“Senator Warren is a gifted storyteller,” or so the New York Times would have us believe in what could be termed as one of the strangest pieces of political pamphleteering in modern Western history. The entire endorsement, if one can call it that, is a play for the “we’re all winners” generation. It is like the new fashion in literature prizes, where everyone is a winner and solidarity is the key. It’s like saying my favorite food is vegan quesadilla but also coq au vin, depending on my mood.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, the two candidates The New York Times endorsed, are so different that their only similarity is the fact that they are both on their way to lose the nomination to one of the three men: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, or Pete Buttigieg. And that they are both women — which, if you think that way, is sort of patronizing.
It’s almost as if the editorial board decided that since they are women and never going to win anyway — notwithstanding Warren’s rollercoaster of a trajectory — why not give them our joint endorsement? At least it would be the high point of their presidential run.
Virtue well-signaled. An absolute meaningless and empty gesture by a bunch of people who don’t even have the courage to defend their stance in public. According to editorial board member Mara Gay, “an endorsement isn’t about supporting a candidate necessarily.” And that, my friend, is that.
The New York Times Rails Against Trump
The announcement starts with so much narrative stuffed into one paragraph, one can feel disoriented. One of the key tactics of Soviet disinformation was to pack a whole lot of information — good, bad, and outright insane — in a small space. To unpack all of it would be a real miracle. Given The New York Times’ obsession with all things Russian, it appears it has mastered the tactic well.
Consider this paragraph:
The incumbent president, Donald Trump, is clear about where he is guiding the Republican Party — white nativism at home and America First unilateralism abroad, brazen corruption, escalating culture wars, a judiciary stacked with ideologues and the veneration of a mythological past where the hierarchy in American society was defined and unchallenged.
Where does one start? The argument that MAGA is synonymous to white nativism, when some of the most serious opponents of Latin American mass-migration are law-abiding migrants and domestic minorities suffering from job losses due to overwhelming competition? America First unilateralism, which so far has refused to get bogged down in another failed endless humanitarian intervention and war in the Middle East and has compelled Europeans to shell out more in real currency for defense?
Culture wars, like calling a bunch of Catholic 16-year-olds racists? A judiciary stacked with ideologues because they are selected by the Federalist Society, the same organization where Warren once gave a speech back when she was a Republican? The undertone is clear.
There Is No Good Republican
To entities like The New York Times, conservatives are by definition not normal, and only liberal rule is a return to normalcy. It doesn’t matter if a person is a moderate or a progressive so long as he is a liberal.
“Choosing who should face off against Mr. Trump also means acknowledging that Americans are being confronted with three models for how to govern this country, not two. Democrats must decide which of their two models would be most compelling for the American people and best suited for repairing the Republic,” the Times editors write.
Of the three models, conservative, liberal, and socialist, the first is automatically discarded. These are your choices: left or far-left. Right-wing means you’re evil and not normal, and the republic needs “repairing” from your kind.
Then comes the classic “we’re very centrist, but this is not the time for centrism” defense. Apparently, “the events of the past few years have shaken the confidence of even the most committed institutionalists” that the U.S. government’s checks and balances are under relentless assault.
That would have been a persuasive argument, had it not been that every Republican candidate has been considered a threat to American institutions. From George W. Bush, to John McCain, to Mitt Romney, each was called a fascist. Somehow, there seems to be no violence in any Second Amendment rally or March for Life, and violence occurs on college campuses and at Antifa rallies, but the myth never dies.
The argument says both that fascism is just around the corner and that anything to the right of Antonio Gramsci is fascist. As a wise man once said, the only good Republican to the left is one who is either dead, retired, or has ceased to be an electoral threat.
The editorial’s ending is straight out of a university union meeting: “The Middle East is more unstable at this moment than at any other time in the past decade, with a nuclear arms race looking more when than if.” Seriously? More unstable than, say, 2006 at the height of Iraqi insurgency, or 2011 with Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria simultaneously collapsing? Nuclear arms race between whom?
The New York Times continues, “Basket-case governments in several nations south of the Rio Grande have sent a historic flood of migrants to our southern border.” But we were told there is no border crisis? “The next president will shape the direction of America’s prosperity and the future of the planet, perhaps irrevocably. The current president, meanwhile, is a threat to democracy.”
I hate to shatter that juvenile ego, but the idea that an American president, or any single leader, is going to singlehandedly turn social life across the globe speaks of the worst type of coastal echo chamber. We don’t live in the great man theory days of Napoleon Bonaparte. I suggest an urgent class on the relations between structure and agency in world politics.
The New York Times’ Endorsement Lacked Courage
While Warren may be an absolute fraud given her various policy flip-flopping, she does have a point about foreign policy. One can never know the true conviction of someone who changed so much over such a short time, but when Martin Indyk of the Council on Foreign Relations, writing for the Financial Times, agrees there’s no strategic interest in the Middle East for American troops, you should know the region is beyond repair.
Warren is right to call for a complete pull-out from the region, the only candidate to do so as far as I know. She’s too polite to say on camera, “You know what, let them kill each other, we don’t care,” but one can sympathize with the broader instinct.
Klobuchar ‘s foreign policy, on the other hand, is terrible, a throwback to mid-’90s foreign policy, a Samantha Power with a midwestern drawl. However, Klobuchar is more sensible about domestic policies such as health care, issues on which Warren is absolutely bonkers.
Choosing a candidate isn’t an easy choice, and to prioritize would require courage, courage that cannot be expected from the newspaper that pushes the ahistorical “1619 Project” for clicks.