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The ‘Jacobin’ Outrage About the Working Family Party’s Elizabeth Warren Endorsement Is Foolish and Unjustified

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On Monday the Working Families Party (WFP) announced its endorsement of Elizabeth Warren for president. As the accompanying press release explained, there was strong support in the WFP for both Sanders and Warren: “We’re lucky to have two strong progressive candidates leading in this race. Senator Warren and Senator Sanders have both shaped the ideological terrain on which this campaign is being waged. They have proven an effective team on debate stages and in the polls, and we hope that partnership continues. We’re proud to call both of them allies in the fight for a more just America.”

Yet a choice was made to endorse Warren. And while the particular choice may have been surprising to many, the fact of a choice should not have been. For, as The Nation’s John Nichols observed: “WFP’s Nod to Warren Reminds Progressives of the Inevitable Need to Choose.”

Politics is all about choice and the resolution of differences. It is to be hoped that differences about which progressive candidate to support in the Democratic primaries will be resolved through a combination of serious argument and respectful debate.

Some on the left, including the editors of Jacobin, apparently think otherwise. The WFP endorsement quickly brought forth a declaration, co-authored by chief editor Bhaskar Sunkara, that “The Working Families Party Has Written Itself Out of History.” Accompanying it was another piece, by Matt Breunig, claiming that “Bernie Sanders Probably Won the WFP Membership Vote.” Together, these pieces convey a message—and it is not simply, “We strongly believe that Sanders is a better candidate and wish that the WFP had endorsed him.” Rather, they suggest that the WPF has committed an outrage, its decision is a sham; through this decision, the WFP has acted against History, rendering itself irrelevant and beneath contempt.

I think this response is unfortunate.

While Sanders has long been a democratic socialist, with an unparalleled record of support for the labor movement, no individual or group can claim ownership of “the working class.” The working class is a large, heterogeneous group—and, alas, most workers do not regard any progressive as their spokesperson. In his valiant struggle to articulate a socialist politics in the name of “the working class,” Sanders has the support of many people, and he might well succeed. But he does not possess the warrant of History. Indeed, he is not the only Democratic leader with a strong commitment to labor. Sherrod Brown is another (as Nichols observed in The Nation, and Michael Kazin noted in Dissent). So is Elizabeth Warren. She does not speak the language of “class struggle,” nor claim to represent “the working class.” But she is a strong advocate of the concerns of working people, as shown very clearly by her Washington Square speech. Is it really so hard to imagine that many individuals, activists, and leaders of the WFP might be attracted to her candidacy?

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