Edward Cohn lives in Grinnell and is a member of the Poweshiek County Democratic Central Committee. -promoted by Laura Belin
I’m like a lot of Democrats: when the 2020 campaign began, I loved the idea of an Elizabeth Warren presidency, but I wasn’t sure whether Warren would be a strong candidate in November. Luckily, I live in Iowa, which means that I’ve had a lot of chances to see the Democratic field in action. After seeing 47 speeches by nineteen candidates, I can confidently say Warren is exactly the leader America needs.
I entered the 2020 primary season feeling pretty discouraged by politics. I wanted a 2020 candidate who would champion the party’s values while making a case for all Americans to support liberal change, and although I’ve been a Warren fan for twenty years, I wasn’t sure if she was the right choice. I had heard all the usual arguments that she was too liberal, too professorial, or too controversial to win, and I worried that she was weak on the stump (an idea I now think is crazy).
To be perfectly honest, I was even skeptical of Warren’s “I have a plan for that” rhetoric. After all, one of my pet peeves is that when you ask a lot of Democrats a question, they won’t give you an answer based on values or ideas and will instead recite a 3-point, or a 5-point, or a 17-point plan to fix the problem. Too many liberals think that policy minutiae are the solution to our problems, when we should really focus on a candidate’s values, their moral vision, and their ability to transform their ideas into action.
So I didn’t know what to expect when I visited my first Warren town hall last March. And I was blown away by what I saw. She delivered a rousing speech that never got bogged down in details: it was pure argument, based on principles, values, and emotions, designed to make the case that America needs fundamental change. Her speech was ideally suited both to energize supporters and to persuade people–like me–who came in with doubts.
In fact, the Elizabeth Warren town halls I’ve seen are among the best I’ve ever attended. Every Warren speech combines details from her life story with a case that I can only describe as profoundly American. It describes how a pro-worker government allowed her parents’ Oklahoma family to survive her father’s heart attack, how she achieved the American dream of becoming a teacher, and how America has lost its ways and needs to return to its most basic values. She delivers a powerful message about the American past at its best, and the way she grounds her ideas in American values casts genuinely radical ideas in the most moderate possible light.
You can even summarize her stump speech by saying that it champions the idea of “Grandma Teacher” for president. What could be more inspiring than that?
So the first reason I support Warren is that she’s a very rare bird: a policy wonk who’s not a technocrat. She understands policy as well as anyone else in American politics, putting even people like Bill Clinton to shame. But she knows that principles and people are what matter most–and that politics isn’t just a contest to produce the best plans, ending with small solutions that tinker with the political system, but a power struggle over interests in which the rich and powerful have gained control over our system. Her plans are the beginning of the story–not the end–and are tools to help the American people.
The second reason I support Warren is that America is now in its most serious political crisis since the Great Depression, and she’s the only candidate who fully understands that. Too many Democrats assume that we can return to the good old days before Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, or think we can enact a progressive agenda through sheer force of will, without structural reforms and policy changes to strengthen democracy.
None of Bernie Sanders’ policies can be achieved unless we win the Senate and end the filibuster, for example–but Sanders wants to leave the filibuster in place, assuming that his election will be a “revolution” that will move everything his way. People like Michael Bennet even flirt with bringing back the filibuster for judicial and cabinet nominations, which would hamstring the next presidency even before it begins.
By contrast, Warren not only has the best ideas, but knows how to fight for them. She’s a “visionary implementer” who has endorsed ending the filibuster and supports D.C. statehood. She says she’ll consider reforming the Supreme Court if the ultra-conservative court majority cracks down on common-sense gun policy or basic economic regulations. Her Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proves that government can work. Because of pro-democracy stands like these, Warren earned the highest score of any presidential candidate on Indivisible’s 2020 candidate scorecard.
You can even see Warren’s pragmatism in the way she focuses her campaign around openness and organizing. Just look at her use of the selfie line. In the old days, she says, the people who had the initiative to ask her for selfies were usually rich white men, so she created the selfie line to give everyone the chance to get a picture and have a quick chat with her.
The selfie line is also a brilliant strategy. It symbolizes Warren’s commitment to an accessible campaign. It means that if you go to your Facebook page on the day of a Warren rally, you’re flooded with photos of Elizabeth with your friends. (Like Donald Trump, Warren is a master of free publicity!) And if you’re standing in line for half an hour to get a selfie, you’re a captive audience for campaign organizers. I saw five people volunteer to canvass for Warren while standing in the South Des Moines selfie line last weekend.
In short, Warren’s campaign shows that good government principles and effective politics go hand in hand–a crucial message in a cynical time.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said that I’m not worried about November 2020 or if I denied that there are risks in caucusing for Warren. Trump would be a tough opponent for anyone. But there are times when we need bravery, and there’s a reason that one of the campaign’s mottos is “I am not afraid.” Despite the risks, I believe Warren has a better shot at winning than the supposedly “electable” candidates.
After all, Warren has already shaped the Democratic primary debate more than any other candidate. (A year ago, would anyone predict that centrist candidates would have to debate the cancellation of all student loan debt?) And if she wins the nomination, the fall campaign will look different from anything we’ve seen before.
The national news makes it sound like the whole Warren campaign is about Medicare for All. But if you’ve seen her in action, you know that Warren spends more time on the wealth tax, universal child care, campaign finance reform, and the expansion of Social Security–extremely popular policies. I’ve been impressed by Warren’s debate performance, but the debates have never fully captured the distinctiveness and excitement of her campaign as I’ve seen it. That makes sense, since she’s still just one candidate out of 12.
A Warren general election campaign will shatter people’s expectations. Polls show that the wealth tax is already popular– think of the attention it will get when Trump is her main foil. Picture her traveling to small Midwestern towns to champion increasing Social Security, at a time when Trump is weakening our safety net. Imagine the impact of her single-minded focus on corruption.
There are a lot of things you can say about Warren, but her campaign is never boring, and she’ll keep challenging people’s assumptions by proposing new ways to fight for the working class.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Go find out more. Go to any Warren town hall you can, or—if you can’t make it—check out videos of past events. Don’t make assumptions about her until you’ve seen her in action. I support Elizabeth Warren because I think she’s the best candidate and will be the best president, and if you get to know her campaign, I think you will too.
Top photo of Elizabeth Warren with Edward Cohn provided by the author and published with permission.
Editor’s note: Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts related to the Iowa caucuses, including candidate endorsements. Please read these guidelines and contact Laura Belin if you are interested in writing.