EDITORIAL: Bad timing for a Warren-Sanders split

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., left and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. talk Tuesday after a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa.

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders agree on many things. 

They both have Medicare for All plans. They both want to push through the Green New Deal. Both campaigns tout their grassroots support and donations from a large pool of people of modest means.

And for a year the two senators, Warren from Massachusetts, Sanders from Vermont, have been on friendly terms even as they are both seeking the same prize, the Democratic nomination for president.

But now, less than three weeks before the first voting in the Iowa caucuses, that truce seems to have come to an end. 

On Saturday night, Politico reported on a Sanders campaign script that told volunteers to point out the problems with a Warren nomination.

"Here’s my concern about her," the script reportedly said. "The people who support her are highly educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what. She’s bringing no new bases into the Democratic party. We need to turn out disaffected working-class voters if we’re going to beat Trump.”

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Warren shot back on Monday, releasing word that during a private meeting in 2018, Sanders had said he didn't believe a woman could be elected president in 2020.

That remark came up during Tuesday's Democratic debate, and Sanders denied it.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” Sanders said.

Warren countered that Sanders had indeed said a woman couldn't win, then made another point.

“Look at the men on the stage — collectively they’ve lost 10 elections,” she said. Of the six candidates there, Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., were the only ones who had never lost a general election, she added.  

After the debate, Warren refused to shake Sanders' hand during a testy exchange picked up by CNN's mikes.

"I think you called me a liar on national TV," Warren said.

"You know, let's not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we'll have that discussion," Sanders said, to which Warren replied, "Anytime."

And now the progressive wing of the Democratic party, which had mostly been happily watching the two candidates tout their favorite policies and dreaming of getting together with them over a craft beer, suddenly has a widening gap between the Bernie bros and Warren's followers.

Really, really bad timing on everyone's part.

With the Iowa caucuses set for Feb. 3, Sanders and Warren have returned to D.C. for the Senate impeachment trial. Maybe they'll work out their differences when they're not required to be sitting in the Senate chambers. Maybe they won't.

Either way, the Iowa contest is crucial, and it's also unique.

In the caucus, groups gather in a large room and split up between their favored candidates. If no one has at least 15% of the voters, those who favor the least popular candidate can move to their second choice or try to gather more support. Eventually each caucus has picked state delegate equivalents, and the state party sends delegates to the national convention.

In that system, Sanders supporters and Warren supporters could easily have come together to ensure a progressive candidate wins the state. But if the two sides are feuding, it's more likely Iowa will go to former Vice President Joe Biden or even former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg or Klobuchar.

Anyone hoping for a candidate from the left side of the Democratic Party should hope for a reconciliation between these two.