand health insurance for millions of Americans. In recent years, there has been a concerted effort among Republicans to roll back these gains, and costs for health insurance are still too high for many Americans.
2020 presidential primary contenders have been debating how to expand healthcare coverage. One of the most outspoken and controversial policies to address this gap is single-payer healthcare or Medicare-for-all (M4A). Single-payer is essentially the government financing its citizen’s healthcare through taxation (note: single-payer is not the same thing as “socialized medicine” where the government runs and administers its citizens healthcare directly).
Bernie Sanders has been one of the fields most ardent proponents of this policy. He wrote and introduced a single-payer bill that many nominees have cosponsored. Bernie has made single-payer a chief plank of his campaign, and he will expend a significant amount of social capital as President to make that happen.
Elizabeth Warren is not against single-payer, and it would be disingenuous to claim that. She is one of Bernie Sanders’s cosponsors for his medicare-for-all bill. She has also defended the concept alongside Bernie Sanders during multiple presidential debates.
Warren, though, isn’t an ardent supporter of single-payer either. She has yet to release a healthcare policy of her own. Warren has so far walked a tightrope between defending Bernie’s bill while also trying to avoid talking about addressing healthcare policy as much as possible. She lacks enthusiasm for supporting this policy, and she has a long history of doing this dance.
When she first ran for Senate in 2012, she was questioned in an interview for a local network about her past support for single-payer in a book she wrote. In the interview, she deemphasized her support for single-payer and instead prioritized defending the ACA:
“I think right now what we have to do — I’m serious about this — I think you’ve got to stay with what’s possible. And I think what we’re doing — and look at the dust-up around this — we really need to consolidate our gains around what we’ve got around the table.”
There were a lot of political considerations at the time for why she made this move. The Tea Party Rebellion was in full swing, and she was facing a very tight race against conservative Scott Brown (a challenger she defeated by only 7.5%).
Years later, however, her lackluster support on this issue has not changed. As recently as the September 12th Presidential Debate in Houston, she told a CBS Reporter:
“I support Medicare for All. I think it’s a good plan. I support a lot of plans, other things that people have come up with it. When they’re good plans, let’s do it. This isn’t some kind of contest, ‘I got to think of mine first.’ It’s about what’s best for the American people.”
Elizabeth Warren will not veto a single-payer healthcare law if it makes its way through the House and Senate. She is not explicitly against single-payer, but it is evident right now that it will not be a priority for her as President. She has made it quite clear that she wants to prioritize other efforts such as her anti-corruption and corporate-restructuring reforms.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is only so much you can focus on while in office. If you are a person who is ride-or-die on single-payer, though, then that’s something you should factor into your analyze.
The (Rhetorical) Divide Over Reparations
Reparations, at its simplest, is the policy of an entity paying people retrospectively for the damage it has inflicted upon them. In the US context, reparations usually refers to the US government paying black Americans for the injustice of slavery and Jim Crow. The case for reparations has been made by many political actors, ranging from Ta-Nehisi Coates to presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.
Elizabeth Warren (as well as several other candidates) have come out in support of reparations. She remarked in February in a statement to Reuters:
“We must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences including undermining the ability of Black families to build wealth in America for generations.”
Warren has supported the “idea” of reparations but has not been as explicit about financial reparations (i.e., paying black people money). She has backed a bill to study reparations. Warren has also come out with several plans that would address the inequity between black and white Americans. She released a plan that places over $50 billion in historically black colleges, as well as a comprehensive criminal reform bill that pushes for mass decriminalization. These plans redistributive services and remove current penalities, but they stop short of direct cash transfers with no strings attached.
Bernie also wants to study reparations. He has devised many similar plans as Warren in the areas of voting rights, environmental justice, and criminal justice reform. He has been more hesitant to back the rhetoric of reparations, however. He was pressed on this question while on The View in March of 2019 and said:
“I think what we have got to do is pay attention to distressed communities: black communities, Latino communities, and white communities, and as president, I pledge to do that…I think that right now, our job is to address the crises facing the American people and our communities, and I think there are better ways to do that than just writing out a check.”
