After dropping out of race, Elizabeth Warren is unlikely to endorse either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden
Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose endorsement became highly coveted in the Democratic presidential race after she dropped out last week, is unlikely to endorse her ideological ally Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose endorsement became highly coveted in the Democratic presidential race after she dropped out last week, is unlikely to endorse her ideological ally Senator Bernie Sanders, according to several people close to her, even though Sanders is looking for political lifelines as he struggles against former vice-president Joe Biden.
Warren is expected to withhold her endorsement from Sanders as well as Biden at this point, choosing to let the primary play out rather than seek to change its course, according to several people familiar with Warren’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss her considerations.
Even before Sanders lost four states in Tuesday’s primaries, dealing a huge blow to his presidential hopes, Warren was reluctant to support him, these people said. The spirited presidential campaign caused some rifts between the two liberals, including their clash in January over whether Sanders once told her that a woman couldn’t be elected president in 2020, an episode that deeply troubled her. Her camp also viewed Sanders’ electoral standing as fading in recent weeks, raising doubts about whether an endorsement would be a lost cause.
Warren has spoken to Biden once since Super Tuesday but multiple times to Sanders, as she and her team have fielded overtures from Sanders supporters seeking to coax her to his aid.
Some of the Vermont senator’s prominent online supporters have clamoured for Warren to get behind his campaign, given how closely the two politicians are aligned on policy matters.
But Sanders’ highest-profile surrogate, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, said she understood Warren’s hesitation, and suggested it was a teachable moment for the Left.
“I always want to see us come together as a progressive wing,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I think that’s important and where we draw strength from. But at the same time, I come from the lens of an organiser, and if someone doesn’t do what you want, you don’t blame them — you ask why. And you don’t demand that answer of that person — you reflect. And that reflection is where you can grow.”
The lopsided results on Tuesday, when Sanders lost every county in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi, further hardened Warren’s decision, according to a person close to the Massachusetts senator.
Those close to Warren say her foremost reason for not endorsing Sanders is simple: Since her exit from the race, his path to victory has looked unlikely. They doubt that Warren, even as the most prominent former candidate to have not backed another primary contender so far, could reverse Sanders’ fortunes at this point, and fear that she risks squandering valuable political capital if she tries to do so and fails.
It was also not clear what difference Warren might have made in addressing Sanders’ glaring vulnerability with black voters, with whom Warren had shown little sway herself.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, who endorsed Warren in her personal capacity, was among those who spoke with Warren after Super Tuesday.
“It made tremendous sense for her to stay on the sidelines so she could play the role of unifier,” said Weingarten, who declined to discuss her private conversation with Warren.
Brian Fallon, who worked for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is now a progressive strategist, was doubtful that Warren’s backing would have significantly helped Sanders and said it might not have “sat well with the coalition she ended the race with,” which was dominated by college-educated white women.
“Why would she want to make her endorsement seem less powerful by giving it to somebody on a downward trajectory?” Fallon asked.
Four years ago, Warren stayed neutral in the Democratic primary between Sanders and Clinton, and during the General Election she used her influence among liberals to push Clinton to make more Left-leaning personnel choices in her transition team. “That was the template that she designed in 2016,” Fallon said. “Wait back, hold until the nomination is settled and then be very practical and hard-boiled about what your asks are.”
Most of the progressive groups and individual leaders that backed Warren do plan to support Sanders in some form, including the Working Families Party and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which emailed its members encouraging them to support Sanders before the Michigan primary.
Around 30 former staff members of Warren’s signed an open letter supporting Sanders. One former staff member tweeted that Warren’s unwillingness to support Sanders made her “really sad.”
Warren and Sanders have never been completely aligned as politicians, however, even if they broadly agree on the ills of unfettered capitalism and the need for major change within the Democratic Party. More than labels — Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist while Warren is a self-described capitalist — the two differ in political styles and tactics, which has become apparent in their presidential bids.
Warren has made a priority of forging a cordial tone with Democratic Party leaders, including a political program that sought to persuade even the most staunch moderates of her platform, often in one-on-one phone calls. Sanders has embraced the call of a political revolution, a far cry from the “unity candidate” message that Warren adopted before early nominating contests like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Adam Jentleson, who is close to Warren’s team and served as a deputy chief of staff to Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, said Warren and Sanders could be separated by one thing: Their approach to the Democratic Party.
“Being president is about policy but it’s also about leadership and your approach to people, and that’s a big area in which they differ,” Jentleson said. “She values the Democratic Party. She thinks it has flaws, but is overall a force for good. She doesn’t want to be on board with efforts to villainise or alienate many people who were the lifeblood of the party.”
However, the current distance between Warren and Sanders is also the result of a primary that tested their relationship in new ways. In January, reports surfaced that Sanders allegedly told Warren in a private 2018 meeting that a woman couldn’t win the presidency in 2020 — and he vehemently denied it, leading to a sharp post-debate exchange.
The next month, some of Sanders’ supporters lodged online attacks against female leaders in the Nevada culinary union who had declined to endorse him. Both instances extended past personal slights for Warren, according to those who were familiar with her thinking, and modeled what she viewed as inadequate leadership and poor coalition building.
Weingarten said she looked back at the January episode between Warren and Sanders as a crucial juncture in their relationship.
“There were a lot of really nasty emojis and tweets and other vituperative and misogynistic comments directed toward Elizabeth, and that was a moment Bernie could have stood really clearly and said, ‘Enough!’,” Weingarten said. “I’m a pretty tough broad and it affected me. And I don’t get affected by this much anymore.”
“The candidates have a role at that moment to step up and provide moral authority,” she added. “People took note.”
“There was a sense of PTSD,” Weingarten said, harking back to the 2016 primary campaign against Clinton.
Did it affect Warren?
“You can’t discount what happened over the last few months,” Weingarten said. “Let me just leave it at that.”
Astead W Herndon and Shane Goldmacher c.2020 The New York Times Company
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