Let me paint you a picture: it is 2016 in the Green Mountain State. Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic presidential nomination. The streets are filled with signs, the cars are plastered with bumper stickers, Facebook feeds burst with endorsements—for Bernie Sanders.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many in my state who supported Clinton in the first place, and many more who ticked off Sanders’ name in the primary, took a deep breath when he didn’t win, and changed course, vowing to support whichever candidate could keep a racist demagogue out of the White House. But you’ve all heard the stories about the “Bernie or bust” bros. Vermont was their home base. It infuriated me to be surrounded by people who were so stuck on the ideals of one old white man that they couldn’t be a team player. It angers me to think what could have happened three years ago if those Bernie-or-busters had voted in the general election for the Democratic candidate who could have won.
Now Sanders is back, and with him will inevitably come those who value one favorite over a common enemy. This is not what we need right now. After 2016, Clinton knew that it was time to step away and give someone else a chance. Sanders is convinced that it is still his turn.
So whose turn is it? I’ve got a plan for that. Elizabeth Warren isn’t the perfect candidate—for one, she is just as white and almost as old as Sanders. But she is not running to keep her ego inflated; instead, she is running because she has a smart, principled, fresh voice to add to this race. Even out of two committed progressives, Warren stands out. Sanders may have coined the term “Medicare for All,” but Warren is the first to announce how she will pay for it. While I’m not yet convinced that she can truly raise $20.5 trillion given the current corrupt system, her newest plan is at least a starting point. If this country is to progress, we need a president who is unafraid to tell us how.
We also need someone with principles that go beyond a single slogan. A recent Viewpoint in support of Sanders read, “Flip-flopping is not in Bernie’s playbook.” Maybe so, when it comes to economic policy. But what about gun safety? After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, my mother wrote a letter to her senator pleading him to support stricter gun legislation because the shooting had made her fear for her first-grade son. She got back a form letter citing the importance of the Second Amendment. I admire that Sanders has changed his mind since then, but Warren has been championing gun violence prevention throughout her time in the Senate.
And then there’s women’s rights and racial justice. Before announcing his first candidacy, Sanders barely mentioned gender or race, preferring to talk about socioeconomic status as if it could explain all inequality. Any Carl who has taken a sociology class could tell you otherwise, and Warren knows as much. Her plans, from housing to education to criminal justice reform, are seamlessly intersectional, aimed at combating racism and sexism from a structural standpoint. Even her Medicare For All plan calls for immigration reform as a means to raise federal revenue to pay for healthcare. While Sanders has learned to recognize such issues, they are still largely confined to sections on his website entitled “racial justice” and “women’s rights,” and most of his other policies end in “for all.” Meanwhile, Warren has specific, thought-out plans with titles such as “valuing the work of women of color” and “fighting for justice as we combat the climate crisis.” It’s clear that she didn’t need to run for president to suddenly become socially liberal.
I am not an “Elizabeth-or-buster.” Far from it. I’ll proudly fill in her bubble on Super Tuesday, but one year from now, I will vote for whichever Democratic candidate is on the ballot to defeat Trump. I can only hope that we’ve come far enough since 2016 that the “Bernie bros” will do the same.