Bernie has given this response in multiple interviews, and it is clear that he is against publically endorsing the language of reparations. He approaches racial inequality through a class-based analysis. As he wrote on reparations in The Washington Post in July of 2019:
“Jobs, health care, criminal justice and education are linked, and progress will not be made unless we address the economic systems that oppress Americans at their root.”
Rhetoric aside, these two candidates don’t seem to differ significantly policywise. They both want to craft policy that would address income inequality, but neither seems enthusiastic about tackling the problem from a race-based lens.
Reparations has been brought up as a potential divide because Elizabeth Warren is, in theory, on record of supporting reparations, while Bernie Sander is not in support of it. Time will tell if that translates to actual policy on Warren’s end, involving specific cash transfers to the descendants of slaves.
The Filibuster Divide
The Filibuster is a policy in the Senate where a Senator can theoretically block a bill’s passage on the floor by giving a speech to run out the clock.
It’s essentially talking a bill to death.
The only way to bypass a Fillibuster is for 60 senators to vote to override it, which given current political realities, is a rarity. The current breakdown in the Senate is 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and 2 Independents who caucus primarily with Democrats.
The reason this obscure piece of policy matters is because if Democrats hold the House and retake the Senate in 2020, it’s unlikely that they will get a 60-plus majority. This procedure is a problem because it makes passing any progressive legislation almost impossible.
Single-payer will not happen if Mitch McConnell can talk it to death.
The Fillibuster could be removed, however, with only 50 votes (a process sometimes referred to as nuking). The Filibuster has been maintained thus far by cultural momentum — most politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, are hesitant to remove it.
Since Republicans have destroyed countless Senatorial norms as of late, a lot of Democrats want to nuke the Filibuster before Republicans do so. The argument goes that Republicans will probably do it anyway, so we might as well get ours before that happens. If Democrats can get a majority in both chambers (i.e., the House and Senate) and retake the White House, then, the argument goes, we should kill the Fillibuster to ram through a decade’s worth of progressive legislation within a single congressional term (that’s two years).
Elizabeth Warren is in support of nuking the Filibuster. She has gone on record stating that the Filibuster is the reason a lot of significant legislation has not passed. During the September Presidential debate she remarked that it was the reason why gun reform in the US has stalled:
“…unless we’re willing to address that head-on and roll back the filibuster, we’re not going to get anything done on guns.”
Bernie Sanders is against nuking the Filibuster. He instead advocates for using an alternative legislative procedure known as Budget Reconciliation. This procedure only requires 50 votes in the Senate and is infamously the thing that allowed Republicans to pass the Trump tax cuts.
These two approaches — nuking the filibuster and budget reconciliation — both have their plusses and minuses.
Nuking the filibuster is excellent if you are in the majority. Still, if Republicans ever gain a hold over the legislative process again, then Democrats face the possibility that all their gains will be reversed. Republicans could likewise pass a bunch of legislation to not only undo all of the progressive gains implemented in the previous term, but to regress American back to whatever Atwood/Octavia Butler fantasy gets them off at night.
Budget Reconciliation also has its problems. There is a constraint called the Byrd Rule, which prohibits both significant spending increases AND increases to the deficit outside a 10-year budget window. Medicare-for-all is projected to do both of those things. If a president Sanders cannot make his policies deficit-neutral, then they would most likely be rejected by the Senate Parliamentarian, who is the person charged with determining whether or not a bill satisfies the requirements mentioned above of the Byrd Rule.
Bernie Sanders could technically get around these requirements by directing his Vice President to ignore the recommendations of the Parliamentarian. This workaround exists because the Vice President is the person who chooses to affirm or reject the Senate Parlimatarian’s ruling, but if President Sanders did this, it would be effectively the same thing as nuking the Filibuster. If Republicans ever took control of Congress and the White House again, then they would have a method to pass legislation with only 50 votes in the Senate.
