If you watched the debate closely, however, you realized that they’re also pulling apart in other ways. Despite similar-sounding critiques of corporate power, and nearly identical Medicare-for-all plans, the two of them actually offer quite different theories of politics, government and power — and of what sort of coalition the Democrats might put together to oust President Trump from the Oval Office.
The distinction was clearest in their answers on health care, where Sanders issued yet another rousing defense of Medicare-for-all. Warren, too, is ostensibly totally for it, but when the time came to talk up her health-care agenda, she gave her Medicare-for-all plan just a glancing mention, then pivoted: “What I can do are the things I can do as president on the first day. We can cut the cost of prescription drugs. I’ll use the power that’s already given to the president to reduce the cost of insulin and EpiPens and HIV/AIDS drugs. … And I will defend the Affordable Care Act.”
That focus on small-ball executive orders rather than a sweeping legislative agenda is a sign that Warren may regret her rash commitment to Medicare-for-all. But it’s also a deeper reflection of who Warren and Sanders are as people and candidates.