vision 2020

The Times Dual Endorsement of Klobuchar and Warren Isn’t Nuts

Not peas in a pod by any means, but they have some important things in common. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The New York Times has gotten a lot of flak (nicely summarized by my colleague Adam Raymond) for its dual endorsement of Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren over the weekend. Some objected to the Times’ specific reasoning, and others to the reality-TV style of the rollout. I will not defend the Times on either of those fronts; nor do I disagree with those who think the idea of newspaper endorsements of presidential candidates is a bit archaic. But I would take issue with those who laughed at the very notion idea that you could make a matched set of these two very different candidates, described as “diametrically opposed” by Alex Shephard and characterized as such by others:

Now surely that’s an exaggeration, insofar as these two senators are members of the same party, who share a lot more than they don’t in basic ideology, policy positions, and yes, even “world views.” Of course, the presidential nominating contest tends to focus on differences rather than similarities, and there are some important ones between Warren and Klobuchar. But unless you are a single-issue observer, or are simply relying on “left” and “center” stereotypes (which the Times itself does, actually), it’s a mistake to overlook perspectives in which the two candidates uniquely resemble each other, as I began noting last summer:

What won’t work [for the next Democratic administration] is magical thinking about what a new president can accomplish. Joe Biden’s Senior Center nostalgia for a Senate where people reached across the aisle to get things done is a cruel hoax, even if his own “Senatitis” blinds him to that fact. But so, too is Bernie Sanders’ empty claim that he will somehow create a “political revolution” more powerful than the vast interests protecting the status quo. Both of these old men might as well promise they will cast a spell on Mitch McConnell and turn the snarling wolf into a lamb.

The flip side of this reality is that if Democrats really cannot come up with a more realistic “theory of change” — and there are some possible avenues for at least a limited 2021 progressive offensive, ranging from Elizabeth Warren’s strategy for breaking down McConnell’s power, to Amy Klobuchar’s proposed blitz of executive orders — then perhaps electability truly is the only candidate quality that matters. Ridding America of President Trump would indeed be a noble patriotic accomplishment. But if voters want more, and are willing to take even a minor electability risk to have it, they need to be told how.

Nothing has happened since then to change my impression that Warren and Klobuchar are the only major candidates with a rational “theory of change.” Democrats may soon face a choice of these two women and those two old men with their very different but equally delusional explanations of how they intend to get things done (it’s unclear exactly how Buttigieg proposes to implement his agenda, and I’m very doubtful he is nominatable) — or perhaps the other old man whose “theory of change” seems to involve buying it on television. So the Minnesota and Massachusetts colleagues aren’t at all “diametrically opposed” from that perspective, are they?

Yes, voters can only cast ballots for one candidate, and the Times certainly invited the criticism that a dual endorsement was less than helpful to those entering the polling place or filling out that mail ballot. But it’s entirely possible, and even probable, that a month from now either Klobuchar or Warren will effectively be out of the race. So it’s useful at this still-preliminary stage to express preferences that aren’t categorical.

And finally, there’s the most obvious thing Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar have in common: They are both women. I have no problem whatsoever asserting that breaking the glass ceiling has significant value in itself, and defying those who so fear sexists like Trump that they do their bidding by rejecting women as “unelectable.” Klobuchar and Warren are far from being twins ideologically or temperamentally, but they both have appeal to those who want a historic 2020 election producing an effective presidency to follow the nightmare we are enduring right now.

The Times Klobuchar/Warren Endorsement Isn’t Nuts