The Washington Post reports:
An angry split among liberal Democrats broke into the open Wednesday as two prominent presidential candidates exchanged accusations of dishonesty, raising fears among party leaders of a repeat of the internecine bitterness that many Democrats say contributed to President Trump’s victory in 2016.
The fears are not without a basis. Yesterday, some irate supporters of Sanders circulated a #NeverWarren hashtag. #WarrenIsASnake also began trending.
Warren deserves this treatment. Contrary to her angry post-debate statement to Sanders that he called her a liar on national television, Sanders’s denial that he ever said a woman can’t beat Donald Trump is just as consistent with the notion that Warren simply misunderstood his comment on the subject. Warren was not justified in going nuclear.
In any case, Warren should not have berated Sanders, and refused to shake his hand, while the cameras were still rolling and CNN was still picking up sound. Sanders was spot on when he advised her, “let’s not do this right now.”
The poor judgment Warren displayed by going nuclear over a comment with an innocent explanation, and with the cameras still rolling, is yet another reason to expect the worst from a Warren presidency.
But will the Warren-Sanders feud really produce lasting internecine bitterness that would harm one or the other in a run against President Trump? You might well think that a personal rift between the two friends could be overcome in the name of advancing the left-liberal agenda.
But there are two stumbling blocks to such a scenario. First, Sanders has something of a cult of personality thing going with a portion of his supporters (as I think Trump does, to a degree). The “Bernie Bros” don’t tolerate criticism of their man. To the contrary, they harass critics to the point that Sanders once saw fit to apologize for some of their rhetoric.
It’s plausible to believe that, to these supporters, Warren’s personal rift with Sanders disqualifies her from obtaining their support.
Second, the leftist agendas of Sanders and Warren are rather different. Sanders is a hard core socialist with communist sympathies. Warren straddles the line between socialism and non-socialist leftism. It’s not clear exactly where her sympathies truly lie, but it’s clear that they fall short of Sanders’s on the leftist spectrum.
The far left is known for extreme sectarianism. Even small differences have produced world class feuds. And the differences between Sanders and Warren may not be so small.
This column by Megan McCardle does an excellent job of explaining the differences. McCardle writes:
Despite similar-sounding critiques of corporate power, and nearly identical Medicare-for-all plans, [Sanders and Warren] actually offer quite different theories of politics, government and power — and of what sort of coalition the Democrats might put together to oust President Trump from the Oval Office. . . .
Sanders remains essentially a revolutionary who wants to replace large chunks of the economy with something completely new, and will keep saying so heedless of political risks. Warren is at heart more of a cautious bureaucrat whose ideal is something like her pet project, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: operating by regulatory fiat, through arcane rules for very complex markets, and deliberately structured to minimize its accountability to the electorate. . . .
In other words, Sanders thinks he can make the world a better place by rewriting the rules. Warren thinks she can make it a better place by enhancing the freedom and power of bureaucrats.
It’s no accident that a “Warren is a snake” theme quickly emerged from the post-debate dustup. Some hard core Sanders supporters already viewed her that way, in part because of the less than straightforward way she intends to take on corporate power.
Now that the dustup has occurred, Warren has probably solidified herself in the minds of some hard core Sanders supporters as the functional equivalent of Hillary Clinton. They might well be as reluctant to back Warren if she’s the nominee as they were to support Clinton four years ago.