Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Owe Bernie Sanders a Damn Apology

Elizabeth Warren holding all the apologies she has for Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren holding all the apologies she has for Bernie Sanders Photo by Edward Kimmel via Flickr
Elizabeth Warren is the candidate on many people's lips right now as she cuts through the political noise with some incredibly popular policy announcements. She’s come out with an inventive proposal to cancel student loan debt and provide immediate relief to around 95 percent of Americans. Frankly, the fact that we could do that with a 2 percent tax on wealth above $50 million and a 3 percent tax on wealth above $1 billion should have had us building guillotines, but as far as non-Reign of Terror solutions go it’s a gem. She’s also been clear in her call for impeachment hearings following the release of the Mueller Report, which detailed the various acts by Donald Trump that could be construed as obstruction of justice. It’s a good time to be the senior senator from Massachusetts.

And she doesn’t owe Bernie Sanders bupkis, let alone an apology for not endorsing him in 2016.

In 2016, there had been four contests before Super Tuesday. Sanders won New Hampshire outright, but had barely lost Iowa. A lot of people heard coin tosses were involved in the Iowa caucus, and immediately assumed some dastardly deed went down to rob Sanders of the win. It didn’t, but the incident contributed to the rigged primary myth as things progressed. Especially after Clinton won the next two contests handily and pulled ahead of Sanders, who never recovered his early momentum.

Massachusetts was one of the 12 states in Super Tuesday, and Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement was a big question, as was her eventual vote as a superdelegate (though no one seemed to bring up that Sanders’ vote as a superdelegate essentially cancelled her out when he took Vermont by a landslide that day). It had been rumored for a while that Warren herself might enter the race, and her endorsement was considered weighty. With so many delegates and likely an insurmountable lead up for grabs in one big go, many Sanders supporters clamored that she owed her endorsement to him as proof that she was a really a progressive.

This irked the hell out of me then, and I declared that Warren was everyone’s political girlfriend who lived in Canada. She was the perfect woman presidential candidate because she wasn’t actually running and was therefore no threat to Sanders or general patriarchy unlike Clinton. So many people told me they’d vote for her if she was running. Now that she is, about a quarter of them would rather vote for Trump than her according to one poll.

Ultimately, Warren did not endorse Sanders, and he lost Massachusetts as well as the eventual nomination by a definitive amount. Warren would go on to endorse Clinton after it was all over, right about the time that many Sanders fans went full-blown conspiracy theory claiming that Clinton had cheated thanks to the Russian psyop orchestrated with Wikileaks. A lot of his supporters have never forgiven her for it, and feel she should apologize for now bending the knee to Sanders then. Here’s a selection from Twitter.

Elizabeth Warren doesn’t need to apologize. Even if her endorsement had somehow swung Massachusetts to Sanders, the proportional nature of Democratic primary delegate assignation would have made the difference minimal. Clinton only netted a single delegate more than Sanders as it was, and went on to win the nomination by 359 pledged delegates. Sanders was going to lose even if she had shouted his name from the rooftops. He simply didn’t have the votes to win.

There’s no reason she should prostrate herself at his feet now over it. Bernie Sanders is not the keeper of some progressive sacred knowledge or blessing. Elizabeth Warren has spent years fighting the various good fights and doesn’t need to have her accomplishments compared to some dude a bunch of people have/had a political crush on. Sanders is simply not the gold standard of liberalism or even democratic socialism. He’s just a brocialist with a few good ideas who lost fair and square to a more popular candidate.

The apology narrative seems to stem from the same delusion that Sanders had his chance to beat Trump stolen by the unscrupulous DNC, who ignored the will of the people to elevate their corporatist puppet into power. This narrative is so completely ludicrous and seeped in sexism it’s barely worth debunking anymore. Here’s Kurt Eichenwald if you need it explained to you.

Warren is seen as complicit in this imaginary scheme, and therefor unworthy of competing at the same time as the hallowed Sanders. The fact that the Russian psyop aided him or his campaign’s own accessing of hacked data are ignored or forgotten. It doesn’t mix with the bizarre savior complex that has made Sanders the Ron Paul of the left.

In my original piece I said “the problem when imaginary or symbolic women turn out to be real people [is T]hey often have thoughts and feelings and motivations of their own that are out of sync with the folks using them as a shield.” What some people want of Warren now is an acknowledgement that they were right to call her a shill. They can’t have that because Warren never owed Sanders a damn thing. He failed to win her endorsement just as he failed to win the nomination and likely will again. She doesn’t have to apologize for not being impressed, or for running a better campaign now.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner