election 2020

It's Warnie Time!

If voters care about progressive politics—and preventing someone like Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg from winning the nomination—they should do everything they can to bring the Bernie and Warren camps together.
A split image of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Photo of Bernie Sanders by Drew Angerer/Getty, photo of Elizabeth Warren by Stephen Maturen/Getty
Election opinions and analysis from the world of VICE.

It’s become clear that the prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination is making the Democratic establishment break out in a queasy sweat. On Thursday, the New York Times interviewed 93 superdelegates and reported that these elected officials and party insiders are “not just worried about Mr. Sanders’ candidacy, but are also willing to risk intraparty damage to stop his nomination at the national convention in July if they get the chance.” Some are openly musing about putting forward people who aren’t even running for president, from Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown to Delaware Senator Chris Coons—a bizarre fantasy to have in your head, let alone tell a reporter.


As of now, Sanders is the frontrunner for the nomination, but at such an early stage in the primary process, anything could happen. His clearest path to winning is to get a majority of delegates by the time of the Democratic convention in July, which is still a possibility. If Sanders enters the convention with a mere plurality of delegates (i.e., more than any other candidate, but not a majority), the nomination process will become complicated as different Democratic factions attempt to broker a deal to get their favored candidate the nomination. According to the Times, some party officials are already gunning to make Sanders the loser in such a scenario, even if he's won more primary and caucus votes than his rivals.

As Eric Levitz argued at New York magazine, the threat of a contested convention might actually push voters to put Sanders over the top to avoid that situation. But that threat should also push progressive voters to work together.

For those on the left who believe that a progressive candidate—in other words, Sanders or Elizabeth Warren—is not only the best option to enact the agenda they want, but also the best chance to defeat Donald Trump, going into a contested convention with no clear nominee is one of the worst possible scenarios. When party officials are throwing names like Coons around and GOP-donating superdelegates are pushing for such a convention, it’s clear the left needs to avoid a shit-show like that at all costs. Not to mention that getting into messy, intra-party fights at the convention could also weaken the eventual nominee who will have to face off against Trump.


In other words: it’s Warnie time, baby!

As Sam Adler-Bell previously reported at the Intercept, grassroots groups have been pleading over the past few months for unity between Sanders’ and Warren’s camps. While the two are not the same and their supporters do not perfectly overlap, of all the candidates, they are the closest ideological allies with the most aligned interests. If progressives care about enacting a Sanders or a Warren agenda—and preventing someone like Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg from winning the nomination—then they should push for the two camps to find a way to work together.

If Sanders is unable to win a majority of delegates before the convention, his most likely path to clinch the nomination is to convince Warren to make a deal and drop out. Here’s how Larry Cohen, chair of the Sanders-founded nonprofit Our Revolution, put it to the Intercept last month:

As Cohen sees it, they can’t wait for a second ballot at the convention. Even if every Sanders delegate moves to Warren or vice versa, the corporate wing will have a chance to consolidate around one candidate, now with the help of an additional 750 nonelected delegates (aka super delegates). In other words, progressives could enter the convention with a majority of elected delegates and leave with Joe Biden as the nominee. “It would be insane for Warren and Sanders supporters to allow that to happen,” said Cohen. Instead, consolidation has to come before the convention—the old fashioned way: “One of them drops out, and they make a deal.”


If Warren were doing better than Sanders and needed his delegates to put her over the top, there would be an argument that he should drop out and work with her. But the reality so far is that Warren hasn’t been able to drum up the necessary votes.

Warren has declared that she’s staying in the race until the convention, likely because so much is up in the air right now. In the meantime, the fractures between Sanders’ and Warren’s camps have only deepened over the past few months. Their non-aggression pact most notably frayed in January, when CNN reported that Sanders told Warren in a private meeting in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman couldn’t beat Trump, which Sanders denied; Sanders fans accused Warren of leaking the story to sabotage him, while Warren backers accused Sanders of lying.

But minds can change. Warren and her supporters don’t owe Sanders anything, they need to be convinced by him and his supporters that working together—and avoiding a brokered convention—is the best option for their agendas.

What Warnie time will look like in practice can mean many things, but it will certainly entail fewer online attacks and more in-person conversations and interactions. It will mean focusing on traditional organizing methods of reaching out and convincing others to be brought into your fold.

On the level of campaign strategy, it's not clear when consolidation should happen, although Super Tuesday will give progressives more concrete information. It might be better for Warren to stay in the race, turn out her base of voters to win more delegates, then organize to combine them with Sanders. But in the scenario that Warren continues to be a candidate on the margins, her dropping out earlier and acting as a surrogate for Sanders would be the most strategic move. Neither of those things will happen unless Warren and her supporters are convinced that they should—Sanders voters need to organize them and make the case. And if Warren does stay in, even if it's to the detriment of a progressive ticket, Sanders supporters will still need to work to win over her delegates come July.

People in both camps should push themselves—and their candidates—to think practically and find points of overlap, rather than emphasizing their differences. And they’ll need to do it before moderate Democrats do the same. In the end, it might feel nice to be right. But that’s not the same as winning.

Follow Clio Chang on Twitter.