Updated: May 21
The Professional Left, Bernie&Warren, Part One. Part Two can be found here.
The Professional Left, Bernie-&-Warren Part 1
(Part 2 can be found here)
From Politico: AOC breaks with Bernie on how to lead the left.
“Progressives said Ocasio-Cortez’s more accommodating stance is a smart long-term strategy for a movement looking for a path forward. “She’s speaking in a way to create a majority in a way that Bernie is not interested in doing,” said Max Berger, the former director of progressive outreach on Elizabeth Warren’s campaign who also worked for Justice Democrats.”
“If Bernie is Moses, then AOC is Joshua,” Berger added, referring to the biblical prophets.”
Take the comparison at face value. When he is about to die, Moses gives up the reins of leadership to Joshua at the end of 40 years wandering in the desert.
In 1980, 40 years ago, the election of Ronald Reagan coincided with the onset of neoliberalism, which sent the American left into the wilderness. At the same time, Bernie Sander’s political career began. In 1980 Sanders was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont. He spent much of the next 40 years as a voice crying out from the wilderness.
After spending 40 years in the desert, Bernie’s ideas have never been more popular. With the end of Bernie’s second presidential run, Max Berger says it's time to pass the mantle of leadership from Bernie to AOC, as it was once passed from Moses to Joshua. According to Mr. Berger, the Bronx Congresswoman will lead the progressive movement into the promised land.
Except there is no reason that you should trust a word from a former Warren’s staffer’s mouth, especially if those words are about Bernie Sanders.
If Max Berger thought Bernie was Moses, why did he work for Bernie’s political rival?
You protest! Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are on the same team- they had a progressive pact throughout the 2020 Democratic Primary. They’re friends, and while Bernie Sanders is obviously better, Elizabeth Warren is still good. You can’t be serious that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are political enemies.
You do realize that they ran for President against each other. Last time I checked only one person can be President at a time.
Consider hit TV show Game of Thrones. In Game of Thrones, there is a conflict called the War of the 5 Kings. Its exactly what you’d expect- a war between 5 claimants to the Iron Throne. Only one of them can win- and each would do whatever it takes to sabotage the other to gain the Iron Throne for themselves.
Say that Stannis Baratheon’s presence in the war was obstructing Rob Stark’s chances for the crown. Rob needed to put the full strength of his forces in the West against the Lannisters. The Lannisters will stand for Joe Biden, and the rest of the establishment.
But Stannis entered the war in the East. Stannis says he can unite the country, both the Starks and the Lannisters to bring about big, structural change. To keep his war effort afloat, Stannis plundered Rob’s supply lines and raided Stark cities.
To protect his Eastern flank from Stannis’ raids, Rob was forced to divide his army in two, and fight a war on two fronts, in the East against Stannis, and in the West against the Lannisters.
And what if whenever Rob Stark would criticize Stannis or fight off Stannis' raids, people like Max Berger would say: “Stark Loyalists attacking Stannis are divisive and undermining our chances of beating the Targaryians (Trump). We need Westeros Unity.”
Except the Targaryians are on an entirely different continent. Westeros’ war with the Targaryians is 4 seasons. Trump isn't running in the Democratic Primary.
So with Stannis in the war, Rob Stark is overextended. Both the Stark’s East and West fronts are weak. Stannis has no real support with the people, besides what he has plundered from Rob or bought from the Lannisters, and Stannis surrenders quickly. Rob’s bedraggled Eastern forces are equipped to fight Stannis, but cannot compete with the Lannisters. The Lannisters defeat Rob Stark in open battle, then both Stannis and Rob both sign treaties to end the war and subsequently declare their loyalty to the Lannisters.
After the War of the 5 Kings, one of Stannis’ generals comes out and says that Rob Stark is like Moses.
As an avid viewer of Game of Thrones, what would you think of Stannis general that says that? Would you trust him? Would you think this general of Stannis is operating in good faith? No. You’d think that general was trying to get in with both the Starks and the Lannisters. And you’d be right to doubt him.
Max Berger just spent the last year working for a politician with no shot of winning the Democratic Primary. During the primary- Warren got 3rd in Iowa, 4th in New Hampshire, 4th in Nevada, and 4th in South Carolina. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, who finished ahead of her in nearly all four of those races, dropped out before Super Tuesday knowing they had no path to the nomination. Warren stayed in for Super Tuesday. When she did drop out, Elizabeth Warren of the progressive pact didn’t endorse Bernie.
While it's true that not all of Warren’s supporters would have voted for Bernie, the fact that Warren was in the race meant that Bernie had to split his efforts and defend his white, professional, college-educated flank from Warren’s opportunism.
