March 5, 2020

Lizzy’s Choice

The political landscape has changed rapidly during the past week. The departure of Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, and then Bloomberg from the Democratic presidential race has left us with only two viable candidates, Sanders and Biden. (As best as I can tell, Tulsi Gabbard is still running, though God only knows why.)

Even though their prospects were bleak, I had expected Buttigieg and Klobuchar to stay in at least through Super Tuesday. Biden’s huge victory in South Carolina apparently changed their plans. Seeing no likely way forward, Buttigieg and Klobuchar bowed out and endorsed Biden, the only person in a position to derail the candidacy of crazy non-Democrat Bernie Sanders. Rather more surprisingly, Bloomberg did the same.

Warren, we are told, is rethinking her strategy, given that her showing in primaries and caucuses has been abysmal. She clearly is not getting the Democratic Party nod. She has not dropped out, but we know she has had at least one post-Super-Tuesday conversation with Sanders. What is Elizabeth going to do?

Warren has, I think, four choices.

First, she could stay in the race for now in the hope of who knows what. She might gain a few delegates to have a bit of leverage at a broked convention, an unlikely but conceivable outcome. Staying in at this point, however, seems merely self-indulgent and would provide proof that she is incapable of reading the handwriting on the wall.

Second, Warren could simply drop out, endorsing no one. This would show that she can read the handwriting on the wall. It would also show her to lack courage, and it would be disappointing to her supporters, who might reasonably look to her for guidance.

Warren could, of course, leave the race and endorse Sanders, who has been seen all along as a kind of philosophical kissing cousin. She has, after all, assiduously avoided attacking him. But Warren has positioned herself as a more thoughtful, systematic, and realistic candidate than Sanders, and many—perhaps even most—of her supporters could not follow her embrace of democratic socialism. Warren would lose the respect of many Democrats with this move.

Finally, Warren could leave the race and, following Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg, endorse Biden. Some would see this as a sellout, but it would represent a certainly personal sacrifice for the sake of her party. It has become clear, after all, that, for most Democrats, Biden is the one. Her endorsement of Biden would be a severe blow to the Sanders campaign and would make a clean Biden victory more likely.

What will be Lizzy’s choice?

Update: About the time I wrote this, NBC News announced that Warren was getting out of the race. That eliminates Option 1. The story indicated that she has not endorsed anyone else yet. The New York Times has reported that Warren has also spoken to Biden. Stay tuned.

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