Ever since she began explaining how her Medicare for all plan would be funded, and how she would pass it, Elizabeth Warren has been sinking. Ahead of last week’s debate, her camp leaked a story that her friend Bernie Sanders met with her in 2018 to discuss plans for 2020, and that at this meeting, Sanders had said that a woman could not win the presidency.
Leaking this in the hours before a debate guaranteed that Warren would be asked a question about it by the moderators of the CNN debate. Sanders unequivocally denied saying as much. It has been known that Sanders had in the past encouraged Warren to run for the presidency. But CNN’s moderator treated his denial as a lie, and Warren’s accusation as a fact, and asked Warren how she “felt” hearing such a thing. Warren got the question she wanted, and met it with a well-rehearsed answer about electability. The scene was meant to start a new conversation about supposed sexism among Bernie Sanders’s supporters, and to give Warren an opportunity to tell Biden’s least-committed supporters that she is an electable candidate.
This was the only memorable exchange in the debate. It was widely discussed for about 24 hours. Initial polls showed Warren got a boost from the debate. Then, the next night, CNN released video and audio of the moment after the debate when Elizabeth Warren approached Sanders and said: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” Sanders returned the accusation, then dismissed the conversation as happening at the wrong time and began to exit.
Sanders likely understood the reality of the situation. It was a setup.
CNN had given another in-kind contribution to the Warren campaign by adding that moment of viral-video drama to the story.
Of course, given what we know, it is theoretically possible that Sanders said such a thing to Warren — just as it is theoretically possible that I typed this column from the Andromeda galaxy, having figured out hyper-speed interstellar travel from my bedroom last week. You have to form judgments on the evidence available to you.
Here’s what we know: Bernie Sanders is helplessly himself. Everything about his life story, his convictions, and his political history is internally consistent. His unique voice is traceable to a single city block in New York City. And he has expressed hope for female candidates for high office since before most living Americans today were born.
Everything about Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, is a staged lie in service of her ambition. Her backstory, famously, is fake. During a time when elite universities like Harvard were under incredible pressure to hire non-white faculty to their law schools, Elizabeth Warren registered as a Cherokee. Eventually she concocted an almost-certainly-false story about anti–Native American prejudice from her father’s parents. Warren plagiarized her contribution to a book of Native American home recipes, Pow Wow Chow, from a French cookbook. Harvard bragged about its hiring of Warren and advertised her as an addition to its diversity, though reporting in recent years has attempted to obscure whether this was a help to her.
Warren’s political persona is entirely false. She claims to be a populist, but her form of social democracy is a kind of class warfare for millionaires and affluent liberals against billionaires and the petit bourgeois entrepreneurs who vote Republican. Her student-debt and free-college plans are absolute boons to the doctors, lawyers, and academics — the affluent wage-earners — who are her chief constituency. Meanwhile, her tax reforms go after not only billionaires but the small entrepreneurs: the guys who own a car wash, or a garbage-disposal service, and tend to vote Republican. Her consumer-protection reforms have hampered and destroyed local banks, and rewarded the bad-actor mega-banks she claims daily to oppose.
She has abandoned the views expressed in her 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap, and embraced a view of life that man was made for the economy. Her day-care plans leave behind the mothers who would choose to stay at home and raise their own children, instead drastically incentivizing mothers to get back to full-time jobs by funding full-time day-care.
I expect the prestige media to do everything in its power to drag this dead candidacy over the line in Iowa. But it’s an unseemly and ugly business to pretend to believe anything that Elizabeth Warren says.