Elizabeth Warren Persisted — and Broke the Progressive Cause in the Process
Published in The Washington Post
on March 4, 2020
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been telling us for weeks that she’d win the nomination because “she persisted.” Her persistence likely had the opposite effect, potentially costing her and fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) their best chance for the nomination.
Warren has run as the educated progressive’s dream. Reliably woke and unrelentingly leftist in her economics, Warren’s appeal has consistently been tilted strongly to the party’s left flank. Both pre-primary and exit polls have shown that her support is clustered among voters who say they are “very liberal” and drops off precipitously the less liberal the voter is. Combined with a similar strong tilt toward the highly educated — she consistently does best among voters with postgraduate degrees — Warren was effectively a niche candidate of the chardonnay left.
This was fine for her and the progressive movement as long as the moderate lane was fractured. Former vice president Joe Biden; former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) all drew support primarily from the party’s center and right, those who say they are only liberal or even moderate. Those voters were more numerous than the very vocal left, but so long as they were split, whoever became the progressive’s champion could hope to be the nominee by winning large numbers of delegates with a minority of the vote.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.