I have complicated feelings about Elizabeth Warren
If anyone has suggestions for a better title, I’m open…
Following Super Tuesday in the US, the day in which the majority of states vote on which candidate they want to run for President, one issue is being thrown around here and there.
Why is Elizabeth Warren struggling so much? As of 5pm GMT on March 5th, Warren has dropped out of the race. She was miles behind the next most popular candidate, Bernie Sanders.
Why is she doing so poorly? Her policies are for the most part similar to Sanders, if slightly more moderate in places (e.g. whilst Sanders wants to cancel all student debt, Warren would cancel some proportionate to income). Her brand across this election has been “the woman with a plan”: she knows what she’s going to implement, and will give you detailed execution plans for every policy. However, there are a number of points that Warren falls down on, especially when compared to Sanders – and it is the unfortunate truth that she will be compared to Sanders, when we consider that as of 5pm GMT on March 6th, the race is essentially between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Given that Warren’s policies are far more similar to Sanders than Biden, there are reasons that left-wing voters picked Bernie over her.
Warren has been a vocal critic of money in politics, believing that unlimited spending should be abolished, and slamming former candidate Pete Buttigieg for holding fancy fundraisers for big ticket donors in a ‘wine cave’. Whilst it was before she announced her campaign for the Presidency, Warren has held her own expensive fundraisers, which offered VIP experiences to those who donated more than $2,7001. The former governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, recruited donors to attend a fund-raising event for Warren in 2018 at a restaurant where the steak cost $120; when he did the same for Joe Biden in 2019, Warren derided him for taking money from wealthy donors2.
This is not necessarily a massive hypocrisy: it was a year before she came for Buttigieg, and she has stated that donations do not necessarily win influence with her. But then, Warren has also been incredibly critical of Super PACs (committees that will spend big money on campaigning for a particular candidate, usually in support of a specific issue). She claimed that she and Amy Klobuchar were the only candidates in the race without backing from Super PACs – though Sanders has not taken money from any – and then immediately received money from Persist PAC3.
And what’s more, whilst she has advertised the fact that she doesn’t take donations from the most elite donor classes, she transferred more than ten million dollars from her 2018 Senate run to her 2020 presidential campaign. A portion of that was taken from corporate donors, even as she went on to announce that she was quitting taking donation from ‘big money’. Her campaign continued to claim it was one hundred percent grass-roots funded4.
Before she entered politics, Warren was a lawyer specialising in bankruptcy. In the 90s, when thousands of women sued Dow Corning because their silicone gel breast implants had made them sick, she acted as a consultant to ensure adequate compensation for women who claimed industry, and ensured that a $2.3 billion fund for the women was set up – or so her campaign claimed.
Participants say that this is a mischaracterisation, however. Warren was part of a defence team for Dow Corning that was intent on limiting the company’s liability and ensuring that the pay-outs to the injured women were minimised. Warren built a campaign on an image of a fierce advocate for consumers and against corruption, which was apparently based at least a little bit on a lie. In about a dozen cases, Warren used her expertise to help companies navigate corporate bankruptcy, against people the companies had hurt5.
One of Warren’s biggest claims to being pro-consumer is setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When she was advising on the establishment of the Bureau, she brought in bankers from CapitalOne and DeutscheBank. Definitely the best people to decide how consumers should be protected in finance, right? Are the best people to regulate bankers really…other bankers?
Perhaps this is why Warren didn’t quite measure up against Sanders, her main competitor. Whilst Warren was representing big banks and corporations before she was a senator, Sanders’ stances on have remained remarkably consistent throughout his career, voting progressively on almost every issue as a Senator. I think voters have picked up on this, and want a more radical candidate. At any rate, Warren’s campaign is finished, and the race is now between Sanders and Biden.
Caitlin Flavell, Political Editor