Unlike Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders is beloved by the working class and despised by the media. Host Phan makes the case for why this is the kind of president America needs.
Some topics are hard to discuss: racism, sexual violence, immigration reform, slavery, gun control. Rarely do we realize that the accepted narratives come from our oppressors, who wield the power and money to have their POV dominate our thoughts. But not for educator and organizer Phan.
Plan A Magazine is proud to present Phan’s podcast, Pod of Most Resistance, Challenging Dominant Narratives One Episode At A Time. Join Phan as she tackles the most perverse misconceptions and skewed narratives within contemporary politics and tells the story of America from the side of resistance.
The following transcript comes from the show Pod of Most Resistance, episode “I Will Not Vote for Elizabeth Warren, Part 2.” It has been edited for length and clarity. Part 1 focuses on the differences in supporter demographics, media attention, and impact between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. To learn more about their policy differences, refer to Part 1.
It’s no wonder how Elizabeth Warren has gotten so much positive attention. She’s a former Harvard Law professor, has made a name for herself by being an excellent debater, given speeches all around the country even before she ran for president, and vows to fight for the middle class. Even the way she frames her political agenda is comforting for its pragmatism.
Unlike Sanders, she isn’t claiming to punish capitalism, only reform it. She’s convinced many of us that the bulk of our problems could be solved by raising taxes on the rich and powerful and putting up more red tape, a pill that’s much easier to swallow than some of the solutions Sanders has proposed. Initially, the distinction between the two has been made with the refrain “Warren has a plan for that.” Since then, Sanders has released just as many plans, and often more comprehensive than Warrens’, thus making the question of who has more plans irrelevant.
Policies aside, the messaging from Warren and Sanders seem so alike that they’ve raised worries that they may be undermining their cause by splitting the progressive vote. When we analyze the data on campaign contributions however, it becomes clear that these campaigns have been courting different demographics.
In August this year, the Pew Research Center summarized the profiles of supporters for the Democratic presidential candidates. The result was that Sanders supporters happened to be the most working class, least white, and most female base out of all the frontrunners, putting to rest, once and for all, the myth of the “Bernie Bro.”
The Center for Public Integrity further solidified just different how Sanders’ and Warren’s support bases truly are. “Of all the money going to 2020 Democrats from servers — one of the lowest-paying jobs in the country — more than half went to Sanders alone… Pharmacists gave far more to Sanders — nearly $69,000 — than any other candidate.”
Additionally, it appears that Warren’s humble roots-stories as a special ed teacher hasn’t give her the edge among everyday educators, since her contributions from teachers were less than half of what Sanders was able to raise. The professions where Sanders has garnered overwhelming support also includes nurses, farmers, truck drivers, and construction workers.
When it comes to addressing racial divisions in this country, I think there’s room for improvement among all candidates, and a winning political strategy for the nomination isn’t complete without a successful appeal to black voters. Should we care that Bernie was there with Dr. King during the Civil Rights March on Washington? It’s an incredible fact, but many people don’t want to hear about the past; they want a plan for the future.
It’s true that we cannot fight economic injustice without addressing the black and white racial wealth gap. It’s true that we cannot adequately address unequal access to healthcare without talking about black women being 3 to 4 times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. But we cannot be content with giving brownie points to politicians simply for their ability to see color, and Bernie Sanders is not going to pander. It’s always been clear who he’s advocating for: people of all races, genders, and socioeconomic classes.
[Sanders’] is a mission to strive towards a moral system whereby everyone stands on equal footing through guaranteed quality housing, healthcare, and education
The fact of the matter is that protecting the civil rights of all people in this country is undeniably tied to protecting their economic rights and opportunities as well. In post-slavery America, the perfect way to keep black and brown people powerless has always been to keep them poor. The intersection of race and class are often a sticking point in policy debates, which is why Sanders’ National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray addresses it with intellectual and activist Dr. Cornel West, who’s given his endorsement of Sanders.
[Joy Gray]: So, I’m curious, what do you make of those who still resist the relevance, the political power, that class holds and who even sometimes go as far as saying caring about labor, caring about class, is kind of antithetical to the interest of black Americans?
