It’s interesting to see the attacks coming from Bernie at this point in the campaign. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been poking into his territory for months now, trying to capitalize on his platform and throw cold water on the Bern in 2020.

Over the weekend, during an interview with ABC News, Sanders dropped the “c” word on Warren to describe the key differences between the two candidates. Sanders’ point here is that he and he alone carries the “democratic socialist” mantle, Warren is still not fully on the bandwagon:

With Sen. Elizabeth Warren continuing to climb in Democratic presidential primary polls, in part, at the expense of his own campaign, Sen. Bernie Sanders explicitly highlighted a key difference in their core economic philosophies in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

“There are differences between Elizabeth and myself,” Sanders, I-Vt., said in an interview with ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl. “Elizabeth, I think, as you know, has said that she is a capitalist through her bones. I’m not.”

The statement comes as Sanders, whose Democratic Socialist ideologies positioned him as Hillary Clinton’s chief progressive rival in 2016, has found himself overtaken by Warren in the majority of national and early state surveys in recent weeks, leading to questions — particularly in the aftermath of the heart attack he suffered last week — about the viability of his 2020 campaign in a very crowded field.

In 2018, Warren was quoted as saying “I am a capitalist to my bones” during an event hosted by the New England Council, a non-partisan regional business organization.

Here’s a video of Bernie’s remarks, explaining things a little further:

There’s no inconsistency here over Bernie’s word labels, he’s been a “socialist” throughout his entire career in the U.S. Senate. These aren’t suddenly new positons he’s acquired, such as calling for a “political revolution” to stem the tide of greed and corporate corruption that he says are harming the country.

This is who he is. If that’s you want, as a voter, Sanders argues, that’s not who Elizabeth warren is to her core, and her own prior statement shows she still clings to the “old system” of capitalism as we have known it that past couple of hundred years.

Bernie has some work to do here, but is he starting the pushback too late? It almost seems throughout the past few months on the campaign trail, he didn’t realize how well Warren was coming across by taking a “Bernie-light” approach to saddle the lane between Biden and Sanders.

For some voters, the “c” word is dirty, which is why Bernie makes the point that despite what Warren says now, she still holds on these “old-fashioned” values of letting the wealthy keep their money:

“Elizabeth considers herself — if I got the quote correctly — to be a capitalist to her bones,” he said. “I don’t. And the reason I am not is because I will not tolerate for one second the kind of greed and corruption and income and wealth inequality and so much suffering that is going on in this country today, which is unnecessary.”

The fear with Bernie as the nominee in 2016, or 2020, for that matter, is how well he would play in the general election. Many voters, even ones who consider themselves liberal or center-left, usually still consider themselves “capitalist” in the sense that they don’t believe every part of the economy should be turned over for government control.

Bernie has been able to cut some line through that and connect with working-class voters, almost in a similar way that Donald Trump has, by tossing some class warfare in the mix. In Trump’s case, it’s the working-class versus the ruling class in the political world. For Bernie, it’s the working class versus the ruling class of banks, CEOs, and greedy businessmen.

Warren made a calculation that she could push similar policies to Bernie, but just stop a smidgeon short of calling for a “political revolution,” as Bernie does.

For Tuesday’s debate, this may be something that finally plays out on stage. It’s almost guaranteed that Bernie will be asked what he means about Warren when he says she’s a “capitalist” and he’s not.

Warren, for her part, will probably also prepare for this topic to explain why, in her opinion, being a “capitalist” doesn’t mean you can’t believe the system is broken in some way, but fundamentally that’s what our country is and it can’t be changed overnight.

It’s possible that she’s trying to not further alienate Wall Street in this regard by hanging out that last little morsel of letting them know that she’s not entirely bought into Bernie’s socialism thing, not yet.


  1. Bernie may be doing Elizabeth a great favor. The word “socialist” has become this year’s dog whistle. If she is seen as a capitalist who just wants to fix some of the heinous faults in the system, she would be more palatable to independents.

  2. Actually, the author is incorrect in his depiction of Sen. Sanders’ economic philosophy, and is projecting his own bias about socialism onto Sen. Sanders’ policies. Sen. Sanders is not a socialist per se; that term is imprecise. Socialism is an economic theory which has been expressed through a variety of economic systems. Sanders has said over and over again that he is a proponent of Democratic socialism, which is one particular type of socialism (and there are many others). When asked to define what he means by Democratic socialism, Sanders has pointed to two examples. One is the democratic socialist governments and economic systems of Northern Europe. The second example, which he stresses most, are the economic policies of FDR’s New Deal, at which point Sanders usually speaks about his intention to fulfill FDR’s second Bill of Rights, also known as FDR’s “Economic Bill of Rights.” The author would do well to study this document, and the history of the development and performance of the New Deal policies, which were amazingly effective.

    In no way is any of this about handing over the economy to “government control,” which as stated immediately brings to the American mind the spectre of the USSR and Orwell’s 1984 (which was about Communism and authoritarianism, not socialism). And that, of course, is exactly what the dog whistle fabricators want the American public mind to be thinking about when they hear those words.

    Rather, what Sen. Sanders’ democratic socialism is about is returning capitalist enterprise to a sane form of regulation, in which monopoly is discouraged or prohibited (as it was pre-Reagan), and Mom & Pop’s savings accounts are taken out of the hands of Wall Street speculators (as they were pre-Clinton). It is about building a strong socio-economic safety net that guarantees a modicum of basic safety, dignity and relative good health to all Americans no matter what befalls them. It is about government and industry working together in open, honest partnership. It is about Americans paying for the benefits of civilization and the Commons, proportionate to what they can actually afford, attributing a greater share of taxation to the wealthy, not to punish, but in acknowledgement that it is they who are benefiting most from the resources and privileges that civilization has afforded them. It is about returning to the sanity of Keynesian macroeconomics, which proved itself successful during FDR’s tenure and beyond, and which helped to grow the largest, wealthiest, most well-educated, and most stable middle class the world had ever seen, by the middle of the 20th century.

  3. It strikes me that Sen. Sanders has persisted in an error of underestimating how much the “S” word, “Socialism,” strikes so many Americans as political stand-in for another “S” word, “Satan.”That’s a major political mistake that, to my mind, manifests a political insufficiency as far as getting elected to national office is concerned.


    As a student of The Wealth of Nations, I’ve read what Smith had to say about all sorts of things that strike me as Progressive:

    Proportional taxes for those who benefit disproportionately from shared society;
    Adequate regulations;
    Labor unions [guilds];
    Safety Net.

    Smith even cautions against treating Labor as a commodity, despite how easy that is to do—I’d suggest that this trait in particular—which the Right considers a necessity for the “invisible hand” to function—Is what undermines many Americans’ faith in Capitalism.


    I am excited by Sen. Warren’s candidacy, currently in ascendance. Going back to her library “You didn’t build this alone” speech, which Pres. Obama even appropriated, I’ve considered Warren to be my kind of Capitalist. She gets it:

    Capitalism is Adam Smith’sidea of the best economic way for humans to exercise our common trait, desiring To Do Good. It will be compelling to see how the economicdebate may play out in tomorrow-night’s debate.

    (($; -)}™

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