Elizabeth Warren wins Working Families Party endorsement in Democratic primary
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, speaks to delegates during the 2019 Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Springfield, Mass. | Jessica Hill / AP

WASHINGTON (PAI)—By a 61%-36% count, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., beat Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., for the Working Families Party endorsement for next year’s Democratic presidential nomination.

The nod to Warren is notable for two reasons: One is the WFP includes some of the nation’s most-committed progressive activists, who can now be expected to hit the hustings for Warren, especially in the party’s Northeastern strongholds, such as New York.

Second, the WFP endorsed Sanders four years ago when he challenged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the nomination. This time around, at least in opinion polls, Warren and Sanders lead a pack of Democrats challenging former Vice President Joe Biden.

The two senators are the sole foes within hailing distance of Biden, a favorite of the Democratic “establishment,” if not of the activists. The other Democrats—including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who were also in WFP’s poll—trail behind.

But in a sign that WFP members still like Sanders, too, the voters were asked to rank the five contenders, in anticipation of an automatic runoff that never occurred. More than 80% of the voters listed Warren and Sanders as their top two.

Half of the endorsement was based on the huge poll, focus groups, and a Q&A and interviews the five had with WFP members, mostly online. The other half of the weighted vote came from the party’s national committee, prompting some to compare the set-up to the Democratic Party’s system of “super-delegates,” whose votes at the national convention outweigh those of the rank-and-file.

“Sen. Warren strikes fear into the hearts of the robber barons who rigged the system, and offers hope to millions of working people who have been shut out of our democracy and economy,” Maurice Mitchell, the party’s national director, said when announcing the results.

Perhaps anticipating that some Sanders supporters would question the switch to Warren, Mitchell emphasized that progressives are “lucky to have two strong progressive candidates leading in the race.” He said, “Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders have both shaped the ideological terrain on which this campaign is being waged. They have proven an effective team on debate stages and in the polls, and we hope that partnership continues. We’re proud to call both of them allies in the fight for a more just America.”

The founder and editor of the socialist magazine—and major Sanders supporter—Bhaskar Sunkara called the party’s endorsement “baffling” in a tweet, adding that “Bernie is the national manifestation of WFP’s politics.”

WFP similarly upset some progressives when its New York state party endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his bid against Zephyr Teachout in 2014 and picked incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last year.

The Sanders campaign itself was less combative concerning the WFP decision to back Warren. In a statement to Vox, campaign manager Faiz Shakir said, “We look forward to working with the Working Families Party and other allies to defeat Donald Trump. Together, we’ll build a movement across the country to transform our economy to finally work for the working class of this country.”

As for WFP director Mitchell, he pivoted to the tasks ahead, saying, “Our job now is to help Sen. Warren build the mass movement that will make her transformational plans a reality.”

During the interviews with WFP members, Warren announced that if elected she would dismantle key parts of the 1994 Crime Bill. Biden, then the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, shepherded that measure through Congress.

The crime bill catered to public pressure and ended up resulting in longer prison terms for crimes more often committed by people of color than for similar crimes more often committed by whites, along with curbs on sentencing discretion. The prevailing mantra was “lock them up and throw away the key.”

Castro used a Q&A with WFP members in Dallas to tout his then-new “working families” legislative package, attacking economic inequality. That attack on the gap between the rich and the rest of us is a longtime Sanders theme.

C.J. Atkins contributed to this story.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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