The Wrong Kind of Radical?



Timothy Shenk, Elizabeth Warren Was the Wrong Kind of Radical

I have read Mr. Shenk’s New York Times op-ed with profit, and recommend it to you as well. Shenk is the co-editor of Dissent magazine. He writes,

Ms. Warren tried to bend the Democratic Party to the left. Mr. Sanders’s core supporters are intent on remaking it from the ground up.

They want a new coalition grounded in the multiracial working-class and less dependent on affluent professionals; a new donor class made up of grass-roots contributors; a new base of activists who read magazines like Jacobin and come out of groups like Democratic Socialists of America; and new politicians like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who trounced New York’s Democratic machine.

Mr. Sanders’s most loyal followers are as much part of a counterculture as they are members of a political campaign. Rather than asking the best and brightest to lead the way beyond left and right, they have come up with a novel fusion of populism and socialism that marries a critique of the inequalities generated by capitalism with a rejection of technocratic nudging and meritocratic striving. Tell them that Elizabeth Warren is the real radical, and they’ll ask what you can expect from an administration dominated by products of the same elite institutions that ran the Obama White House. Insist that they should be practical, and they’ll wonder how progressives will be able to change the country if they can’t even change the Democratic Party. See the world from this perspective, and Ms. Warren looks like the left wing of a broken status quo, not the start of something different.

From Shenk’s point of view, Warren and Buttigieg are much of a muchness. But what about Medicare for All? you may well ask. Shenk’s answer, apparently, is that Warren’s embrace of Medicare for All was just a clumsy attempt to woo away Sanders’s supporters in favor of her elitist Ivy League Establishment-friendly approach.

Summing Up

Despite what I wrote yesterday about Warren’s potential appeal as a vice presidential candidate, Shenk’s piece throws a little cold water on the notion that giving Warren a place on the ticket would help keep the lefties in line. That said, I know a lot of people who gave serious consideration to Sanders and to Warren—the type of people that Shenk would not characterize as “Mr. Sanders’s most loyal followers.” So I’m not willing to concede the point that Warren on the ticket would help protect the left flank.

I will concede, though, that the headline of my earlier post—A Soupçon to the Right of Bernie—might need modification.