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On college campuses where I travel, support for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential bid is growing every week. While rival Sen. Bernie Sander’s poll numbers have remained surprisingly durable, it is my experience that any Sanders’ sign on campus is a Warren sign waiting to happen.
While Sanders is an avowed socialist and Warren is a self-described capitalist, she is one in name only—and college students understand this. She has the momentum; she is echoing the anger of the people and is poised to inherit the voters Sanders first galvanized in 2016.
Perhaps most concerning of all is that her message is resonating during a time of prosperity. Typically, in U.S. history, socialist ideas gain traction during our country’s darkest hours. People feel hopeless or frightened and they turn to government for security. This, of course, makes some rational sense.
But, the fact that so many voters are rejecting the free enterprise economic miracle of America, at the very moment it is increasing their standard of living and as low-wage workers have experienced faster pay increases than any other group, means the message’s appeal has moved beyond mere economics.
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Warren’s campaign crowd sizes are not to be taken lightly. After all, pundits on the left and the right downplayed Trump’s crowd sizes and the unique connection with his audience they evidenced. While Warren is obviously not at Trump’s level yet, her ability to animate and inspire the most energetic faction of the Democrat Party—the far-left—seems well beyond that of her rivals, including her ideological comrade Bernie Sanders.
The breakdown of institutions in America that have instilled traditional values, promoted liberty, and demanded individual responsibility have left the average student susceptible to the left’s collectivist message. Whether it is the deterioration of the nuclear family, the lack of objectivity in education, or the propaganda machine of the media, too many of our citizens no longer understand America’s founding principles. As a result, there are tens of millions of eligible voters who don’t just want a new form of government, they want a whole new country.
While there is some historical dispute as to who deserves credit as the original inventive genius behind chocolate and peanut butter, the person who figured out how to successfully combine them is clearly known.
H.B. Reese, a former employee of Hershey who started his own candy and confection company out of his basement, began selling peanut butter in a chocolate cup back in 1928. That culinary synergy has become a staple of sweet treats around the world for nearly a century.
In much the same way, while historians and philosophers can debate whether or not William Jennings Bryan is the true father of populism, or if Rousseau, Marx, or Plato gave us the intellectual building blocks for contemporary socialist thought, there is no doubt which contemporary politician has managed to stick sweet-sounding socialism into the politically appetizing shell of populism.
That person is presidential hopeful Warren.
Over the past month, Warren has been rising in the polls and impressing campaign experts with her formidable ground game in early states like Iowa and Nevada. She recently held rallies in Minneapolis and Seattle where she drew crowds of 12,000 and 15,000 respectively.
Warren’s campaign crowd sizes are not to be taken lightly. After all, pundits on the left and the right downplayed Trump’s crowd sizes and the unique connection with his audience they evidenced. While Warren is obviously not at Trump’s level yet, her ability to animate and inspire the most energetic faction of the Democrat Party—the far-left—seems well beyond that of her rivals, including her ideological comrade Sanders.
Let’s start with Warren’s populism. The term itself is “popular” partly because it’s difficult to pinpoint its exact meaning. Its abstract nature gives it utility. However, at its core, populism is creating a political message that is less attached to either a progressive or conservative philosophy but rather taking an issue-based “shopping list” from a particular segment of voters in defiance of cronyism and elitism. It is a “don’t lead the people, let the people lead you” approach to politics.
Warren is wrapping her message in populism because she understands that it is one of the most dynamic electoral energy sources of the modern era, the same source that Trump tapped into in 2016. Voters believe that political insiders and large corporate executives are staging a “rigged game,” one in which they have no chance to participate in or win. Warren’s policy proposals to restrict stock trading by elected officials, ending the politician-to-lobbyist revolving door, and prohibiting foreign lobbyists altogether are ideas that resonate with lots of voters, including me!
But Warren isn’t stopping there.
The Democratic Party is no longer the party of Jack Kennedy or even Barack Obama. It’s AOC and "The Squad" who represent the future face of the political left, and in many ways its present. Their politics are radical, and they are angry.
They are angry that the president pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran nuclear agreement. They are angry about his trade war with China (it’s worth noting that historically the Democrats have not been “free traders” until it became an attack line against the president). Above all, they are angry about President Trump himself, his tone, his manner and his style.
Warren is tapping into that anger. Like a person in charge of a slick marketing campaign, Warren is betting that her brand of populism will compel the public to come and buy what she’s selling. But the buyer had better beware. Wrapped in her saccharine sales pitch is a plan to unleash a new era of government control that would make Woodrow Wilson blush.
She’s got a “plan” to take over the economy and the means of production of one-sixth of our economy with Medicare-for-all, and her proposed “wealth tax” is nothing more than a massive redistribution of other peoples’ money (not to mention it's unconstitutional).
I publicly stated early on that Joe Biden would not be the Democrat’s nominee. This was long before the gaffes. While she’s still polling in second place, Elizabeth Warren is smartly tapping into a populist wave, that at its apex, will, I believe, deliver her the Democratic nomination, and if conservatives don’t take her socialist populism seriously, eventually the White House.