Among most progressive voters, two Democratic presidential primary candidates appear as their prime choices: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The two senators are often conflated by voters who only spot the difference in gender. Despite what pictures the two candidates may try to paint of themselves through rhetoric and creative campaigning, upon critically comparing and investigating policies, votes and their respective histories, it becomes clear that they could not be more different, and only one of them is genuinely progressive. This can be proven in a number of ways.
To start, let’s examine history. In 1964, Warren was a Goldwater Girl — supporting Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater — and she was a registered Republican herself until 32 years later in 1996. In 1963, 21-year-old Sanders was chaining himself to a black woman and to other activists to block bulldozers. Later, at that same civil rights protest, he was arrested. Most candidates have everything to lose by sticking their necks out for marginalized communities and everything to gain by remaining moderate, so what does this political truism say about Sanders, who has had a lifelong dedication to progressive activism, versus Warren, who campaigned for Goldwater. People and their views can and do change over time, but have Warren’s? Or, is her “progressivism” a disguise she thinks will get her elected?
Warren portrays herself similarly to Bernie when it comes to issues like health care and education, but a closer look shows this is insincere and meant to mislead voters. This characterization could not be further from the truth. Though her website still indicates support of Medicare for All, she has begun to back down from that. Her language around Medicare for All is now based on “choice,” making her health care plan more similar to Pete Buttigieg’s than to Sanders,’ and by no means represents bold change.
Warren’s student debt plan also leaves a lot to be desired. While Sanders wishes to cancel all student loan debt, Warren presents many hoops to jump through, meaning only some Americans would qualify. It may not seem like much, but the difference between “college for all” versus “affordable higher education,” and “Medicare for All” versus “Medicare for All who want it” is larger than Warren would like you to think.
But, as shown by Sanders’ strong grassroots support and surging poll numbers, people have been noticing the difference. Upon noting this herself, Warren resorted to character assassination. For her to claim as late in the race as she did that Sanders, who encouraged Warren to run in 2016 and only ran himself when she said she would not, does not think a woman could win the presidency is comical, and the claim was perhaps the beginning of the end for her campaign. The multiple young congresswomen of color that endorse him know that and his supporters know it too.
Warren often says she has “a plan for that,” but Sanders has had bolder ideas since Warren was still a Republican.