Warren’s presence in the race hampered Bernie's ability to build messaging and outreach to expand the electorate; to bring in the disaffected, the disenfranchised, the independent, and the politically ambivalent.
Bernie was forced into an escalating plan war with Warren just to keep his professional class base, media outlets and activist networks from defecting. In so doing, Warren forced Bernie to reneg on his promise to expand his coalition as each plan Bernie put out was to win back his 2016 coalition, not expand the electorate. In the process, Bernie lost the working class vote and the rural vote, both of which were pivotal in his 2016 insurgent run.
The point isn’t that Warren should have dropped out before Super Tuesday. The point is that Warren should not have been in the race in the first place. Or, if Warren did enter the race, the left ought to have savaged Warren so badly, revealed her to be the hypocritical hack that she is, that Warren would drop out before voting even took place. Preferably on August 1st with Kristen Gillebrand.
Where was the left media during 2019? Where were the Rob Stark loyalists, the true Israelites who follow their Moses to the end? Where was the left media when Elizabeth Warren rose in the polls and needed to be ruthless criticized to get her off Bernie’s back?Why were false emotional narratives about Warren, that she was operating in good faith, is intelligent, and can get things done never rejected?
The Left media of Jacobin, Current Affairs, the Intercept, the Nation and related outlets spent all of 2019 equivocating between Bernie and Warren. When they criticized Warren it was constructive criticism- here’s how you could win me over.
What would you think if a whole class of people said things like "Stannis Baratheon is good, but Rob Stark is better” “Stannis Baratheon needs to do better to win the Vale.” “I like Stannis Baratheon but I love Rob Stark.” “Forget Stannis vs. Rob. We need two challengers to focus on defeating the Lannisters.”
As a seasoned Game of Thrones viewer, what would you think of these characters pestering Rob Stark? You’d think that these were not really Stark Loyalists. You’d think they were Little Fingers. You’d think they were using the conflict as a way to accumulate wealth and prestige.
Why Bernie 2020 failed is a huge multivariate problem, with too many variables to count. There's the establishment media, the James Clyburn endorsement of Biden ahead of the South Carolina Primary, the centrist consolidation around Biden after South Carolina, and even problems within the Bernie Campaign itself. No one article can cover every single variable.
The main aim of this article is to set the centrists, the media, and the Bernie campaign to one aside and focus on the failures of the larger Bernie world around the campaign, and the failures of the left media in particular. As the wise Jedi Master Yoda said, "The greatest teacher, failure is." The failures of the left media and the professional left in general must be examined if the broader American left is to learn from the failure of Bernie 2020.
The worst thing to take away from the Bernie 2020 loss is that the establishment is too strong. Failure is an opportunity to grow stronger, to improve the game plan, the messaging and find a new path to power. To say, "we did everything right and then we were robbed" strikes me as symptomatic of "When Prophecy Fails" syndrome, wherein a prophecy comes and goes, and instead of abandoning the disproven faith, the followers actually believe in the true message more and coalesce around the faith tighter. You can see this at play to this day with the QAnon prophecies. This is the definition of insanity- to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.
The left media was supposed to be helping Bernie get elected. But every step along the way, from 2019 to 2020, and even as far back as 2016, the left media was hindering, not helping Bernie's chances. The most prominent example of this is the Left's univocal endorsement of the progressive pact between Bernie-&-Warren. The left media and the mythical progressive pact hurt Bernie 2020.
2. Warren the Spoiler
Let’s filter through the various objections to attacking Warren.
The main counterargument against Warren being a spoiler in the Democratic Primary is because you can’t say something that Trump has already said:
Trump said Warren was a spoiler- that means Warren wasn’t a spoiler because Trump is a liar. To which I reply- a broken clock is right twice a day. There’s plenty to despise about Trump, but he doesn’t tell complete falsehoods. The best lies are half-truths, and Trump tells very good lies, some people say the best lies.
The various arguments against attacking Warren:
The Bernie Campaign didn’t attack warren so neither would we.
Bernie is a smart cookie, and a good politician, but he’s also a very nice guy.If the Bernie campaign did tell the left media to not criticize Warren, the left media should have ignored him. You don’t work for Bernie. The movement is bigger than Bernie isn’t it? Do what is in the best interest of the movement and expose Elizabeth Warren as the fraud that she is.
It would just bring accusations of misogyny
To give Warren a free pass because she’s a woman would be even more sexist. Warren cut her teeth on a parasitic anti-regulation economic philosophy during the Reagan years. Warren didn’t come to the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton’s gutting of welfare and the passage of the disastrous NAFTA brought the Democratic Party to Warren.
