Krystal Ball and Michael talk about why the establishment is lining up behind Elizabeth Warren and Warren vs. Sanders theory of change.
A crisis of legitimacy swept across American politics in the second decade of the 21st century. Many people had the general conviction that the old order was corrupt and incompetent. There was an inchoate desire for some radical transformation. This mood swept the Republican Party in 2016 as Donald Trump eviscerated the G.O.P. establishment and it swept through the Democratic Party in 2020.
In the 2020 primary race Joe Biden stood as the candidate for linear change and Elizabeth Warren stood as the sharp break from the past. Biden was the front-runner, but fragile. Many of the strongest debate performers — Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bennet — couldn’t get any traction because Biden occupied the moderate lane. By the time he faded, it was too late.
Warren triumphed over the other progressive populist, Bernie Sanders, because she had what he lacked — self-awareness. She could run a campaign that mitigated her weaknesses. He could not.
Biden was holding on until Warren took Iowa and New Hampshire. He or some other moderate could have recovered, but the California primary had been moved up to March 3, Super Tuesday. When Warren dominated most of the states that day, it was over. The calendar ensured that the most progressive candidate would win.
Many pundits predicted that Warren was too much the progressive regulator in chief to win a general election. Indeed, her personal favorability remained low. But the election was about Trump — his personal disgraces but also the fact that he told a white ethnic national narrative that appealed only to a shrinking segment of the country.
Warren won convincingly. The Democrats built a bigger majority in the House, and to general surprise, won a slim Senate majority of 52 to 48.
After that election, the Republicans suffered a long, steady decline. Trump was instantly reviled by everyone — he had no loyal defenders. Only 8 percent of young people called themselves conservatives. Republican voters, mostly older, were dying out, and they weren’t making new ones. For the ensuing two decades the party didn’t resonate beyond its white rural base.
The American educated class celebrated the Warren victory with dance-in-the-street euphoria. In staffing her administration, she rejected the experienced Clinton-Obama holdovers and brought in a new cadre from the progressive left.
The euphoria ended when Warren tried to pass her legislative agenda. One by one, her proposals failed in the Senate: Medicare for all, free college, decriminalizing undocumented border crossing, even the wealth tax. Democratic senators from red states, she learned, were still from red states; embracing her agenda would have been suicidal. Warren and her aides didn’t help. Fired by their sense of moral superiority, they were good at condemnation, not coalition-building.
When the recession of 2021 hit, things got ugly. The failure of two consecutive presidencies had a devastating effect on American morale. It became evident that the nation had three political tendencies —
- conservative populism,
- progressive populism and
- moderate liberalism.
None of them could put together a governing majority to get things done.
Before Warren, people thought of liberals and progressives as practically synonymous. After Warren, it was clear they were different, with different agendas and different national narratives.
Moderate liberals had a basic faith in American institutions and thought they just needed reform. They had basic faith in capitalism and the Constitution and revered the classical liberal philosophy embedded in America’s founding. They inherited Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s millennial nationalism, a sense that America has a special destiny as the last best hope of earth.
Progressives had much less faith in American institutions — in capitalism, the Constitution, the founding. They called for more structural change to things like the Supreme Court, the Electoral College and the basic structures of the market. Trump’s victory in 2016 had served for them as proof that racism is the dominant note in American history, that the founding was 1619, not 1776. They were willing to step on procedural liberalism in order to get radical change.
With the Republicans powerless and irrelevant, the war within the Democratic Party grew vicious. Progressives detested moderate liberals even more than they did conservatives. The struggle came to a head with another set of Democratic primaries in 2024.
The moderate liberals triumphed easily. It turns out that the immigrant groups, by then a large and organized force in American politics, had not lost faith in the American dream, they had not lost faith in capitalism. They simply wanted more help so they could compete within it.
By 2030, progressive populism burned out as right-wing populism had. The Democrats became the nation’s majority party. This party ran on a one-word platform: unity. After decades of culture, class and demographic warfare, moderate liberals defined America as a universal nation, a pluralistic nation, embracing all and seeking opportunity for all.