Unless Democrats get 60 votes in the Senate, one of these approaches will have to be tried to pass any significant piece of legislation during president Sander’s or Warren’s first term. Warren and Sanders both have their preferences, and that will dictate how they will try to fight for their preferred policies.
Which fight do you prefer?
The Divide Over Electability
It’s no secret that 2020 voters are obsessed with “electability.” The scars of 2016 are still fresh in everyone’s mind, and many voters are intent on nominating a Democratic candidate who they believe can beat Donald Trump. There are scores of articles out there on how we are repeating the same mistakes as 2016 by electing Biden, or Beto, or whoever is the author’s most hated candidate.
On the one hand, Bernie Sanders supporters will argue that their candidate would have done better against Trump the first time around in 2016. As Krystal Ball argued in The Hill:
“First, look at the voters who actually voted for Sanders. His appeal seems to be particularly strong in “blue wall” states that the party must win back. In the 2016 presidential primary, Sanders won Michigan and Wisconsin. Out of 83 counties in Michigan, Sanders won 73. In Wisconsin, he won all but one county. He dominated in Minnesota, the state that Hillary Clinton narrowly won and one on which the Trump campaign has set its sights.”
Bernie’s base is generally lower-income, and less-educated, which are demographics pundits believe would help a democratic candidate recapture the former blue-wall states (e.g., Wisconsin, Michigan, etc.). Warren’s base is whiter and more educated. This reality, the argument goes, makes him more “electable.”
There is a growing narrative, though, that Bernie Sanders is not very likable. He scorns working with certain political actors, and admittedly, that is part of his appeal. He has captured public support by spurning big donors, but not all the people he refuses to work with are “neoliberal shills.” His idealism sometimes causes him to make enemies where he should be making allies.
A classic example of this is his minor bout with Philadelphia mayor Jim Kennedy. The mayor implemented a soda tax in the city in 2016 that increased the price of said beverages to pay for pre-kindergarten and other development projects. For those who are unaware, Soda has consistently been linked to America’s rise in obesity.
Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed condemning the tax as “regressive” (meaning that low-income individuals would end up paying more) because the poor are more frequent drinkers of soda. The problem is that Sanders’ objection was not well-researched. At the time, Pennsylvania had something called a “uniformity clause” that effectively forbade graduated taxation. New taxes had to be regressive.
Bernie Sanders expended major political capital condemning a tax bill for not being graduated, ignoring the fact that the state law barred the city from doing just that. He gained little to make an ideological critique that ended up having severe consequences for his campaign:
1. He damaged his relationship with the mayor of Philadelphia — the mayor of one of the most progressive cities in the United States — by going against the mayor’s flagship policy.
2. He also gave Big Soda, aka the American Beverage Association (ABA), a passive endorsement in their effort to crush other soda taxes across the country. The ABA started using his responses in attack ads against a similar law proposed in the Bay area, which bothered Sanders so much that his campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter.
Bernie Sanders is a passionate man. Sometimes, though, he can be so dogmatic that he alienates potential allies, and gives enemies additional ammunition. He should know when to sidestep issues like the Philadelphia tax, so he doesn’t end up helping the same businesses he wishes to fight against.
Elizabeth Warren, conversely, has a reputation of being very personable. It’s common in politics for politicians to cold-call rich people for donations (a fundraising tactic referred to as “call time”). Warren doesn’t call wealthy donors. Her call-time is with smalltime donors. A simple browse through her Instagram page will show hundreds upon hundreds of conversations she has had with her grassroots donors.
Her time with her supporters doesn’t end on the phone either. Some have dubbed her “the selfie candidate.” Supporters line up for hours after campaign events to take selfies with her.