It would be divisive and help Trump.
If you believe that Bernie was the best bet to beat Trump, then it behooves you to give Bernie the best chance of winning the nomination. To attack Warren would free Bernie up, which would hurt Trump.
Attack Biden, not Warren. Biden has more voters who list Bernie as a second choice.
Biden’s polling was consistently stable throughout 2019, Warren’s was not. Biden was always going to win South Carolina and be competitive in every state. Warren had no path to victory in any state except for a brief window in the summer of 2019.
It would hurt the progressive pact in a contested convention
Bold to assume that Warren would give her delegates to Bernie. She didn’t endorse Bernie when she dropped out. Instead she took a parting shot at Bernie calling out the toxic Bernie bros. Some progressive pact.
Warren isn’t drawing voters from Bernie, Warren and Bernie have a different voter base.
The results from Iowa and New Hampshire shows that Warren drew directly from Bernie’s 2016 base.
There was plenty of substantive criticisms to make of Warren, including, but not limited to:
Warren’s crown achievement is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is a regulatory agency tasked with fining corporations who broke the law by charging unfair fees. When the CFPB was active from 2011-2017, it managed to get back 12 billion dollars over 6 years, or 2 billion dollars a year. 12 billion sounds like a lot, but the food stamps program doles out 70 billion dollars a year, more than 30 times what the CFPB took in over its 6 years of activity.
2 billion dollars is about 2% of JP Morgan’s annual revenue and that 2 billion per year was taken from the entire financial sector. That’s a drop in the bucket. The CFPB didn’t even last past Obama’s tenure. Warren had given the chairman of the CFPB a rather large amount of power, while expecting to be appointed the chair. By the time the CFPB was set up and nominations for chair underway, Warren had personally alienated so many senators that nobody would vote to confirm her. So much for "knowing how to get things done."
When Trump came into office, he appointed a do-nothing chairman, effectively neutering the agency. The CFPB was no big structural change. The CFPB is a tiny tweak that looks good on a resume. It was turned into a culture war issue and touted as a key piece of Obama’s legacy, which must be defended at all costs by liberals and leftists alike, even if its a complete failure.
The premise of the CFPB is flawed- that the system would work but there are bad actors and corruption within the system which creates an uneven playing field. Wrong. Even if everyone obeyed all the rules, the rules of the financial system produce bad outcomes and miserable inequality.
Elizabeth Warren was against the 2005 bankruptcy bill, s sponsored by credit card companies, which would limit what consumers could file for bankruptcy. Warren, then a professor, first opposed the bill when it was up for debate during the Clinton Administration when talked Hillary Clinton and husband out of supporting the bill.
What goes unmentioned is that Warren opposed the bill not as a progressive, but instead she opposed the bill from the Reaganite neoliberal right.
In Elizabeth Warren’s 2002 Book: The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt, she lays out her argument. First she dismisses the idea that risk can be born collectively, that the social safety net should be expanded and consumer lending tightened. This is a direct contrast to her on the campaign trail repeatedly saying: “I’m with Bernie.”
Elizabeth Warren believes that “the risk should be borne individually,” and that “consumer bankruptcy provides critical relief that heads off social unrest and keeps the maximum numbers of players in the economic game."
She goes on, “Bankruptcy is the ultimate free-market solution to bad debt… Bankruptcy is the market-driven choice to deal with privatized, rather than socialized risk…. As we opt for de-regulation and higher profits, we also opt for higher rates of personal failure. The tradeoff is thrilling for some and offensive to others. At this juncture, we can do little more than understand that in every choice to deal with risk, a game that produces winners also produces loser, and that for every policy that encourages winning, there must be some thought about mechanisms to deal with losing.
In the 1980s and 1990s Elizabeth Warren opted for deregulation and higher profits, then in the 2000’s and 2010’s she protests against the personal failures that her own policies and positions engendered. By talking out of both sides of her mouth, Warren is able to have her cake and eat it too.
There’s so many hit pieces to be written out of this. All the talk of winning, losing, and advocation for more opportunities for bankruptcy is a world that Donald Trump loves.
When did Warren have her “Road to Damascus” moment and change from anti-regulation Reaganite to progressive populist? Was there ever a change of heart?
3. 2019: The Primary-Within-The-Primary
The readership of the Left Media is a fraction of that of establishment players. Collating online visits in the last 6 months, Jacobin had 2 million visitors, Current Affairs had 500k, the Nation had 3.7 million, and the Intercept clocked in at 12 million.
Compare that to 25 million who browse MSNBC, 79 million who frequent Politico, and the 869 million who logged on to CNN in the last 6 months. The left media is absolutely dwarfed in terms of readership size.
