Elizabeth Warren, Please Drop Out for the Sake of a Better World

Warren has no path to the Democratic nomination, but by dropping out and endorsing Bernie Sanders she can still help make her egalitarian vision a reality.

Hamilton Nolan

The time has come for Warren to endorse Bernie to stop Biden. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

I’ve always liked Elizabeth Warren. I still like Elizabeth Warren. The first time I saw her speak in person, in 2015, I wrote a story with the headline, Elizabeth Warren Is Right About Everything.” She struck me then — and still strikes me today — as someone who correctly identified inequality as the core problem of our time, and who was smart enough to know the structural reasons that created it, and who cared enough to make a real effort to fix it. That is exactly why she should drop out of the presidential race, right away. 

This is the time when someone who cares about principles more than personalities must set their own career hopes aside in order to further the cause.

There is a wise saying: Principles before personalities.” In the context of politics, it means that the thing we should care about is what gets done, not who does it. What is important? Reversing the four-decade trend of widening inequality that is destroying the foundations of our society is important. Ending mass incarceration is important. Acting meaningfully to stop climate change is important. Fighting poverty is important. Giving people healthcare is important. These big issues, the issues that affect the lives of millions of people, are the things that motivate any politician worth a damn. And the final duty of politicians who care about these things is to do what must be done to best accomplish these goals, even if it comes at the price of their own careers. That is what being a public servant is all about. 

In this presidential campaign, I have always believed that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were the only two candidates who grasped the true nature of America’s underlying problems, and who were willing to propose solutions that actually matched the scale of those problems. It has been clear for years, to honest people who are capable of reading a chart, that since the Reagan era the rich have gotten staggeringly richer, the middle class has treaded water and the poor have gained nothing. It’s equally clear that we now live in a society in which a tiny handful of plutocrats own a morally criminal proportion of the world’s wealth. The forces of money have built and nurtured the political system that got us here, and our entire society has been destabilized as a result. America has, in my lifetime, become a nation with little economic mobility and little working-class power. Meanwhile, the world’s richest 1% have twice as much wealth as nearly 7 billion people. Something has to give. 

There has been much bitter argument on the Left during the course of this campaign. It is human nature to argue most viciously with those who are the most similar to ourselves. When campaign season began, I tended to think that Bernie was too old to make another run, and even urged him not to run and to instead back Warren in exchange for getting her to back a leftist platform to his satisfaction. The danger of splitting the vote on the Left and allowing a centrist to win has always loomed large. As the campaign went on, and I digested the policy proposals of the two candidates and followed their speeches, I came to support Bernie. This was the first time in my life that I’ve ever had the luxury of having two different candidates I would even consider in a presidential race, and I enjoyed it. Made me feel like a real voter! But even now — though I think Warren is wrong to have shrunk from Medicare for All, and sacrificed a good bit of righteousness by allowing a super PAC to back her after all that talk — I do not consider Elizabeth Warren a bad politician, or a bad person, or a bad candidate. If she were the Democratic nominee, she would be the most left-wing Democratic nominee in a half century. If she were president and her policy platform was enacted, America would be an immeasurably more just nation than it is today. 

But she is not going to be the nominee. She has not won a single state yet, and her polls are not looking good for Super Tuesday. Even her own campaign manager admits that she is now running based on a strategy of stealing the nomination at a contested convention. It is a simple fact that she has now become, in effect, an obstacle to Bernie Sanders winning the Democratic nomination. By doing so, she has become an obstacle to making the sort of policies that she supports a reality. Warren’s platform has always been much closer to Bernie’s than to Joe Biden’s, not to mention Mike Bloomberg’s. Elizabeth Warren gave it a good run. She did not get the votes. Going into Super Tuesday, her role has become that of a spoiler for the Left: by staying in, she is serving the interests of those who want to ensure that her own vision of equality does not get enacted. 

Elizabeth Warren herself is certainly smart enough to know that this is the situation. This is the time when someone who cares about principles more than personalities must set their own career hopes aside in order to further the cause. If the roles were reversed, and the polling numbers were switched, and Bernie Sanders was trailing badly to Elizabeth Warren, I would call on Bernie to drop out instead.

All that matters, really, is what we can do for the people who need help. Politics is not a cult of personality or a game for cheering on our team at all costs. It is a way to change the world for the better. That should guide all of our decisions. Today — before the votes are cast tomorrow, while the delegates are still up for grabs, while there is still a very good chance for Bernie Sanders to consolidate the vote on the Left and win the nomination outright and win the White House and reverse two generations of class war — is the time for all of us to do what we can to make a better world a reality. Some of us can knock on doors. Some of us can write pleading stories. And Elizabeth Warren can drop out and endorse Bernie. We all have a role to play. 

Disclosure: Views expressed are those of the writer. As a 501©3 nonprofit, In These Times does not support or oppose any candidate for public office.

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Hamilton Nolan is a labor writer for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere. More of his work is on Substack.

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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