Warren: Champion or Foe?

Photo by Casey Gomez

Elizabeth Warren is marketable. Her fresh face has allowed her to outpace even frontrunner Joe Biden among less-moderate voters of her party – a Quinnipiac poll found that Warren finished only second to Senator Bernie Sanders among highly-liberal voters in Florida. Warren’s reputation as a stalwart progressive has made her an appealing second choice for Sanders supporters, a Morning Consult poll earlier this year reveals. However, while Warren may be eating into Sanders’ popularity, she is doing so with hopelessly compromised values, undermined beyond excuse.

Warren, for much of her political career, has practiced the kind of ‘band-aid capitalism’ that so many progressives today are guilty of – the notion that government should attempt to address as many of the symptoms of society’s ills through government regulation and programs. This comprises most of her policy history – Warren recently introduced a laughably short-sighted policy goal for her campaign claiming that the military “can help lead the fight against climate change”, and has introduced bills to hold capitalism ‘accountable’ by reducing market incentives for corporations (s. 3348) and create an agency to produce drugs inaccessible to patients only under certain extreme circumstances (s. 3775). 

Warren’s proposed legislation amounts to using a water-bottle to put out a house fire. Warren claims to be a progressive, yet gives little consideration to the magnitude of her proposed movements towards progress – incremental at best and negligible at worst. Warren is a self-avowed capitalist, and a recent Economist article proclaims her “the Savior of Capitalism” – a troubling attitude given that the externalities that much of her legislation addresses are themselves direct results of capitalism, designed to produce extraordinary profit for shareholders and leave the working-class behind. Capitalism needs no saving – it is working as intended. It is the working class that requires rescue, and Warren’s policies are tone-deaf responses to their pleas.

In all fairness, there are few candidates in the current Democratic primary with a more developed policy plan at this stage of the race. Buttigieg and O’Rourke appear content to run simply on a series of genial platitudes, while Biden is coasting on name-recognition alone. Warren’s is a clearly structured, well-laid out plan, and I have few doubts as to its feasibility – unlike Biden’s only platform plank to date, “find a cure for cancer”. Even if Warren successfully implements all these policies, we will hardly be better off than we were. Warren has made the commendable move of setting realistic policies goals, but she has moved the finish line to be next to the starting block – band-aid progressivism will not create meaningful long-term change. You may frequently hear the criticism that Warren had previously registered to vote as a Republican. It is an unfair criticism to suggest that because someone once held a believe in their past, they might no longer believe solidly in their current platform – rather, it carries the same weight as it did when opponents mentioned Clinton as having been a “Goldwater Girl” in 2016, as both Clinton and Warren’s policy platforms expressed a desire to work within the realms of capitalism, to work around it, rather than remove the system that is itself intrinsic to much of human suffering today. This accusation reflects how little difference there is in the overall policies of the parties from when they were a part of the Republican party to their current politics today. The only major difference between Warren and Clinton is their particular flavor of center-left politics – neo-liberalism versus
progressivism. 

It is this fundamental issue that continues to plague Warren – the misguided notion that capitalism can be saved, or that it requires saving. In order to bring about meaningful political change, the system itself must be dismantled, not protected. Until Warren recognizes the intrinsic evil of capitalism, she should remain an unpalatable option to Democratic voters.