[West]: Well, one, I say we have to be very honest and candid about the class divisions in Black America, and even the class interests in Black America. And I’ll give you an example of this. In the late ’60s and ’70s, there was a divide between those who were pushing for full employment under the Humphrey-Hawkins bill, and those who were pushing very much for welfare programs. Now those of us who were pulling for full employment understood that if you’re really gonna hit poverty head on that welfare’s gonna be a parasite on a market-driven strategy that would be very provisional and tentative but would not get at the class roots of the poverty itself. And very few black leaders opted for the full employment route. They went to welfare route and really did not have the kind of impact on black working people that it had on black professionals.
And so what happens is that black progress is measured more and more by black middle class progress as opposed to black poor people’s progress or working people’s progress. And so you end up with a whole sense of talking about race in America always tilted toward the black bourgeoisie, tilted toward the black middle class, so that mass incarceration could take place. And black middle class politicians can be complicited with it. So that mass unemployment can take place, so that mass black poverty can take place.
And if you look at the lens through black middle class progress, we’ve done very well, because we got the biggest black middle class in the history of the country. But if you look at it through the lens of black poor and working people, you see devastation, catastrophe, you see disaster in terms of the life chances.
People concerned about racial injustice should realize that the significance of Sanders’ mission is much greater than doing just good enough to help marginalized people get by, much greater than improving welfare. It is a mission to move away from a system that treats the historically disenfranchised as an economic liability; move away from a system that creates programs for poor Black Americans and immigrants that are separate and unequal; move away from a system that keeps the funnel open for federal and corporate money to pour into the programs that give white elites superior healthcare, superior education and superior life outcomes.
It is a mission to strive towards a moral system whereby everyone stands on equal footing through guaranteed quality housing, healthcare, and education because of plans that explicitly pledge resources proportionate to the needs of each community. That is why Sanders’ platform should and has resonated with voters, and that’s the message that should be playing constantly in the mainstream news.
If you ever turn on the news, it’s unlikely you’ll hear positive coverage on Bernie Sanders, if any coverage at all. Sadly, I have seen far more ageist news around Sanders’ recent heart attack and cynicism around his overall health than around his record breaking one million donors or his fundraising lead among all Democrats.
In fact, when third quarter fundraising results came in, Bernie received about fifty percent less national press coverage than Warren despite having out-fundraised her (based on my count of headlines from Google that included their names).
Example headlines from Politico:
“Harris, Warren tie for third place in new 2020 Dem poll, but Biden still leads”
“Warren surges ahead of Biden in New Hampshire poll”
“Sanders trails Buttigieg by millions in second-quarter money chase”
As mentioned earlier, many headlines simply sidestep Sanders altogether. But the news outlet most notorious for its anti-Bernie smears is The Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Political watchdogs have exposed their biased agenda after it ran sixteen negative stories on Bernie Sanders within sixteen hours back in March 2016. Some of the most recent headlines for the Post include:
“The threat of Bernie Sanders”
“Bernie Sanders is now a millionaire. Can he still speak for working class Americans?”
“Are Democrats going to let Bernie Sanders get away with this?”
“Democratic socialists can’t hide their shallowness”
In addition to that, the Washington Post and CNN have consistently put out misleading fact-checks on Sanders. In one instance, The Post claimed that it’s not true that half a million people go bankrupt due to medical bills every year . Fact-check: it is true.
Perhaps one of the most nefarious media bias scandals of them all involves the corporate liberal news network MSNBC and a horse.
In August of this year, tens of thousands of people on Twitter were sharing the stories that led them to support Bernie Sanders with #MyBernieStory.
Not long after, MSNBC news anchor Brian Williams cherry-picks and broadcasts a seemingly random tweet using this hashtag, perverting what was a vehicle for people’s most tragic stories for the purpose of libel.
To compensate for the media’s lack of journalistic integrity, here are stories from real people.
And here I say real people because even though @HoarseWhisperer is a self-declared “Twitter rando,” he as a history of attacking Bernie Sanders and isn’t the unbiased non-political figure that Williams made him out to be, as Twittero-goers were able to uncover.