What goes missing from this analysis is that the professional left and the professional liberal establishment are in the same media circle. When liberals want an idea of what the left is, Bhaskar Sunkara appears on the NYTimes podcast ‘The Argument’ episode entitled The United States of Socialism and has this to say about Elizabeth Warren: “I think there has to be a way to support Sanders while still supporting and boosting Warren”
When the Guardian wants to hear about teacher strikes, Meagan Day of Jacobin pens an piece. When Ezra Klein wants to hear the case for socialism he interviews Nathan J. Robinson, editor of Current Affairs.
But it’s not just professional invitations and opportunities that connects the left to the establishment media.
The establishment takes cues from the approved left media and uses their positions like a left-wing bowling lane bumper. Taking the left bumper into account, the liberal media charts out what the mainstream center-left lane will be.
When Kamala Harris announced her presidential campaign, Vox notes that Jacobin takes Kamala to task in a recent article. When Jacobin and the Left Media attacks Pete Buttigieg, Politico noticed and wrote a story.
When Jacobin and the Left Media spent the entirety of 2019 praising Elizabeth Warren, and then suddenly switches direction in December, Politico noticed.
How the Cool Kids of the Left turned on Elizabeth Warren. "The socialists of Jacobin magazine used to treat her like a promising alternative to Bernie Sanders. Now they write as if she’s almost as bad as Joe Bien. What gives?”
It wasn’t so long ago that you could read an article in Jacobin that argued, “If Bernie Sanders weren’t running, an Elizabeth Warren presidency would probably be the best-case scenario.” In April, another Jacobin article conceded that Warren is “no socialist” but added that “she’s a tough-minded liberal who makes the right kind of enemies,” and her policy proposals “would make this country a better place.” A good showing by her in a debate this summer was seen as a clear win for the left in the movement’s grand ideological battle within, or perhaps against, the Democratic Party. Even staff writer Meagan Day, probably the biggest Bernie stan on Jacobin’s masthead, found nice things to say about Warren.”
Comrade Sunkara is quoted saying:
“You air criticisms, you challenge people on their record, and the best politicians adapt and improve and make themselves stronger candidates as a result,” Sunkara said. They aren’t spreading falsehoods or making bad-faith critiques, he added. And they’re definitely not “getting together in a room and seeking to tank Warren.” They know there are far worse candidates, he said. Jacobin is publishing a full book about Joe Biden’s record and why he’s unfit to be the next Democratic president. “We don’t have a book on Elizabeth Warren.” (Emphasis my own)
The left media spent 2019 saying "Bernie is great but Warren is good." This line serves as the left bumper. The liberal establishment takes this line and makes itself seem left by lumping Bernie and Warren together, just as the left media has done.
Where the left emphasizes the Bernie-half, the liberals emphasize the Warren-half. So the establishment runs with the narrative that Bernie is good for the discourse, but a flawed politician. Warren is great both as a politician and for the discourse because of her plans.
Since the Left Media committed to its Bernie-&-Warren progressive pact line there was no way for the left media to function as an independent left.
Why did the left media commit to the Bernie-&-Warren narrative? The left media has completely different cultural and political concerns than the broader working class. The left media liked Warren because she reminds them of themselves. A smart policy wonk who will say anything to get ahead.
The professional managerial class and the working class have completely different aims. Where the working class is composed of temporarily dispossessed millionaires, the PMC is composed of temporarily dispossessed MSNBC talking heads. The concerns are to be well liked, to fit in, don't rock the boat, be civil and comradely. The goal of the left media throughout 2019 was not to build up Bernie's chances of winning, but instead to build their own personal brands. Its fine to build your brand, but a part of the left media's brand is that they do it "for the people" they are "working class warriors."
Because the PMC left media pursued their private concerns instead of pursuing the common concerns of the broad working class, the left media failed the working people who had put their trust in both Bernieworld, and the Bernie Sander's campaign.
Let's go through the Left Media’s coverage of Elizabeth Warren and the Frankensteinian Bernie-&-Warren from April 2019 to March of 2020.
(Image courtesy of the fearless and adversarial Intercept)
The Intercept touting Warren’s policy wonk status: Elizabeth Warren has a novel idea: Tax corporations on the profits they claim publicly. From Current Affairs Editor, Nathan J. Robinson: Elizabeth Warren’s excellent Ideas. Comrade Robinson then turned around and wrote a hit piece on Bernie, Why Bernie should give his millions away.
