Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate in Iowa was a bore, as anyone might have guessed. The candidates talked about foreign policy, healthcare, child care, climate change, and how Donald Trump is very, very bad. They recited their platitudes and nonsolutions for everything from climate apocalypse to war in the Middle East, pointing to the necessity of “working with our allies” to achieve nothing specific in the region. Foreign policy received more attention than it did in previous debates, but it didn’t take long for the candidates to reach the confused consensus that America must end its endless wars immediately, and also remain in the Middle East forever.
There has been much talk about Trump’s strike on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani providing an opening for the Democrats to galvanize voters with anti-war sentiment. But this is not 1968, and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is not Eugene McCarthy.
Even now, the party of Barack Obama is more than willing to forget what happened in Libya, and they don’t seem particularly concerned about rectifying the foreign policy mistakes that came before or after, either.
Summarizing her qualifications to be commander-in-chief, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, “I work with our generals, with our military leaders, with our intelligence, but I also visit our troops. I visit our troops around the world. I’ve been to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Jordan, to South Korea. I’ve been to lots of places to talk with our troops.”
The debate moderators might have pressed the candidates a bit to clarify their views, considering the importance of war and peace. But no one asked Warren what she meant by “combat troops” and whether she was really committed to a total withdrawal, and it didn’t seem a paradox to anyone that Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wanted diplomacy with the Iranian “terrorist regime.”
Democrats are not so concerned with anything as prosaic as war now is to them. But you know what does matter? Whether at some point in the past, Bernie Sanders might have said in private conversation that he doesn’t think a woman can win the presidency. Oh, dear!
If he said it, will Sanders recant? Will he be more careful and more sensitive from now on? We can only hope he learned his lesson! Every comment counts, even ones uttered in confidence. When among friends, act as if you’re being surveilled at all times by the angriest, most unhinged people on Twitter. This is the new standard, like it or not.
America may not have realized it until this week, but Sanders is the patriarchy embodied. Warren, bless her courage, has made it manifest beyond a shadow of a doubt. Don’t be fooled by the Marxist teddy bear persona. Underneath that cuddly “authenticity” lies a deep well of misogynistic rage.
Sanders has always been more class conscious than “woke,” and his enemies clearly see that as a vulnerability. After all, this is the senator who once called open borders a “Koch brothers proposal.” Warren seems to think that tagging Sanders as a sexist will win her support from women, apparently convinced that all women are as petty, as cold, and as identity-driven as herself.
But will it work? It’s likely Warren’s move will play well with “highly educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what,” as Team Sanders allegedly described Warren’s base. What about Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford healthcare?
Whatever one thinks of Sanders’ policies, at least he has the confidence of his convictions. He believes the stuff that comes out of his mouth. That is respectable. Between the two, Sanders is the more likable and sincere.
Sanders has evolved into a more neoliberal figure over the years, but he is still as left-wing as they come in American politics, and he continues to advocate a class-focused economic populism.
He has the sense to say that mass immigration hurts American workers, although, to his shame, not the courage to oppose open borders in anything but name. Sanders is still outside “the system” in some ways. The identity narcissism of Warren is cozier with the establishment than his bottom-up economic “revolution.”
In the battle between working-class populism and elite identity politics, it’s clear which side CNN is supporting. It might be reading too much into things to assume that a conspiracy was hatched between Warren and the debate’s moderators, but the acolytes of the woke creed all think and speak the same language. No explicit direction would have been necessary for CNN to understand that Warren is a strong, independent woman who can still use a little help from her friends.
That Warren’s story attracted as much attention as it did from moderators (in their case, conscious amplification) and the dutiful leftist media, might be a sign of the ascendancy of identity politics, of its rising ubiquity. But the woke creed exerts an outsized influence in that sphere. Outside the elite bubble, America as it actually exists is messier and, yes, more “diverse” than Warren’s white, upper-middle-class base.
The alarming takeaway is that nobody—not even a beloved progressive warrior like Sanders—is truly allowed to live outside that bubble. Nobody is safe from Soviet-style cultural interrogation. The cameras are always on.
The consolation, however small, is that normal people can see through the nonsense. If there’s one thing Americans can’t stand, it’s a phony. Warren’s trick makes Sanders look like a saint. It’s a sign of desperation, not strength.
But for all the talk about the primary being “rigged” against Sanders, and it definitely is, at some point he needs to learn to stick up for himself. If Sanders doesn’t bring up Warren’s phony Indian heritage at the next debate, then he deserves to lose.