Although The Nation has not—yet—endorsed a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries, we’ve long made clear our admiration for the two real progressives in the race: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
But just because we still cling to the view that the longer the two of them remain viable candidates, arguing for bold, radical ideas, the better, doesn’t mean everyone in our orbit shares that inclination.
When Nation editorial board member Zephyr Teachout told me she was endorsing Sanders and asked if the magazine would be interested in publishing her reasons, I said, “Of course.” You can read the result here. However, I also asked her colleagues on the board whether any of them cared to make the case for Warren. Richard Parker accepted the challenge.
Of the four top-tier candidates still chasing the Democratic nomination, only Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders offer bold realignment as core to their campaigns. Joe Biden—for me, and I’m guessing perhaps for you—is the too-accommodating conciliator, while Pete Buttigieg, though immensely talented, is too young, too corporate, and without experience at the national or even state level.
In my view, Warren offers a far more plausible and more detailed case for how the next president must run the government once in office. Her “I’ve got a plan for that” is actually true: She and her staff tapped first-class teams of advisers from nationwide networks of progressive lawyers, economists, techies, educators, medical and military personnel, and environmentalists. In each of her plans, she has adroitly analyzed key issues (in readable, nontechnical language) and stated what her administration would do to address them. Whether you support her or someone else (or haven’t yet made up your mind), it’s well worth taking the time to pull a few of Warren’s plans off her website: Big Tech, Big Money, Washington corruption, affordable housing, and student loan debt relief are just a few of the topics on offer. Read what she’s actually proposing to do, not just in principle or as distant goals but with a clear road map that anchors each plan in legislation and executive action.
Warren has also been consistently effective in helping elect other Democrats—allies a president will desperately need. In 2018 alone, she raised $8 million for congressional candidates, then personally called all 172 of them to offer her support and went on to meet with 61 of them face-to-face to lay out how to best deploy that support. She firmly grasps the reality the media’s relentless, monocular focus on the presidential race misses: that in order to deliver bold change, the next president will need a Congress that shares (rather than checkmates) an agenda with the White House. She also understands—and here’s where her law school years really show—the critical importance of putting in place a federal judiciary vastly different from the one that has been appointed since this president took office.
Her opposition to Wall Street’s endless predations has also been consistent, courageous, and persuasive—and tied directly to her recognition that 40 years of growing income and wealth inequality won’t be reversed without the reregulation of finance. She has taken on not just bankers but also fellow Democrats, including Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and, by implication, President Obama himself when he prioritized saving too-big-to-fail banks rather than stopping foreclosures on the homes of 10 million families. She played public and behind-the-scenes roles in crafting the still-unused powers of the Dodd-Frank Act to tame Wall Street and in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington’s first new (and under the Democrats, demonstrably effective) regulator since the New Deal.
In her skill and dedication campaigning for other candidates; in doggedly shepherding tough, controversial bills through Congress; and in constructing a significant federal agency from scratch, Warren has demonstrated her ability to both win elections and govern.
Just as important, in weaving together support across the Democrats’ diverse constituencies, she has shown herself to embody not just the prophetic but also the complex and very human mix of emotions most of us feel: indignation, empathy, hope, openness—the deep, abiding yearning to turn America in a new direction. Time and again on the campaign trail, Warren has stunned audiences with her warmth and affection. In her September appearance at Washington Square in New York City, she was an inspired teacher but nobody’s schoolmarm.
Her personal story—of rising from poverty in Oklahoma, of juggling young motherhood with her studies, of translating academic research into policy and laws that have tangibly improved the lives of millions—offers us insights into her character, history, motivations, and goals that resonate well beyond ultrablue voters and precincts. I firmly believe she is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump.
Let me conclude, however, by talking not about Senator Warren but about you and me. This winter and spring, campaign hard for your candidate. Talk with your family, friends, and neighbors; use your social media to expand your advocacy. Knock on doors and call voters you don’t know. Sign petitions. Affix bumper stickers. Wear buttons. Keep a record of what you’ve done and a calendar of what you’re going to do between now and November.
This is an election in which voter turnout may be as crucial as the votes themselves. I hope Elizabeth Warren is our next president, but more important, I want to be sure Donald Trump isn’t. The next time you’re asked which candidate you support this year, consider responding, “I will support the nominee of the Democratic Party 100 percent.” Any of the Democrats running—any—would be a far better president than the one we have now.