In Jacobin Doug Henwood published another light read in Jacobin, I can’t believe Warren is losing to these guys, Followed by Meagan Day's piece, Elizabeth Warren takes the lead on student debt. The Nation piped in at the end of April with Elizabeth Warren has the plans.
Politico, watching from the sidelines, saw the emerging primary-within-the-primary and ensuing policy arms race for what it was. Warren puts Bernie on defense: The Massachusetts senator is aggressively pitching policies in Sander’s wheelhouse.
Meagan Day wrote in Jacobin What to make of Warren’s policy blitz. The byline had to be a complement of course, “Elizabeth Warren may have smart policies. But Bernie Sanders has mass politics.”
Comrade Day writes: “We are right to admire many of the ideas coming out of the Warren campaign. Best-case scenario, they will spur a progressive policy arms race, which would be to the benefit of all.”
“Warren’s policy blitz strategy may pay off in the short term. But in the long term, there’s no substitute for naming the sides, picking a side, and building up your side to fight the other side. And that’s Bernie’s game.”
Warren gets constructive criticism, helpful pointers and an intellectual narrative. "You're good but if you do better you could win me over." Bernie gets the emotional narrative thoughtless cheers, as well as insane demands from the likes of Comrade Robinson who tell Bernie he should give away the money he made on a best-selling book. The only critique Bernie gets from Jacobin is to “Push Bernie Left” by heaping yet another polarizing, cultural liberal issue onto his plate.
The Left Media in April had not yet picked a side- nor was working to build up their own side. In April Warren polled in the single digits. By mid-September she was polling ahead of Bernie in double digits, only to drop back down below Bernie in late November.
Also in April, Jacobin published a harsh hit on Beto; With Beto O’Rourke, There’s no There There. Where was the article on why With Elizabeth Warren, There’s no There There?
Jacobin came out with a measured critique of Warren: Elizabeth Warren can and should do better on foreign policy. The left media treats Warren like a comrade, they call her in and ask her to do better.
“Her rise also muddies Sanders' path to the nomination. For most voters, there isn't much clear space between them on the major policy questions dominating debate within the party. And even among progressive activists, the places where Sanders and Warren split can appear trifling in contrast to Biden's "return to normalcy" message.”
A week later, Ryan Grim of the Intercept published a glowing review: Elizabeth Warren lays out a theory of change at First Democratic Debate.
The same day, Jacobin suppressed criticism of Warren in Liza Featherstone’s article “Warren is no Hillary. She’s also no Bernie" with the tagline, "The feud between Bernie Sanders supporters and Elizabeth Warren supporters is getting ridiculous. Warren isn’t Hillary and Bernie is no sexist.” The first sentence of Comrade Featherstone's article is a lie, "Elizabeth Warren is not a neoliberal.”
The Left media is capable of negative coverage: Tulsi Gabbard is not your friend. Where was the article on why Elizabeth Warren is not your friend?
From the Nation: Warren is winning the ideas primary. The Intercept: Elizabeth Warren wants to ban private prisons. The same day, Naomi Klein of Disaster Capitalism fame wrote in the Intercept, Forget Bernie vs. Warren. Focus on growing the progressive base and defeating Biden.
The establishment media was much more clear-eyed about the Bernie-Warren conflict than the Left Media. From CNN: Bernie and Warren clash escalates in contest for progressive champion.
From Jacobin: “Elizabeth Warren’s Next Step on Medicare for All: Elizabeth Warren finally took a strong stance on Medicare for all. It's a welcome shift. Here’s how she can fight for it.” Still bending over backwards to help Warren, even as she is climbing in the polls.
After the second debate featured Bernie-&-Warren on the same stage, the Left Media boosted the message of progressive unity while Warren rocketed ahead in the polls. The Intercept: Bernie and Warren dominate debate set up to ambush them. Jacobin agreed: Democratic Debate shows that the left is winning, and The Middle Ground Did not Fare Well in the Democratic Debate.
Jacobin publisher Bhaskar Sunkara used the goodwill won with the establishment by helping to create the Bernie-&-Warren Frankenstein by seeing his work published in The Guardian: It’s Bernie-&-Warren v the ’No we can’t’ Democrats.
From Politico: Warren jumps over Bernie for second place behind Biden.
“The poll shows remarkable growth for Warren over the last five months — she has gained 16 points since March — while Biden has remained somewhat steady over the same period.”
March to August was the exact months the Left Media bowed to the Bernie-&-Warren emotional narrative. In response to the new polls Bhaskar Sunkara pivoted away from bear hugging Warren to light critique: Elizabeth Warren is 30 years too late.
Jacobin kept up its new line of lightly criticizing Warren. But after 8 months of boosting Warren, they came off as cranks. The Nation rebuked Jacobin, Sanders and Warren make a good team. Then another attack on Jacobin: Jacobin Outrage over Working Family Party’s Endorsement is Foolish and Unjustified. This after Jacobin created a petty stir over a relatively small endorsement, by psychoanalyzing the WFP leadership.
Meanwhile, Current Affair was still working the Bernie-&-Warren lane; Sanders and Warren need a pact. September closed with the Nation printing articles that Jacobin was printing back in April: “We don’t have to choose between Warren and Sander’s yet: Their truce during the 2020 campaign is widening the left lane- that's good for everyone.”
Also in September, Jacobin printed this hit on Harris: Kamala Harris’ Signature Achievement was a Complete Failure. The same could be said about Elizabeth Warren’s CFPB. Why didn’t I read in Jacobin why Elizabeth Warren’s Signature Achievement was a Complete Failure?
Jacobin was still unable to completely sever their ties to Bernie-&-Warren. Even such critical articles as Why the Differences between Bernie and Warren Matter pulled so many punches, called her a progressive democrat (a lie), and celebrated Warren's presence in the race.
“It should be clear from reading Jacobin’s coverage of Elizabeth Warren that she is not a corporate shill, nor an enemy of working people. She’s an actual progressive Democrat, proposing real reforms. But she is a progressive Democrat at a time when the bar has been raised (finally, thankfully) beyond progressivism.”
This is a Left Media in infancy. Like infants, this Left Media has no teeth. Instead of biting critique Jacobin publishes epic logician Ben Burgis’ gummy complaint We need Mental Health Care for all, helping Warren out of a jam after she “forgot” to put mental healthcare on her plan. Jacobin continued to be the devil obsessed with the details: Elizabeth Warren and Taxes: This Shouldn’t Be So Hard.
Jacobin never took the next step and called Warren's bluff on Medicare for All. Warren was never serious about Medicare for All. She supported the bill to rub off some of Bernie’s radical juju onto herself and say "I'm with Bernie" on the debate stage. What good is a Left Media if it cannot reject a liberal premise and present its own?
On October 15th, The Nation published Sanders and Warren are widening the party’s left lane. Jacobin seems to concur with an article by Carl Beijer: Where Elizabeth Warren’s New Votes are coming from which said Warren was drawing voters from the undecided and other candidates, but not from Bernie. It’s not true, but I’m sure the article helped these democratic socialists sleep at night after boosting Elizabeth "capitalist to her bones" Warren all day.
Meanwhile, the centrist Democrats were coming after Elizabeth Warren harder than the Left Media was. CNN published the story “What’s the plan? Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ proposal will test her brand. CNN can say what Jacobin can’t- that Warren has a brand, that Warren’s intelligence and progressive turn is a performance.
Politico is somehow one of the only websites able to spot the brinkmanship at play in the progressive policy arms race: Warren and Bernie race to out left each other. The Left Media uncritically applauds the flurry of plans “pushing the Overton window left,” never noticing who those plans are alienating- the same expanded coalition that Bernie said he was going to bring in.
Axios' incisive bit of polling tracked the Warren-Sander’s turning point to Mid-April, right when the left media started to sing her praises.
With November came Warren’s release of her tepid Medicare for All plan, revealing what was true the entire time- she was never serious about Medicare for all.
After wasting the Spring, Summer and Fall, Jacobin jumped on it; Elizabeth Warren’s plan would doom the fight for Medicare for All, Wall Street doesn’t believe Elizabeth Warren is serious about Medicare for All, Elizabeth Warren’s Plan to Finance Medicare for All Is A Disaster. Still only a criticism aspects of Warren's platform, and never a takedown of the whole candidate. Nathan J Robinson of CA also published in the Guardian, Progressives trust your gut: Elizabeth Warren is not one of us. A welcome change, but there ought to have been 40 of these pieces back in April.
The most egregious Warren propaganda pieces comes from Ryan Grim of the Intercept: Fighting Words In Three Touchstone speeches Warren grounds her campaign in a history of American protest and movement building.
Just over a month before the primaries when Warren would be outed as the spoiler she was, the Left Media was still trying to keep the Bernie-&-Warren myth alive. In the Nation Will the Sanders-Warren Truce hold on Debate Night?
In Jacobin; Warrencare doesn’t deserve to be called “Medicare for All”. This analysis of Warren is still framed constructive criticism, and leaves the door open for Warren to do the work and improve her brand:
Compare this headline to Why the Pundit Class Loves Amy Klobuchar. You could ask the same question about Warren. They were both endorsed by the NYTimes. Instead we’re left asking “Why Does the Left Media love Elizabeth Warren?”
Back in the UK, the septuagenarian socialist Corbyn lost to the blond corporatist, Nietzschean Übermensch Boris Johnson. The parallels to Bernie and Trump did not bode well.
Bucking a trend, Jacobin’s analysis of Corbyn’s loss was remarkably good. It inadvertently diagnosed the reactionary tendencies of the professional left which makes up most of the socialist standard-bearers and gatekeepers on both sides of the pond.
The story of Corbynism is crystal clear. The Labour Party chose to appease a minority of the rear-guarders — a few very loud and well-funded middle class “activists,” particularly in media and academia, rather than its historic base. And, not surprisingly, many workers noticed.
….the American left cannot be held hostage by professionals. Yet precarious and downwardly mobile we may be, the middle classes and our particularist passions cannot be the primary audience of this campaign, nor can the “activist left,” who often have our own economic incentives for pushing this or that agenda.
Professionals are welcome, of course, but only as part of a universal front, with no special rights of their own, in the void of party democracy where no one can hear them scream. As always, they derive their value from their status as an appendage.”
4. Decision 2020! Or Don’t Decide. They’re Both Good.
January was dominated by the Bernie and Warren spat at the January 16th debate, when the lid on the progressive pact boiled over.
MODERATOR: Senator Sanders, CNN reported yesterday, and Senator Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?
SANDERS: Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it…. …Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by three million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe a woman could become President of the United States….
MODERATOR: So Senator Sanders I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?
SANDERS: That is correct.
MODERATOR: Senator Warren. What did you think when Senator Sanders said a woman could not win the election?
WARREN: I disagreed."
Social Media exploded. Supporters of Bernie Sanders were exhausted by the Bernie-&-Warren myth coming from the establishment media, left media, Sanders, and Warren campaigns. If Sanders and Warren were on the same team, why did Warren knife Bernie in the back on national television?
The professional left policed the discourse issuing warnings from the intercept to “not take the bait.”
You do understand that only one person can be president at a time, right? Right?
After the New Hampshire Primary gave Bernie his first real win, Jacobin ran a soft critique of Warren: I like Elizabeth Warren - Here’s why I think she should drop out. Why do you have to hedge your critique with the fact that you like a politician? This reinforces the master narrative that anyone hypercritical of Elizabeth Warren is a crank because Warren is a “true progressive.”
Asking a politician to drop out is ludicrous. She had made it to the voting stage of the primary already. Elizabeth Warren had to be beaten. In the polls. It’s called democracy.
With the Nevada Caucus came the Bernie campaign’s high point. The Nation rightly congratulated him; Bernie Sander’s hits the jackpot.
The next day the Nation about faced and published, Elizabeth Warren is running an unapologetically Intersectional campaign. This the day after Sanders won a supermajority of Hispanic voters in the diverse state of Nevada.
The day before Super Tuesday, Carl Beijer penned a Jacobin article Elizabeth Warren isn’t a unity candidate. This is contrary to everything that Jacobin had been saying for an entire year. Jacobin made the bed, now Bernie had to lie in it.
The Nation, which had been running interference for Warren the entire campaign, came out to endorse Bernie on Super Tuesday when the centrists had consolidated and it was already too late.
We know what happened next. Super Tuesday came and destroyed Bernie Sander’s chances at the Presidency.
The establishment didn’t play fair, some complain. Biden got unearned media time, they say. Did you really expect the establishment to play fair? Really? Didn’t you read the DNC leaked emails in 2016? Why would you expect a tiger to change its stripes for no reason at all? Criticize the media and political establishments all you want, but they won't change. What can learn from its failures and make a change is the American left.
5. The Professional Left’s Class Interest
Why is it that progressives like Max Berger and socialists like Bhaskar Sunkara said the same thing about Bernie-&-Warren?
The answer is simple. It was in the left media’s career interest to support both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. It was in the left media’s class interest to kill Bernie Sander’s campaign.
For the Left Media to keep its ties with the Liberal establishment, to be able to go on MSNBC, to see their op-eds published in the Guardian, to they had to seem “reasonable.”
To be reasonable in the time of Trump is to endorse whatever unreasonable emotional narrative that comes out of the liberal establishment. The problems plaguing Bernie Sander's campaign and the Left Media started way back in 2016. The alternative left media sold the same lies as the establishment liberal media.
This includes the Russiagate emotional narrative, that Putin put Trump into the White House. The left almost univocally supported Russiagate, even though its been proven over and over to be a sham.
This includes the Charlottesville-gate emotional narrative , the myth that fascism is on the rise, that only racists voted for Donald Trump, that white supremacy is under the bed nibbling at your toes. The left univocally supported this hysteria and crybullied anyone who would question it.