Warren persistently tries to establish inroads with party officials as well. In a few cases, she has been known to call smaller party officials on the day of their election victory to say congratulations. She will structure touching base with Democratic party members into the schedule of her campaign. In the words of Jonathan Martin of The New York Times:
“Ms. Warren’s campaign events often begin out of public view, when she meets with a small groups of Democratic officials in gatherings, called “clutches,” for pictures and a few minutes of conversation.”
Bernie Sanders has also been known to build coalitions. His Our Revolution PAC has raised money for progressive races across the country, and he does often reach across the aisle to pass substantial policy. One great example of this is the time he worked with Republican Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) to craft a law that would end the US’s support in Yemen (a bill Trump later vetoed). The prevailing narrative around these efforts, however, is that they are almost always ideologically-driven and lack the personal touch that is so key to building political networks.
Warren has worked hard to develop her likable persona. The evidence seems to suggest that she is better at establishing personable relationships than Sanders. This ability has garnered her a warmer impression overall, and that can occasionally dip in the wrong direction. There are countless stories of Wallstreet pundits and moderate think tanks claiming that she would be a better alternative to Bernie Sanders. As one executive at a Wallstreet bank remarked to Politico:
“Wall Street is very good at accommodating itself to reality and if the reality is the party is going to be super-progressive, they may not like Warren but she’s a better form of poison than Bernie.”
This favorable assessment could give some members of the anti-establishment wing of the Democratic party the impression that she is “in league” with the influential figures she claims to want to fight.
Unlike Bernie, who raised millions for progressive candidates across the country, Elizabeth Warren mostly stayed out of the 2018 midterms. She endorsed only five candidates and funneled money into traditional fundraising mechanisms like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. If we are throwing out dog-whistles, we could label these moves of Warren as political and self-serving. It wouldn’t be the first time a Bernie Sanders opponent was categorized as selfish, and unlikable.
We live in a world where George W, Bush rose to the White House based, in part, on the meme that he would be a nice person to drink a beer with (even though he didn’t drink). Time will tell what narrative will win: Bernie’s gruff attitude or Warren’s complacent nature; Bernie Sander as the ardent man of the people or Elizabeth Warren as the strong, wise, empathetic matriarch.
The Supreme Court Divide
The Republican party’s obstructionist strategy during the Obama years led to his administration not being able to fill openings in the judiciary, including one by the late justice Antonin Scalia. These seats are now being filled by President Donald Trump in earnest with over 30 confirmed to the circuit courts in his first two years alone.
Trump won the White House using shady tactics, and many Democrats effectively perceive the seats filled by our 45th president as stolen. Since his inauguration, a major political fight among liberals has occurred over what to do with these seats IF Democrats retake office. Specifically, there is an enormous amount of attention over the one’s currently occupied by Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
The number of seats on the Supreme Court is not dictated in the constitution and can be expanded or reduced by acts of Congress. The OG number was six, not nine. If Democrats retake the legislature, then the question arises on whether we expand the current number of justices beyond nine, establish term limits, or perhaps something different altogether.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to add seats to the Supreme Court. He has gone on record claiming that it would undermine Democratic prospects in the future. At a recent We the People Summit, he said:
“My worry is that the next time Republicans are in power, they will do the same thing. “I don’t think it’s the ultimate solution.”
Similar to his stance with the Filibuster, Bernie Sanders is rather conservative when it comes to abolishing political norms altogether. He instead advocates for putting “new blood” within the Supreme Court by rotating court members within the federal judiciary.
While this move would not technically “pack the court,” it would fundamentally change it. Republicans could point to such a change when they argue for similar systemic alterations in the future.
Trump’s recent appointments complicate this idea further because this rotation would come from other candidates he has picked. It’s hard to see how the makeup of the Supreme Court would evolve if the pool expands to the now very conservative circuit courts.
Elizabeth Warren has described herself as being open to changing the composition of the Supreme Court. She has not elaborated on how, however, most likely because doing so requires a Democratic supermajority that currently remains unlikely to happen in 2020. The only specific policy she has gone on record for is an interest in impeaching Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
It’s clear, though, that Warren is more open to the idea than Sanders.
