Imagine Elizabeth Warren as President. Now Imagine Bernie Sanders.

We asked their supporters to really think through what a progressive president could—and couldn’t—do.

Jessica Stites

The dual cover of In These Times' January 2020 issue.

When we first conceived this dual-cover issue of In These Times, early in fall 2019, die-hard supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren already seemed caught in an endless loop.

Frustrated Sanders fans criticized Warren for jumping in after she sat out 2016, standing a little to Sanders’ right and pulling progressive support. Defensive Warren fans, worried Sanders had plateaued, had high hopes for a female candidate who seemed fresh and full of momentum. Attacks and parries followed: She’s a capitalist; no, they’re both social democrats. He’s a class reductionist; no, he’s building a multi-racial coalition. Wall Street secretly likes her; no, Wall Street definitely hates her. He’s bad on reparations and makes nativist comments; she’s terrible on foreign policy. She’s cynically copying Sanders; no, she’s been like this for a decade.

Nobody seemed to convince anyone, and a lot of people remained quietly torn as the primaries approached.

How to break the loop? In These Times decided to approach the debate in a new way. Policies had been compared ad nauseam, but what did Sanders and Warren supporters imagine these presidencies would actually look like? How would each overcome all the forces arrayed against them — Republicans, establishment Democrats, the Supreme Court, corporations?

We asked two prominent progressive journalists and thinkers, Daniel Denvir and Kathleen Geier — Sanders and Warren supporters, respectively — to lay out the likely course of each presidency. Then we invited two activists and scholars, Brian Tokar and Rachel Gilmer, to rebut their cases.

The arguments in all four pieces surprised, engaged and challenged me. Whether or not anything here changes your thinking, I hope it feels new. Just as this political moment does.

What a Bernie Sanders Presidency Would Look Like” by Daniel Denvir

A rebuttal by Brian Tokar: Why Bernie Can’t Be Organizer-In-Chief”: (coming soon)

What an Elizabeth Warren Presidency Would Look Like,” by Kathleen Geier

A rebuttal by Rachel Gilmer: Warren’s an Ally. We Need a Leader.” (coming soon)

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Jessica Stites is Editorial Director of In These Times, where she runs the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting and edits stories on labor, neoliberalism, Wall Street, immigration, mass incarceration and racial justice, among other topics. Before joining ITT, she worked at Ms. magazine and George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute. Her writing has been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ms., Bitch, Jezebel, The Advocate and AlterNet. She is board secretary of the Chicago Reader and a former Chicago Sun-Times board member.

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