In a wildly diverse nation, voters handed power to leaders who were coalition-builders not fighters. The whole tenor of American politics changed.
Ahead of a major address in New York City, the Democratic hopeful is wrapping her campaign in an anticorruption pitch to Democratic primary voters
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is proposing a federal ban on all fundraising activities hosted by lobbyists as part of a new, broad set of anticorruption proposals, adding weight to a theme that has underpinned her White House bid.
The plan, outlined Monday morning on the blog site Medium, builds on anticorruption legislation Ms. Warren announced last year. It adds the new lobbying prohibitions, as well as a ban to prevent senior executive branch officials and members of Congress from serving on for-profit boards—whether or not they receive compensation from such positions. Ms. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, unveiled the proposal ahead of one of the splashiest events of her presidential campaign: an evening speech at New York City’s Washington Square Park.
The ideas are unlikely to become law while Republicans control the Senate and the White House. GOP lawmakers have generally lined up against similar proposals, citing constitutional concerns.
Typically, new restrictions on registered lobbyists lead to more Washington operatives deciding not to register, instead referring to themselves as consultants or strategic advisers. Ms. Warren says her plan would close that workaround by expanding the definition of lobbyist to include “all individuals paid to influence government.”
Such appeals to the idea that Washington is corrupt could pay off at the ballot box in 2020. In a WSJ/NBC News poll conducted last fall ahead of the midterm elections, 77% of all respondents said reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington ranked as either the most important or a very important factor in deciding which candidate should get their vote. The only issue that ranked higher was the economy. Many Democrats who won House seats in 2018 campaigned on decreasing the influence of money in politics.
“Look closely, and you’ll see—on issue after issue, widely popular policies are stymied because giant corporations and billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes or follow any rules use their money and influence to stand in the way of big, structural change,” Ms. Warren wrote Monday.
Ms. Warren is also pushing to alter the definition of a “thing of value” in campaign finance laws to include tangible benefits made for campaign purposes, in what appeared to be a nod to President Trump.
The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2018 that Mr. Trump intervened to suppress stories about alleged sexual encounters with women, including the former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the former adult-film star known professionally as Stormy Daniels, citing interviews with three dozen people, court papers, corporate records and other documents. The president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, told a federal judge that Mr. Trump had directed him during the 2016 campaign to buy the silence of two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018 to eight criminal charges, including campaign-finance violations. Mr. Trump has denied the encounters.
Ms. Warren is additionally proposing making it harder for corporations to seal settlements of product liability litigation, something Democrats have called for in the past, notably in 2014 following a faulty ignition switch installed on 2.6 million General Motors vehicles.
Ms. Warren and four other presidential candidates are releasing climate proposals this week, as the top contenders prepare for a prime-time forum on global warming.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts released an ambitious new climate change plan on Tuesday, embracing goals laid out by a former presidential rival and calling for $3 trillion in spending over a decade to combat human-driven global warming.
Ms. Warren made her announcement on the eve of a CNN town-hall-style event on global warming, which 10 top Democrats in the 2020 field are scheduled to attend on Wednesday — the first time in a presidential campaign that the question of what to do about the heating planet has merited its own major forum on prime-time television.
- Senator Kamala Harris of California is expected to put forth a detailed climate change plan on Wednesday morning, and three other Democratic presidential candidates —
- Senator Cory Bookerof New Jersey,
- Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and
- Julián Castro, the former housing secretary — have also released climate change plans since Sunday.Read More About the Candidates’ PlansClimate Town Hall: Democrats Lay Out Their Trillion-Dollar PlansDemocrats Say Their Climate Plans Will Create Jobs. It’s Not So Simple.
Political analysts say the rush of plans is a sign that the issue has gained remarkable traction on the national stage, as scientific reports conclude that climate change is leading to dangerous outcomes for humanity, including more powerful hurricanes, stronger droughts and shortages of food and water. The forum comes as Hurricane Dorian moves “dangerously close” to Floridaafter inflicting devastating damage to the Bahamas, where at least seven people died.
Ms. Warren’s new climate plan explicitly adopts ideas from Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who focused his presidential campaign on combating climate change but dropped out last month after it became clear he was unlikely to qualify for the next primary debate. Ms. Warren met with Mr. Inslee last week in Seattle, according to two people familiar with their discussions.
