What's Elizabeth Warren really up to?

There's an excellent new essay by Jeremy Toback on Medium entitled "The Legitimization Machine: Elizabeth Warren."

He riffs off British Marxist David Harvey's contention that ‘The neoliberal project is alive but has lost its legitimacy'

Essentially, Toback argues that Warren's project is to somehow hoodwink us into believing that she is an opponent of neoliberalism when in reality she is committed to legitimating neoliberalism. For Warren, neoliberalism is simply really 2 legit 2 quit (I'll spare you the MC Hammer video).

Still, while stark differences between Sanders, Biden and the rest seem obvious to most, when it comes to Elizabeth Warren, many on the alleged left have taken to collapsing distinctions. They argue that Warren’s just as, or even more progressive, equal but a woman and therefore better, not quite as good but still a fundamental shift to the left, or at the very least, a serious opponent of neoliberalism. Some have even fantasized that Sanders and Warren function as allies, despite the obvious fact that they are, you know… Running against each other.

All of these claims obscure the fundamental truth that Sanders and Warren are different in kind, not degree. Warren has always been a market-first neoliberal and nothing she’s doing now suggests deviation. Despite her barrage of plans and recent adoption of left rhetorical shibboleths like “grassroots movements” and “structural change,” Warren remains a neoliberal legitimization machine. Anybody who’s serious about amending and expanding the social contract and/or preserving the habitability of the planet needs to oppose her candidacy now.

Toback nicely weaves together and systematically presents pretty much all the analysis I've seen here at C99%. It's well worth reading as is the David Harvey interview linked above.

And for some icing on the cake, Toback quotes some lyrics from the splendid Leonard Cohen song 'Democracy':

“It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.” — Leonard Cohen

Edit/grammar correction (probably missing more)

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from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.

is one of the most brilliant things ever written in the English language. There is so much there: layers and levels, politics and pop psych.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

might be someone I could support. She said all the right things. That was all I had to judge by. So I took a wait and see. I have always been able to see the reality of actions that differ from words. Hers don’t match. It’s far better that she lacks Obama’s charisma and has shown who she is before she’s sitting in Trump’s chair.

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@vtcc73

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orlbucfan's picture

term for 'corporate rightwinger.' Rec'd!!

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" Our solutions to the climate crisis must match the demands of physics."
c/o truthout

Wally's picture

@orlbucfan
I can sympathize with being weary of theory, but I think it's important to try to be precise in discerning a politician's ideological underpinnings. And I think there really is a full, expanding, and even oscillating spectrum of ideologies at play.

It seems to me that fascists would more accurately be characterized as "corporate rightwingers. As fed up as I am with Warren's phony baloney, I don't think she's a fascist or a corporate rightwinger.

Edit/ moved pic to top of essay

Consider Harvey's portrayal of the liberal/neoliberal divide:

In liberal theory, the role of the state is minimal (a “night-watchman” state with laissez faire policies). In neo-liberalism it is accepted that the state play an active role in promoting technological changes and endless capital accumulation through the promotion of commodification and monetisation of everything along with the formation of powerful institutions (such as Central Banks and the International Monetary Fund) and the rebuilding of mental conceptions of the world in favor of neoliberal freedoms.

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Lily O Lady's picture

@Wally

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

Wally's picture

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Lily O Lady's picture

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Wally

That's what "we need a lot of dark money" means.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Wally's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Wally

over toward Obama. I don't think she's to the left of him. Then again, I'm not really sure how much of what she says I believe. A lot of it seems mushy and ill-defined (what is "access to healthcare?"), and she certainly isn't consistent in her support for MFA. For that matter, how can you take large donations from the people who put us where we are if you intend to change the system they created? Does that mean that the multi-millionaires and billionaires don't like the system they created? That they see its destructiveness and now, finally, want to head it off? That's the only logical way you can put together "I'm going to change the system" and "I'm going to take large donations from people who built, maintain, and profit from the system." Since I've seen no evidence that the "smart money," or any other money, is interested in changing the system, I'd have to reject this hypothesis.

So what am I left with? I'm left with guessing that Warren is another one of those "all we need to do is tweak the system a little" types--but if that's the case, she's not going to solve global warming, the health care crisis, the economic crisis, the collapse of wages, the destruction of basic human rights, the destruction--or distortion--of the rule of law, or the endless wars. All those things have been put in place by the people she wants to take lots of money from. And take it in the dark, too. Spiffing.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal propose breaking up the big corps like Apple and FB or propose policies that would reduce the financial power of the big banks, as Warren has done? Did Obama ever propose a wealth tax?

Or come out in favor of reparations for descendants of slaves? Reparations ferchrissakes. Not even Bernie goes that far.

She was apparently too progressive or too pro-consumer for Obama to name her to head the entity she created, the CFPB. He didn't even try.

She has also proposed making college free. Did Obama ever take that bold stance?

Did Obama ever propose any bold progressive policy in his 8 yrs?

Any of these positions alone puts Warren clearly to the left of the cautious corporation-friendly incrementalist Obama. It's not even close.

Liz is roughly in the Ted Kennedy/Paul Wellstone traditional liberal position politically, as I see her. No bomb=throwing revolutionary, but not a modest trimmer either.

Not quite however in the same lefty position as democratic socialist Bernie. And Sanders clearly has a much longer track record in progressive politics, so has more credibility with the left. Much stronger and consistent on M4A, and on not taking big money campaign contributions, major plusses in his favor.

But even Bernie has said, "Elizabeth and I end up agreeing on a lot of issues." And looking at their overall records and proposals currently, that is a true statement. Which puts Warren clearly at a point on the spectrum much closer to Bernie than some folks here would acknowledge, a point which is at a considerable distance from the solidly centrist Obama who governed as an Eisenhower Republican.

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Wally's picture

@wokkamile

That's true. My worry is that Warren would be a bomb dropping regime change neoliberalcon. It can certainly be legit argued that she is already that having voted twice for and to increase Trump's military budgets.

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@Wally to become unpopular here by not giving Warren any benefit of the doubt. That said, while I don't think the NDAA is a huge issue, more insider baseball, it would be helpful to hear her fuller explanation. Was it perhaps, as someone elsewhere suggested, to avoid the political difficulty of being seen as opposing a soldier pay increase, included in the bill?

Who knows. She rather smoothly pivoted in her answer in that press gaggle to another issue of MIC corruption, avoiding the question.

Iirc, to her credit she did vote against the 2018 and 2019 NDAAs.

Yet Bernie has his F-35 boondoggle program to answer for. And as a result, will the Pentagon be bringing nuclear-loaded F-35s to Vermont?

They are all flawed. Some less so than others.

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Wally's picture

@wokkamile

Bernie didn't twice or ever vote for or to increase Trump's military budgets. Warren did. And you think she "smoothly" moved away from the question? I think her diversion tactic exposed what a neoliberal she is.

Bernie's "boondoggle" benefited workers in his home state. I find his decision problematic and don't support it but it's still very understandable terms of local politics.

And as far as I know, only Bernie has clearly called for significant military budget cuts. Oh wait, in answering Vigeland's question, Warren claimed she support such cuts (but didn't even attempt to answer the question of why she voted to support and increase Trump's military budget nor did she point to such cuts in any of her many plans).

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@Wally being from the much larger population state of MA, that Liz has far more of a military footprint, and the jobs they bring, to concern herself with than does Bernie in tiny VT.

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Wally's picture

@wokkamile
There's a lot more to be considered than voting based on this or that state's MIC footprint. And voting on what? $716 billion on an aggressive war machine vs how much for this or that factory.

Edit/ corrected budget total

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@wokkamile

The guy who invented Medicare?

Huh. The dream will never die, I guess.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@wokkamile

The guy who voted against the Iraq War in an election year? Even though he thought the vote would end his career?

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

@Wally And they do mean EVERYTHING. This is the result of "thinking in money" combined with the Western striving for the infinite.

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longtalldrink's picture

slippery...just like Clinton (Bill I mean). And don't get me started on this whole palling around with Hillary crap. I mean really Liz?

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Well done is better than well said-Ben Franklin

@longtalldrink She was an outspoken opponent of the TPP in 2015 before she could be seen reasonably as posturing for a Presidential run. The TPP is the essence of neoliberalism. I have seen her as an Eisenhower Republican and therefore to the left of the Democratic leadership. I think the Consumer Protection Agency was an attempt at moderating some of the worst effects of unrestrained capitalism. An honest Eisenhower Republican would be a lot better than Clinton or Obama (although still capitalist and imperialist). I am worried, however, about the palling around with HRC and it seems to me that she is (willingly or unknowingly) being used as a firebreak to prevent voters from moving to Bernie.

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I believe Warren is very aware of the role she is playing for the establishment. Bernie knows,too. He simply puts out his ideas and let's others compare his with others. Maybe he thinks he could have influence over a Warren presidency. I think he is wrong. The corporatists will circle the wagons just like they did around Obama. With the selection of her cabinet, all will be exposed. And her supporters will still refuse to see.

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Hawkfish's picture

Between Sanders and Warren is in their climate proposals. Bernie was proposing a new power management authority to cover the remaining states without one, but Liz opposes this saying that all we need is regulation. But she was also going on about corruption, and I put it to you that regulation is much easier to accomplish than dismantling an institution. Energy regulations get changed all the time (as the Cheeto is demonstrating) but the regional power authorities have been around for decades.

So she may be honest in her beliefs but she is still playing the neoliberal game.

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We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.
- Greta Thunberg

Warren is not only trying to appear to be the female Bernie and falling short, but she is not to be trusted.

And thank you for choosing Leonard Cohen over MC Hammer.

As to both (1) Warren and Bernie and (2) Hammer and Cohen:

No comparison!

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snoopydawg's picture

I am thinking this a reverse psychology scam. Oh no, Warren is out to get us! Let's make sure that she doesn't win and give our money to BuyDone instead.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery