CNN and other media outlets have focused on this story with less than a month till Iowa.
Don’t be fooled: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are friends. The two don’t agree on every single topic, much like every other friendship in existence. However, the current spat in which the two have found themselves only serves to benefit Joe “Nothing will fundamentally change” Biden and the corporate interests trying to avoid any form of accountability that Sanders and Warren want to implement.
CNN reported on Monday that four anonymous sources claimed Bernie Sanders to have said in a private meeting with Warren in late 2018 that a woman can’t win the 2020 presidency. Sanders has vehemently denied these claims, citing previous speeches he has given over the course of his political career, including a 1988 C-SPAN interview. Sanders has given his version of what he said during the private meeting: “Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could.” This statement, if this is what Sanders said, insinuates that Trump would use Warren’s gender as a means to undermine her campaign, harnessing the sexist sensibilities of his most ardent supporters. While this statement does not imply that a woman can’t win, it does imply that it might be more difficult. Again, if this is what was said, it’s not a stretch for Warren and her campaign to take that statement as a dissuasion to run in 2020.
This seems like one of those rare instances where both people in an argument are not wrong. Sanders would have a point in saying that Trump would weaponize whatever he could against his opponent … because he would. Warren also has a point in thinking this train of thought is not what got numerous women elected in the 2018 midterms, or saw Hillary Clinton take the popular vote by three million votes in 2016. Trump is going to try to tear down whoever faces him, man or woman, so why not fight him anyway? The only real contention in this feud is the phrasing of what Sanders said. There’s no need to pretend saying a woman can’t win the presidency in 2020 isn’t far worse than saying Donald Trump is a sexist liar.
On a separate incident, canvassing teams for Sanders made talking-point scripts claiming that Warren appeals to a more “affluent” and “highly-educated” demographic among Democrats, essentially saying she’s an elitist candidate. Warren criticized the Sanders campaign for wanting to “trash” her. The scripts have since been changed for what three Sanders campaign officials called “sloppy phrasing.”
These tensions only worsened after CNN’s amateurish production of the Democratic debate on Tuesday. Following the debate, after the two candidates disagreed once again on what was said in that meeting, Warren did not shake Sanders’s extended hand. Viewers could only watch as token billionaire candidate Tom Steyer found himself in the middle of a brief bickering match between the Vermont and Massachusetts senators. A day after the debate, CNN magically found the audio of that encounter:
Warren: “I think you called me a liar on national TV?”
Warren: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.”
Sanders: “Let’s not do it right now. You want to have that discussion? We’ll have that discussion.”
Sanders: “You called me a liar, you told me — all right let’s not do it now.”
The timing of all this feels a little too coincidental. After some favorable polls came out for Sanders, a day before the debate and less than three weeks from the Iowa caucus, this story comes out about a private meeting over a year ago. In a case of hearsay like this, everyone involved needs to move on. Warren herself did not break this story, but she didn’t stop it from festering. While Sanders’s record on the legitimacy of minority candidacies has always been ahead of his time, no one truly knows what he said except he and Warren. The two need to work this disagreement out between themselves, and they will.
In the meantime, progressive Democrats don’t need to fan the flames on Twitter. We need to ensure that we stay united. Sanders supporters need the help of Warren supporters if he’s the nominee, and vice versa. This so-called feud that willed itself into existence less than a week ago will not end a multi-decade friendship and alliance, as much as centrists and some news outlets would like to believe that. Remember that CNN was the first to break this story at this specific moment. What stopped anyone from having this information leaked sooner? Who cares? If progressives become divided, it will end much like 2016 did. This dispute pales in comparison to the massive stakes that this election holds, so both sides need to suck it up and get along.