This includes the Ukraine-gate narrative and the ensuing useless impeachment process, which again, the left univocally supported. Never mind that the Ukraine Impeachment was an bald-faced ploy to cover up the Biden family’s obvious corruption. Impeaching the bad orange man was simply the “right thing to do.”
These emotional narratives made Trump out to be the root cause of American disfunction. Wrong. Trump is not the cause, he’s a symptom of decades of American rot. The Left Media had an opportunity to make the case that Obama was just another in a long string of terrible presidents, that there was no good ol’ days to go back to. That didn’t happen.
Every one of these conspiracies endorsed by the Left Media was weaponized against Senator Sanders. Russiagate brought back old McCarthyite terror about Soviet infiltration- did you know Senator Sanders honeymooned in the Soviet Union?
Americans have a libidinal association of Russia with socialism. Props to the establishment for running a nonlinear propaganda campaign against both Trump and Bernie by raising the foreign threat of both Russian oligarchs and Soviet commissars.
Ukrainegate was an obvious preemptive move to cover up Biden’s plutocratic tendencies and the Biden’s family’s corruption in general. After the impeachment proceedings, pointing out Biden's corruption is framed as helping Trump.
Charlottesvillegate and the “every Trump voter is a racist” trope laid the foundation for a return the golden age of Obama. Biden for all his mental decline, played into this perfectly by saying he decided to run for President after Charlottesville to “restore the soul of the nation.”
Every time Bernie said he would do everything in his power to “defeat the most dangerous president in American history” he was making the case that Biden should be the nominee.
One of the most pernicious emotional narratives of all was the Warren emotional narrative. That Warren can bring the party and the country together to enact big, structural change. But the left media spent 2016, 2017, and 2018 pushing the liberal establishment’s emotional narratives. Why stop in 2019?
The Warren question is emblematic of this Left Media’s failure and its addiction to failure. The left media's class composition as a professional-managerial class, is beholden to the interests of the ruling class and their capital.
The professional-managerial class is certainly a working-class, one with little to no capital when compared to the ruling class, but it is also a working-class that is beholden to ruling class sensibilities, ideas, and ideology which were instilled in college and must be held for job security.
The traditional working class has ownership of their own thoughts, ideas, and opinions. The boss on the factory floor doesn’t care what you think about Palestine, Venezuela or sex workers, the boss cares if you can get the job done.
But the professional left, by virtue of their white-collar work, must turn their thoughts into products, and commodify their consciousness.
While the professional left writes for their own editors, they and those editors always have an eye on opportunities available in the mainstream press. These are not simply opportunities to spread socialism. These are also the inexorable gravitational pull of capital exerting its pressure on whole magazines and individual actors to conform to a comfortably “radical” position somewhere between Bernie-&-Warren.
Between the commodification of their own consciousness and the allure of mainstream appeal, the professional left’s cognition is colonized by the ruling class. The professional left have worker's faces, but ruling class masks.
Putting on this mask, an effective left lens is dropped, and a liberal frame is picked up- the same liberal frame as the establishment media. In this way, the professional ‘working’ class interests are not the interests of the broader working class.
The professional socialist can only produce a utopian socialism whose only aim is to raise expectations.”
So thats exactly what the left media did. They eschewed a concrete leftist analysis and embraced the myth of a progressive pact. Far from critical and radical, the revolutionary pundits of the professional left are more loyal to the Democratic Party than real party loyalists like Rahm Emanuel or Stacey Abrams.
This critique of the left media isn’t an assertion that there was “one weird trick” that Bernie world could have exploited to win the primary. Far from it. The intense propagation of Bernie-&-Warren myth, one that still has not been disavowed by the left media, is proof of the irreconcilable class contradiction between the professional left and the working class they’d like to represent.
In both their paycheck and their ideology, the professional left is beholden to the ruling class. So of course the left media sold the progressive pact. Here, the whole question of the article, “If the left media wanted Bernie to win, Why didn’t left media attack warren?” is answered.
Attacking Warren was never an option, because the left media didn't want Bernie to win. A Sanders presidency might have been good for the country, but a failed Bernie candidacy is definitely good for the professional left brand. When prophecy fails, the faithful pay no mind and buy more newspapers.
Karl Marx’s words on the professional socialists is still prescient. I’ve amended his terminology to fit the current times.
“The professional socialist want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a professional class without a working class.
The professional left naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best, and PMC Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems.
In requiring the working class to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the socialist New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality, that the working class should remain within the bounds of existing society, and cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the professional class.”
Part 2 can be found here.