The person who runs @HoarseWhisperer is a corporate marketing consultant whose real name is allegedly Michael Goodnough who has worked for Exxon, Aetna, Comcast, Citibank, and big pharma. There’s also evidence to suggest that Goodnough has personal relations with the correspondents on MSNBC. And for clarification, Bernie did campaign heavily for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Smears from corporate liberal media has been so effective that Fox News viewers are actually more likely to support Bernie Sanders than MSNBC and CNN viewers, according to Morning Consult.
The problem isn’t that anybody denies that this bias exists. Instead, MSNBC and CNN will ask campaigns to offer proof for the motivation behind the blatant bias and bold-faced lies. Well here are two possible reasons:
- News anchors simply aren’t going to be nice to candidates who accuse them of being corporate propaganda networks. This is perfectly exemplified by debate moderators’ persistence in asking if Medicare for All will raise taxes on the middle class. Instead, moderators should be asking for details on how healthcare plans will affect care to trans people, undocumented immigrants, and people of color. You know, Americans. It’s inconceivable to say that the media doesn’t at least have an interest in protecting their personal and institutional reputation through negative media portrayals of their greatest critics.
- Money. There isn’t evidence to prove that corporations are explicitly telling news anchors what to say. Aside from FOX News, I don’t think there’s been any documented case of companies pulling ads en masse from a program just because they disagreed with its political bias. However, it turns out there truly is a profit motive behind The Washington Posts’ anti-Bernie bias. Journalist, Kevin Gosztola writes this about Jeff Bezos and the Post:
“Bezos recognized the media organization needs to gear itself toward appealing to affluent consumers because those are the people with the most discretionary income available to subscribe to the newspaper. This partially explains the constant stream of class warfare both in defense of elites and on behalf of elites, who the Washington Post sees as part of the solutions and not the problems routinely emphasized by Sanders.”
The article then details the story of how a writer from the Post wrote an op-ed titled “Jeff Bezos Wants To Give More Money To Charity. He Should Pay His Workers First,” who was later illegally disciplined when it was published by another media outlet.
In this situation, employees weren’t allowed to criticize their employer or even the paper’s advertisers, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that media should be institutions independent of government and corporations, otherwise democracy is compromised, and that’s exactly what has happened with the Washington Post. Ironically, this blatant media bias further credits Sanders’ criticisms of capitalism and the growing economic inequality in America. The reality is that a revolution isn’t going to happen without agitation from the corporate bankrolled press, and if Sanders is already having an impact on politics as an insurgent presidential candidate against established media and political parties, imagine what he will accomplish as our president.
This leads us to the last, but certainly not least, attribute that separates Warren from Sanders: impact. How can we trust that the changes promised by either candidate not only happen during their presidency but also survive beyond it? To predict their levels of impact, we need to take a look at the integrity of their fundraising and organizing.
Just this month, candidates have released their fundraising numbers for the third quarter, and Sanders leads the pack with $33 million dollars and Warren with $25 million. In September of this year, Bernie broke his own record from 2016 of reaching 1 million individual donors faster than any presidential campaign in U.S. history, and his record from 2016 had broken Barack Obama’s record from 2008.
Warren and Sanders both claim to be 100% grass-roots funded, meaning the majority of their funds will be raised with small donations under $200, with no corporate or super PAC money. They’ve both transferred funds from previous races into their 2020 presidential campaigns, but the difference is that some portion of Warren’s $10 million transfer was raised from corporations and wealthy donors, completely undermining her message of being grass-roots funded and free of corporate influence.
Now, if Sanders wins the nomination, his campaign will continue to be powered by small dollar donations. Warren, on the other hand, said that she would accept dark money and corporate donations during the general election, which would again be a major source of corruption. Now here’s some partially good news is, her campaign reversed its position last week, but rather than acknowledging their mistake, her team outright lied and said that it was “a clarification since the original version was a little vague.” But on several occasions, Warren has been crystal clear and believed that forgoing corporate money would be “unilateral disarmament” against the Republicans.
[WARREN]: So, look, I’ve never actually been in a deeply competitive primary. I get it. Republicans come to the table armed to the teeth. They’ve got all of their donors, their wealthy, wealthy donors. They’ve gone their super PACs. They’ve got their dark money. They’ve got everything going for them.