The Foreign Policy Divide
Foreign Policy is the one area the president has the most control over. It will be a herculean task for either a President Warren or Sanders to implement single-payer, but transporting military assets around the world, and entering bilateral agreements with nation-states is paradoxically a far more straightforward task.
While no single type of foreign policy exists — because the United States never maintains a unilateral strategy for dealing with every country around the globe — there are general outlooks that unite a President on many fronts. Some presidents are more isolationist. Others like to bomb the crap out of “shithole” countries.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders currently agree on many foreign policy fronts. In particular, both candidates are more peace-driven (ish). Bernie Sanders famously voted against the war in Iraq. Elizabeth Warren’s first major foreign policy speech was overtly critical of the Obama administration’s number of civilian casualties abroad. They both support the Iran nuclear deal. Warren and Sanders both currently endorse a two-state solution in Isreal (she has changed her position on this recently). They both want an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a tampering down of civilian casualties abroad.
Warren, however, has only arrived at her current position on some of these issues within the last five years. For example, as early as 2014, she came under fire within progressive circles for defending military attacks by the Israeli government during the 2014 Gaza war — attacks that have been labeled by Human Rights groups as war crimes. She started voting more critically of Israel roughly in 2017, which, to be fair, was around the time it became more politically feasible to criticize Israel for its use of military force.
Even accepting Warren’s recent shift to a more critical stance as dependable, there are crucial differences regarding where the Senators believe the origin of US hawkishness lies. Elizabeth Warren gave a speech to American University in November in 2018, and she rooted the corrupting moment in the 1980s:
“It wasn’t perfect. We weren’t perfect, but our foreign policy benefited a lot of people around the world. It’s a good story with long roots, but in recent decades something changed. Beginning in the 1980s, Washington’s focus shifted from policies that benefited everyone to policies that benefit a handful of wealthy elites.”
The rest of the world just rolled its eyes.
Elizabeth Warren wants to reverse the neocon revolution that took place during the Reagan years, which was (and still is) an interventionist philosophy that believes that the display of military force is the best way to promote peace and democracy. An astute observer of history will know that this philosophy was fueled by the anti-communist paranoia of the Cold War. If this theory sounds somewhat Republican, then that’s because the neocon outlook has all but taken over the Republican Party, and much of the Democratic Party too.
Bernie also wants to dismantle the neocon revolution, but he tends to believe that the corrupting moment in US foreign policy exists far earlier than the 80s. Sanders has been critical of US interventionism going back as early as the 1953 CIA-backed coup in Iran. As he told a crowd at Westminster College in 2017:
“Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long-term impact that that action will have.”
Bernie Sanders’s message is of a person who has no interest in maintaining the United State’s military supremacy around the globe. He has talked in multiple interviews of how he believes domestic issues should take higher priority than military spending. His critique of US interventionism is far more profound than that of Warren’s in that he considers the problem to be more systemic than a four-decade hiccup.
While Warren has a similar message of valuing economic security over military supremacy, her critiques of US imperialism are generally not so sharp. Her not-so-distant changes of heart also make some members of the anti-war wing of the Democratic party hesitant to take her foreign policy proposals seriously.
A Divide Over Going Bigger
When we compare and contrast Sanders and Warren, a trend comes up again and again: Every plan we have mentioned involves a bigger price tag or action coming from the Sanders camp. Warren has a $4ish trillion plan to fight climate change. Sanders wants to contribute over $16 trillion. Warren intends to cancel 75% of all student debt. Sanders is shooting to cancel all of it. Warren intends to restore voting rights to felons once they complete their sentences. Sanders wants to restore them right away.