“While his presidential campaign may be over, his ideas should remain at the center of the agenda,” Ms. Warren wrote in her new climate plan.
Mr. Inslee released six detailed climate plans, totaling over 200 pages, which were widely praised by environmental policy experts for their rigor. He said he hoped they would help “raise the ambition” of other candidates’ climate policies, and he has since had conversations with several candidates about how to incorporate his ideas into their plans, said his former campaign spokesman, Jared Leopold.
In her new proposal, Ms. Warren adopts Mr. Inslee’s plan to eliminate planet-warming emissions from power plants, vehicles and buildings over 10 years, and adds an additional $1 trillion in spending to subsidize that transition. The spending would be paid for, she says, by reversing the Trump administration’s tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations.
Like Mr. Inslee’s proposal, her plan would set regulations aimed at retiring coal-fired electricity within a decade, but also fund health care and pensions for coal miners. It would create new federal regulations on vehicle tailpipe emissions with the goal of achieving zero emissions from new light-duty passenger vehicles, medium-duty trucks and buses by 2030.
In April, Ms. Warren released a plan to ban fossil-fuel leasing on public lands. In June, she unveiled a proposal calling for $2 trillion in spending on “green manufacturing,” which is incorporated in her new, broader climate plan.
Mr. Castro’s plan, also released Tuesday, includes several ideas either directly adopted from or developed in consultation with Mr. Inslee, such as a plan to replace all coal-fired power generation with zero-emissions sources by 2030, and a proposal to marshal $10 trillion in federal, state, local and private spending on jobs associated with the transition from polluting to nonpolluting energy.
Democratic strategists said that Mr. Inslee’s influence on the rest of the party’s presidential field was clear.
“Inslee is one of those rare candidates who did not last for more than a few months but had a big impact on the race,” said Robert Shrum, a veteran Democratic consultant and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. “His candidacy is over, but his ideas do live on.”
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a rival of Ms. Warren’s on the left, has not explicitly taken up Mr. Inslee’s ideas. Instead, analysts said, he is trying to win over the progressive wing of the Democratic Party with a climate plan that takes its name from the Green New Deal and has the biggest price tag of all the candidates’ proposals — $16.3 trillion over 15 years. He has called for banning fracking to extract natural gas and halting the import and export of coal, oil and natural gas.
“I think Sanders is looking for ways to prove that he’s the true progressive in the race,” said Paul Bledsoe, a lecturer at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy.
Polls reflect that climate change is a rising concern among voters.
In a poll published by Quinnipiac University last week, a majority of registered voters nationwide, 56 percent, said that climate change is an emergency. That majority included 84 percent of Democrats, while 81 percent of Republicans said that climate change is not an emergency. Among 18- to 34-year-old voters, who may expect to be the most affected by climate change, 74 percent said that climate change is an emergency.
Voters also think that the United States is not doing enough to address climate change, with 67 percent saying more needs to be done.
Republican officials say the plans that Democrats have devised to address climate change will decimate the economy.
Mandy Gunasekara, a former policy adviser at the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration, branded Democrats’ plans as socialist takeovers of the economy.
“Most Americans who talk about climate change, when you ask them, ‘O.K., how much are you willing to pay,’ it’s minimal to none. These trillion-dollar plans that each of them are putting up need some measure of honesty,” she said. “What are the true costs and how are the costs going to be borne? And what are the implications for our fossil workers?”
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for President Trump’s re-election campaign, wrote in an email, “The Democrats’ radical approach to energy is to eliminate the use of all fossil fuels, which would kill more than 10 million jobs and inflict economic catastrophe across the country.”
Mr. Bledsoe said there was some political danger for Democrats in attempting to outdo one another.
“In all honesty, every one of the climate plans proposed is more ambitious than anything that’s ever been remotely contemplated before,” he said. “I mean, these are just off-the-charts ambitious, so in that sense activists have gotten what they wanted. But the danger is that they ignore the nuts and bolts of energy politics of swing states and risk handing Trump the election.”