I’m just going to be blunt. I do not believe in unilateral disarmament. We got to go into these fights, and we got to be willing to win these fights.
[CHRIS HAYES]: So, this applies to the primary. Like, were you to get the nomination —
[WARREN]: This is a primary —
[HAYES]: — or anyone else gets the nomination, like, just raise all the money you can however you can.
[WARREN]: Yes, but…
It was only after it became clear that the financial support was there to sustain her through the general election did she change her tune, but Warren hasn’t backed down on her promised to host swanky high-dollar fundraisers for the DNC whose funds would eventually go to her campaign anyway if she won the nomination.
In addition to financial support, the president also needs to get legislation passed in Congress in order to be effective. This is where the integrity of organizing becomes super important.
When posed the question of how she would work with Republican obstruction in Congress, particularly in the Senate, Warren claims that constituents will be the primary force to hold their representatives accountable. Warren isn’t entirely wrong. At the end of the day, constituents have the most power to force politicians to vote according to their demands, on the condition, of course, that they’re able to mobilize and generate that kind of pressure.
However, the problem with her answer is that she simply passes off that responsibility to citizens without promising to take any leadership on it, and the impact of political organizing will only hit a ceiling if there’s no progressive ally in every branch of government. To understand how disastrous it would be for the country to elect another “politics as usual” Democrat into the White House, we only need to look back as far to 2008.
This was the year that Democrats controlled all branches of the government, but over the course of Obama’s two terms, they lost over 1,000 state and federal legislative seats across the country under the leadership of him and Nancy Pelosi. Even though we were able to recover from The Great Recession, Obama failed to revive the prosperity of the working and middle class as he had promised. The ineptitude of the Democratic party to overcome the barrier of Republican obstruction is one of the greatest failures of the Obama administration. The failure is so devastating that millions of people felt they no longer had a reason to vote for the Democrats and only reasons to vote against. The absolute importance of breaking down obstruction from both Republicans and corrupt Democrats cannot be underestimated, especially not now.
The current situation is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is preventing many important bills from event going to a vote. Bills on universal background checks, climate action, and renewing the Violence Against Women Act. It’s not an exaggeration that politics of the Democratic party are contributing to the needless deaths of hundreds of Americans each day. Which is why we need to put a full stop on party politics.
The simple answer to this problem is mobilizing people to vote obstructionists out of office. As delusional as the media makes him out to be, this revelation was as clear as day to Bernie Sanders back in 1981 when he became the only socialist mayor in the United States. When conservative Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Alderman blocked every one of his appointments, he didn’t try to reach across the aisle. He worked. That meant building the Independent Coalition, mobilizing a progressive movement, and winning back enough seats to have majority control of the Board the next election year.
This leads us to the question of whose organizing efforts will maintain the most integrity post-election cycle? When Sanders takes office in 2021, he will not only be the commander-in-chief, but also the self-declared “organizer-in-chief,” and there’s already proof to that claim. After his run in 2016, didn’t just pack up and do nothing until the next election. Sanders formed a political action committee called Our Revolution, after the eponymous book. Its mission is to educate voters and empower the next generation of progressive leaders. It’s a 501(c)(4) organization which, unlike 501(c)(3)s, can participate in political campaigns and elections. The significance of this isn’t that Sanders is the only politician in recent history to do this. The significance is that it’s completely independent from the Democratic establishment.
The year was 2009 when Barack Obama formed Organizing for America a project that would continue the grass-roots momentum built up during his campaign, which included a coalition of two million supporters ready to support his policies, run state and local elections, and even run for office themselves. The problem was that this energy was derailed when Organizing for America didn’t stay independent, but become a lame arm of the Democratic National Committee. To this day, Obama acknowledges this army of volunteers as a lost opportunity for Democrats.
We should never stop at preventing another Trump administration because Trump is merely a symptom, not the cause, of America’s crumbling democracy.
But — you might be thinking — Warren has a huge support base that nearly rivals Bernie’s, right? She does, but there’s a catch. According to the New York Times, Warren was one of the first Democratic candidates to sign a pledge with the party “vowing not to create any parallel political or organizing infrastructure that would compete with the national or state Democratic parties.”
“The state leaders were trying to ensure that the eventual nominee would turn over his or her fund-raising list and any voter file that was compiled for future races. More broadly, they also wanted to ensure that the nominee’s political organization is housed within the architecture of the party. This was done partly out of concern over Mr. Sanders, who has refused to share his 2016 supporter list with the party.”
This is the most explicit evidence we have that Warren has no intention of challenging the party and that any progressive energy that’s built during her campaign will be completely eviscerated should she take office. Our Revolution, on the other hand, will continue to grow and make a bigger impact beholden to nobody except the people who power it.
If your primary reason for supporting Warren is because she’s practically identical to Sanders, therein lies the answer for why people should consider voting for Bernie. To choose a candidate because they are a reflection of somebody else exposes the widespread understanding that Elizabeth Warren is a product of the change that has been led by Bernie. I won’t go as far as to say that Warren is a knock-off, but she doesn’t have the courage or vision to actually lead the country. Plus, Warren hasn’t always been on the right side of policy decisions.
Now, people would argue that we should look at the glass half full given that she eventually comes around to supporting the right causes. But bear in mind that presidential campaigns are notorious for pushing candidates to say things they wouldn’t otherwise. The problem that crops up time and again while trying to keep up with Warren’s campaign has been the overabundance of caveats. There are numerous examples where she’s voted against the best interests of the country, or, even worse, has been dishonest about her record.
Now, there’s a widely accepted rumor that Sanders wouldn’t have challenged Hillary Clinton had Warren stepped into the race. In spite of being closer to Sanders on the political spectrum than Clinton, Warren endorsed the Secretary of State after she received the nomination. Of course, there were personal reasons why Warren didn’t campaign in 2016. One of them was taking a break from the political smears that were still fresh in her family’s mind from her 2012 senate race . But there’s another rumor that Warren’s endorsement was a political calculation for raising her own chances of becoming Clinton’s VP, a decision in a long line of reasons why progressives are distrustful of her.
But Bernie was willing to take the heat and challenge the most powerful political arm of the Democratic party, and he has always been honest about his motivations, which he lays out in his book his Our Revolution. Here’s an excerpt from it:
“A presidential campaign is a unique opportunity to raise issues and force debate on perspectives that are often ignored by the establishment and the media. Should that once-in-four-years opportunity be ignored? Should Hillary Clinton be allowed to get the Democratic nomination without having to defend her views against a progressive perspective? The answer was no. There were too many issues out there that had to see the light of day, and it would be wrong to squander the opportunity that is available in a presidential campaign. If I didn’t run, who else would? Elizabeth Warren… is a good friend of mine and an outstanding member of Congress… There was a lot of discussion within liberal circles and in the media regarding the possibility of Elizabeth running for president… It was clear that millions of Americans wanted to see a serious primary campaign in which a progressive vision would match against Sec. Clinton’s more moderate views… In her public utterances Senator Warren and her staff were clear and consistent in stating that she would not run… Was there a better potential progressive candidate out there than me? Probably not.”
The difference by now should be clear. We shouldn’t vote for a candidate who’s riding on the coattails of change. We shouldn’t vote for a candidate who would feel satisfied about leading incremental change within a system that is corrupt to its core. We shouldn’t vote for a candidate whose faith lies in waiting for systems to change for us over a candidate whose faith lies in people-powered democracy.
We shouldn’t vote for a candidate unless their priority is utter transformation. We shouldn’t vote for a candidate if their vision stops at the White House, if they don’t use every ounce of their influence to change every branch of government to uplift this country.
What Americans need is someone who can foster multi-class and multi-racial coalitions. We should never stop at preventing another Trump administration because Trump is merely a symptom, not the cause, of America’s crumbling democracy. Removing him from office isn’t our greatest challenge. Our greatest challenge will be preventing another backlash from the white working class who will simply put another Trump in the White House if corrupt politicians remain in office. Bernie Sanders understands the height of this challenge better than any candidate, which is why his motto is Not Me, Us.
- Correction: The original episode misstated that the fact check was done by CNN, not The Washington Post
- Taken from Elizabeth Warren’s book This Fight is Our Fight