A great example of this is their respective wealth taxes. Warren and Sanders both want to tax the wealth of the rich at higher amounts. Warren’s “2-cent plan” would place a 2 percent tax on wealth worth more than $50 million, and a 3 percent tax on fortunes worth more than $1 billion. It would raise $2.6 trillion in 10 years.
Bernie’s proposed plan would add far more progressive tax brackets for the wealthy. According to Newsweek, he would have a 1 percent additional tax on net worths over $32 million, an additional 2 percent tax over $50 million, 3 percent over $250 million, 4 percent over $500 million, 5 percent over $1 billion, and 8 percent on net worths over $10 billion. His plan would raise $4.35 trillion in that same 10-year period.
Warren’s plan would reduce the fortunes of every rich person in America by around 54 percent.
Sanders’s plan would effectively reduce those fortunes by 80 percent of what they are today.
In general, Sanders usually tries to go bigger. His desire to solve problems is more immediate, and it has ideological roots. Sanders has gone on record claiming that he doesn’t think billionaires should exist. His plan is not only about fostering the growth of the middle class but reining in the wealthy as well.
Warren doesn’t go as big as Bernie Sanders, though given his propensity for big plans, this still places her ahead of every other major democratic contender. She aims to be more targeted. Her plans take significant bites at the enormous problems facing America, but they often do not seek to resolve them outright. University of California–Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman analyzed the two candidates’ wealth taxes recently. As Slate reporter Jordan Weissmann wrote of their analysis:
“The richest U.S. households have seen their wealth grow at a rate about 4 percentage points faster annually than the average family’s. Warren’s plan would erase part of that gap. Sanders’, they say, would erase it “entirely.”
The approach these two candidates have taken comes down to political strategy. Do you prefer your candidate to fight for their unapologetic ideal, or for them to campaign for what they think is the passable ideal?
That’s a question that has no easy answers.
A Divided Conclusion
This article was a deep dive into what makes Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sander’s different. There will undoubtedly be readers who believe it is advocating for one candidate over the other, but know that there was a wholehearted attempt to be critical of both candidates.
Elizabeth Warren is warm, empathetic, and practical. She is working hard to build a sizable following to enact the radical policy ideas she has proposed. She has a great legal mind that emphasizes obscure and systemic policy solutions alike.
She is not perfect, though. Her past foreign policy stances leave much to be desired, and her understanding of US imperialism is naive. Her past remarks leave questions on whether or not she will truly advocate for policies such as Medicare-for-all and reparations when it is her turn in the Oval Office, or if she is doing so solely for political expediency.
Bernie Sanders is a passionate man who truly believes in his mission. He is building a coalition with his work through PACs such as Our Revolution that will hopefully create systemic change for America. He has managed to capture the imagination of people who usually are uninterested in politics, and that says a lot about his ideals.
He is also sometimes too set on ideology. He has a gruff personality that makes him unlikable to people who should be his supporters. There is an impression that he thinks the “messy nature” of politics is beneath him, and that’s frankly troubling for a man who wants to get into the muck and transform politics.
Additionally, his steadfast belief in a class-based analysis is his greatest strength and weakness. It allows him to ignore the social conventions that constrain most politicians, but it also has him ignore policies that require other perspectives to solve (see reparations).
The most significant divide between Warren and Sanders is their end goals. Bernie is interested in more direct government intervention. He wants a labor-oriented society akin to many European democracies where the government itself pays for, and in some cases, manages many of the services its citizens enjoy.
Warren tends to emphasize integrating market-based solutions with her government intervention reminiscent of a New Deal America. She wants a heavily regulated economy, where the private sector is still robust, but workers have a more significant say on what their companies can do.
In either case, the government’s role would be significantly expanded to take on more social services and to regulate the economy more strictly. The world both of these candidates likely want to achieve will not be accomplished within two terms, let alone one.
The differences still matter, though. In the same way that the political realities of the FDR and Reagan alignments did not fully come to fruition until decades after the fact, the course set by either a President Sanders or a President Warren will have a ripple effect felt centuries later.