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Bernie + Warren = ‘one-two punch’ for progressives

We’re a progressive organization that endorses Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). This week, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was attacked unfairly, we took a leading role in defending him. Why did we do that? Because we genuinely believe that Warren and Sanders in the race makes both of their candidacies — and the ultimate nominee — stronger.

After surveying our nearly 1 million Progressive Change Campaign Committee members for months, and running professional polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, one thing is clear: The conventional wisdom from DC pundits, which says there is a zero-sum “progressive lane,” is wrong. 

{mosads}Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden share many supporters. If former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) jumps in, he’d take support from Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). One Iowa voter told a reporter he is leaning toward Warren, but is “intrigued” by Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Here’s a prediction: Warren and Sanders in the debate together will be a one-two punch that draws the national spotlight to their bold systemic solutions to our rigged economy and corrupted democracy – making them both stronger as other candidates rush to embrace their ideas. This will increase their collective share of the vote, turning a “lane” into the full road to victory for a bold progressive champion.

Here is how it will play out. By far, the top factor primary voters care about is defeating Donald Trump. Voters who believe many candidates can win will vote based on a candidate’s worldview. But many others will vote not based on their own preferences, but on their perception of who general election swing voters will support. (I call these “pundit” voters. The Washington Post’s Ben Terris similarly describes Pundititis.) 

In at least two major ways, Warren and Sanders mutually boost each other’s perceived viability among these “pundit” voters. The first way is agenda setting. 

Which issues get the spotlight in the 12 Democratic debates and in the press every day is a game-changing dynamic. For example, in last year’s Texas U.S. Senate race, the “domestic policy debate” between O’Rourke and GOP Sen. Ted Cruz focused almost entirely on illegal immigration, kneeling during the National Anthem, and other wedge issues that pushed a Republican-leaning state to favor Cruz. If the topics were whether we should cut or expand Social Security and veterans’ benefits, or whether to repeal Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy to help students graduate from college without debt, Texas could have a different U.S. senator right now.

The one-two punch of Warren and Sanders on the debate stage will command the spotlight in a way neither could do alone. Neither will be isolated when they propose big ideas. When Warren promises to lead on universal childcare, a wealth tax on ultra-millionaires, or a sweeping anti-corruption proposal, Sanders will agree and help make the case. When Sanders calls for Medicare For All or raising the estate tax on millionaires, Warren will do the same. Other candidates will stampede to agree – or look weak if they don’t. 

The net effect will be more air time for Warren, Sanders, and progressive ideas that polls show are overwhelmingly popular with primary and general election voters. As they command the spotlight, look authentic and comfortable in their own skin, and make a persuasive case on issues they have talked about for years, voters will be able to picture them trouncing Trump on a debate stage.

The second way Warren and Sanders mutually boost each other’s perceived viability among “pundit” voters stems directly from the first: By commanding the spotlight and support from other candidates, their ideas will be seen as more mainstream and more viable in the general election. 

We’ve seen in many competitive primaries that two candidates can kick off a domino effect, which quickly results in the entire field following suit. At a minimum, risk-averse voters cannot fret about the viability of bold issue positions in the general election when all primary candidates agree. 

But more important, when Kamala Harris recently made a strong case for Medicare For All (and even made the case for eliminating private insurance), she became a validator and evangelist for that position. She persuaded people and helped bring along the public. As this dynamic continues, it will make the issues championed by Sanders and Warren look even more mainstream and viable against Trump.

As voting in the early states gets closer, Sanders and Warren will have lifted each other up into the finalist round with one or two others. Voters will then have to choose the best nominee against Trump – who won in 2016 after bashing Wall Street speeches, corporate trade deals, and corruption in D.C. He was lying about his intentions, but he tapped into a very real desire by voters to shake up the system.  

That’s what Warren and Sanders offer. Not small-bore tweaks. Not insider deals among out-of-touch politicians. Voters want big, bold, systemic change.  

We believe Elizabeth Warren will be the most electable Democrat and the best president for America because she is an inspiring progressive woman with a track record of building smart coalitions and defeating the odds – successfully shaking up the system on behalf of working families.

But Sanders shares many of Warren’s core values. His strong entrance into the race puts him atop the crowded Democratic pack — at least for now. 

Either way, for progressives, right now more is more. The one-two punch of Warren and Sanders in the race will be a rising tide that lifts both boats – and lifts bold progressive issues into the center of the debate stage.

Adam Green is Co-Founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee. The PCCC has endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president and raised nearly $2 million in grassroots donations for her two Senate runs combined. The PCCC has also worked with Bernie Sanders for many years.

Tags Bernie Sanders Beto O'Rourke Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Ted Cruz

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