And I Know Exactly What Elizabeth Warren “Must Do”
On the Importance of Forgiveness When in Coalition
By Al Giordano
Home, sweet home: Back from the work of reporting (and projecting in advance the results of) the Super Tuesday primaries in the United States, it’s good to return to these mountains, friends and neighbors, the kitchen, the dogs, piano lessons and tranquility of daily life. Super Tuesday brought a roller coaster ride on the tracks of history. Home is a place to think clearly. Here’s what I’m pondering today.
The electoral opposition to Donald Trump now has a presumptive nominee in Joe Biden. He wasn’t my first choice, or even second or third, or that of many who voted for him on Tuesday. But after “dating” more exciting candidates the rank-and-file voters in the coalition chose to “marry” him for 2020. He’s something akin to that Bruce Springsteen lyric: “You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright.”
And that’s alright with me.
I feel a serenity in trusting the voters who picked him – from the historically most oppressed – and too often forgotten – urban working class to the suburban soccer moms to the rural folks who yearn to bring back decency to the land, we all have common cause now: let’s go take down the asshole in chief.
Subscribers who received my projections for the recent primaries knew, in advance, that Joe Biden would win South Carolina with a vote in the high forty-percentiles. You knew he would do the same in Virginia, North Carolina and other southern states, and that African-American turnout would be higher than it was four years ago to make that happen. You even knew – against what the aggregate of polls told us – that Biden would win Texas, and that Sanders’ percentages would not exceed (and key states, would fall short of) his mid-30s polling averages in the few states where he etched out a win.
You knew, in advance, that Biden would wake up Wednesday morning with the national delegate lead – something that all the media pundits presumed was impossible.
You will continue to receive, prior to each contested primary to come, projections that I hope will prove just as accurate. Now that voters have put real data on the table, it’s not going to be that hard to project based upon it. The difficult stage of peering into the demographics and knowing the future they hold is already over.
If you didn’t expect the results voters delivered on Super Tuesday, you probably have not yet subscribed to receive these projections. If you do so today via this link, you’ll get them in advance next Tuesday’s primaries and all that are contested to come, plus full access to all the content here at Organize & Win.
Joe Biden is a decent man, a good one, his time stamp and worldview may be a little old fashioned for many of us, but he surrounds himself with smart, talented and decent people, and that’s good enough for me as well.
It’s probably no secret that Elizabeth Warren was my first choice – oh how I would have loved to see it go her way, but this year at least it wasn’t meant to be – and I see a lot of people are now telling her “what she must do.” Their opinions have run the gamut: She must keep running. She must get out. She must endorse Sanders. She must endorse Biden. She must endorse neither. She’s needed on that March 15 debate stage. She’s endured too much abuse already.
I know what Elizabeth Warren must do. Ready for it? Whatever the hell she wants.
Warren has earned that right. Her maintenance of public silence since Super Tuesday is itself a form of leadership, one that is so rare among American politicians at her level of national media attention: a leadership that speaks not through words but through deeds. That silence has given her supporters time and space to take measure and inventory of the moment and make our own assessments. Many Warren Democrats are already reporting back with the battle cry of “Stay in Liz.”
That silence also gave rope to the purveyors of a sad and defeated version of leftism that seeks to blame Warren for its own failures and missteps. It’s quite entertaining to watch as the same cohort that spent recent months viciously attacking not only Elizabeth Warren but also her backers as “not truly progressive” and with hissing serpentine portrayals now insist that she must roll the movement she has built into a role subordinate and subservient to their own. Entertaining, I observe, because while they are so busy looking as they did four years ago for a woman to serve as scapegoat for their troubles, they’re unable to read the crowd. Even if Warren were to do as they now order her to do, she is the first to know that her own voters wouldn’t follow her there.
Saul Alinsky warned in his Rules for Radicals, “never go outside the expertise of your people.” Warren is too good at leadership to politically die on that hill. She knows her voters well enough to know that each has minds of our own and none of us need an endorsement to know what to do.
Warren, according to breaking news reports this morning, is about to end her campaign.
But Elizabeth Warren’s leadership is here to stay, and will likely loom larger going forward.
Warren is now and ahead the leader of a new, overdue and refreshing non-toxic progressive politics in the US, one that believes in a fundamental redistribution of wealth, power and privilege while also centering the strategic absolute that only coalitions can bring that change.
Coalitions are constructed by respecting our allies even if and when they may make mistakes, as we hope they will respect us when we each inevitably do.
One out of eight or more Democratic voters in the United States showed through their persistence in 2020 that “Warren Democrats” are alive and not going away. We are the future of American progressivism and have now rescued it from the toxic and narcissistic forces that have tried to hijack leftism into something monstrous, inhumane, and, worse – ineffective.
To our friends and adversaries alike who entered that toxic vortex sincerely but now realize it can never win – because it doesn’t know how to or prioritize building the coalition it would take to win – there’s a new, better progressive movement that has been born. It’s not one that condemns you or anyone else for the mistakes you have made. We all make mistakes. Coalitions are impossible without a spirit of forgiveness inside of them.
I say proudly today and tomorrow that I am a Warren Democrat, one who like many will assemble with the team behind Joe Biden in 2020 to rid the world of this plague named Trump by taking his power – and that of those who hold it up – away. Not by abandoning Elizabeth Warren’s leadership but to fulfill all the hope and brilliance she has lit the way with, to look forward for her next and future counsels and to show up for them.
It is possible to walk and chew gum. If Warren had decided to stay on that debate stage, that would have made sense. The other two remaining Democrats and the Republican they seek to confront in November all have evident health and stamina concerns that merit an insurance policy going forward. The slightest chest pain or mental lapse could knock any of them out of the game at the speed of light. That Warren has reportedly decided not to do so also makes sense. Persistence is not without risks.
What I know that Elizabeth Warren will not do is opt for either choice simply because some want to deploy her as a pawn in their game. Whether as “spoiler” or “anti-spoiler,” viewing her as either is itself a misogynistic impulse.
For example, Warren could calculate that she best helps unite the convention by endorsing Senator Sanders today and show him and his supporters starting in next Tuesday’s primaries that her voters nonetheless opted for Vice President Biden in spite of that endorsement. Warren could likewise calculate, accurately, that Biden is going to be the nominee and the strategic call is to do as the other candidates have done and tell the truth about that. She could conclude that endorsing neither would make both of them better nominees. She could also continue to maintain silence as long as she wants. The longer she does so, the more powerful she will be when she does speak.
Elizabeth Warren remains a bridge between two wings of Democratic voters that remain at war with each other and whose attacks on each other will only increase in the primary contests to come.
Much as Barack Obama, himself a bridge and coalition builder, knows that come the Democratic National Convention in July, he’ll have a vital role in rebuilding parts of that bridge that have been burned, so will Warren, maybe even to a greater degree.
That is power, and politics is about obtaining and wielding power. Leadership is about knowing how to wield it effectively and responsibly. To acknowledge, that barring a major health crisis, Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee – the primary voters next Tuesday and onward will only solidify that reality – does not and cannot erase Elizabeth Warren and the leverage she and her movement have built and earned.
Both can be true. In a bona fide coalition, both have to be true. To organize and win in November, we are all going to have to learn to be more forgiving with each other again.
An Open Letter to the Candidates – and Their Supporters
To Senator Warren: thank you for reviving American progressivism for the 21st Century and steering it back on course. Do whatever you deem to be the right thing to do. I know I won’t be alone in having your back. Even if that decision turns out to be mistaken, I’ll learn to forgive it. That’s the minimum respect required in a coalition. Even if it feels like a mistake at first glance, Senator, your skill at leadership has earned from many of us the benefit of the doubt to wait and watch how the measurements you’ve taken play out.
To the candidates who have already left the stage I also say thank you. You each brought perspectives, skills and voters to the coalition – and some of you brought immense resources, which we all hope you will continue to bring. You each made some mistakes, too. Because we are in a coalition, I forgive them unconditionally.
In a coalition, one can reconcile that Kamala Harris’ summer debate attack on Joe Biden weakened his candidacy – almost to the point that he never came back – but also made him a better candidate. And that saga made Biden’s political resurrection all the more powerful when it happened last week.
One can reconcile that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – like Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro before them – led their competitive natures to overly personalize attacks on each other, diminishing both in the process, but at the same time I understand that in politics each of you honestly believed that was the also the best tactical call at the moment. Tactical decisions are by definition always worth forgiving because none of us alive, even the best tacticians, haven’t seen some that we’ve tried blow up in our faces. Those are the experiences we learn from. If we don’t try and sometimes stumble. we don’t ever learn anything.
One can reconcile that Kirsten Gillibrand and Al Franken are both valuable members of this coalition, each with unique skills, and we need them both on deck for the final battle, and those that come next, regardless of which we might empathize with more.
One can even hate the political and economic realities of America 2020 that made Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer factors in some primaries simply because they had money to burn, and still see that the resources they’ve put, and will continue putting into American politics, do better work than most of the money others throw at it.
One can also see a path to forgiving Senator Sanders, even if the damage caused by his failure to use a fraction of his massive war chest to train his troops to persuade rather than berate, to build rather than destroy, has caused real human harm to others. One can see a path to possibly forgiving him even if the harm has fallen on me or you. Yes, in coalition, even that is possible. Taking it personally would be narcissistic when in reality it was only business.
To Senator Sanders, you sure did dig yourself a hole when you thought this would remain a large field that you could “win” with a quarter to a third of the voters and declared that the nomination must go to he who has a plurality of convention delegates, no matter how short of a majority those might be. How’s that working out for you today?
But when you told a reporter this week that if Joe Biden has that plurality of delegates for the first ballot you will immediately exit the race and endorse him, I prefer to see the best of you in that: an acknowledgement, unspoken but obvious, that you did profound damage to progressivism itself in 2016 when you failed to do that at the point when Hillary Clinton had earned that plurality. It suggests you have learned and will instead do it right this time. If you do that in a way that doesn’t cause passive-aggressive ongoing damage to the nomination or the nominee, even you could redeem yourself. Coalitions are that forgiving because we have to be our best selves and cast petty grudges aside to be able to win.
To Vice President Biden: You’re not just the frontrunner now. You’re the presumptive nominee. If you stay healthy, lucid and otherwise don’t blow it, you are on the threshold of gaining what evaded you for 32 years. That’s got to feel good. I also imagine it is frightening because a burden of leadership falls on your shoulders that nobody is ever fully prepared to hold up if he tries to do it alone. For eight years you had a good teacher in how to handle that weight. I think a big reason so many of us are so forgiving today for your errors in the past – both in politics and on policy – is that we know you know that, and who could ask for a better counselor than President Obama?
To the rest of us who weren’t candidates, but who invested and cared no less than they did: In coalition, how each moving part of it handles setbacks and defeats is everything. If you’re still too angry that your favorite candidate didn’t make it, walk it off. Nobody entered the contest entitled to it. We all have to learn to be more respectful and forgiving with each other for the sake of our shared goals.
And if anyone believes you know that candidate A or candidate B “can’t win in November,” if you truly believe that you “know” that, you’re making this about you and your hubris. I have pretty good faith in my own abilities to peer into the future by measuring data and human nature in the present –my track record at that has more receipts than any of those who today claim to know about November – but I know enough to also recognize what I do not know. One of those unknown factors, a big one, is whether enough of us can put our desire to “make everything about me” aside in order to stop an existential threat to us all.
Thanos is on the ballot in November. Avengers assemble. LFG.
(We’ve published here the full Issue #112 of the Al Giordano’s América newsletter that subscribers received via email this morning. Those who have subscribed knew in advance exactly what did happen on Super Tuesday, and will know in advance of next Tuesday’s primaries what likely happens there: percentages to be won by each candidate and the delegate tally from each state. Subscribe today via this link with an $80 donation to the nonprofit Fund for Authentic Journalism and you’ll be included then in for all the issues to be published in 2020, and with your subscription gain an account for full access to all the content here at Organize & Win. With that you’ll be included in all the reports and projections to come, including for the November presidential, Senate and US House contests. Knowledge is power. We’d like to share it with you.)
You must be logged in to view this content. If you are not a member, register here!