But unlike Senator Sanders, Elizabeth Warren does not have the baggage of the 2016 primary, which will weigh Sanders down and alienate large swaths of the Democratic base. She is a woman, an essential identity trait in a party that is increasingly dominated by people of color and accounts for the votes of half of all white women, who rightly want to see themselves better represented in a party whose leaders have been much older, whiter, and more male than actual voters. And she does not ask voters to make the choice that was posed to them in the 2016 primary, between fiercely attacking economic inequality and tackling the gender and racial injustices that perpetuate and exacerbate it. Her statements and policy proposals, more detailed than those of the other early frontrunners, and show that she is committed to doing both.
Why would Democratic voters choose Sanders when Warren is running? The two are not ideologically identical, but the differences between their major policy stances, on regulation of financial services and the need to extend the welfare state, are relatively minor, especially compared to the rest of the field. Warren calls herself a capitalist, the Sanders partisans point out, while Sanders is unafraid of the label “socialist”. That’s one thing. But this point has the quality of a post-hoc rationalization. It is cited by those seeking a politically acceptable reason to vote for a man and not for a woman – those who would vote for this man, and perhaps not any woman, no matter what. The fact is that Warren is to the left of Sanders on some issues, notably gun control. If the primary contest becomes a race to the left, it is not entirely clear that Sanders would win.