Also like Sanders, Warren attempted to run as the antiwar candidate and not much else in foreign policy. “I think we need to get our combat troops out. ... Our keeping combat troops there is not helping," she said. Then the platitudes: “We need to work with our allies. We need to use our economic tools. We need to use our diplomatic tools.” And then back to her go-to position: "We need to get our combat troops out. They are not helping create more safety for the United States or the region.”
Warren, who like former Sound Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg has struggled to win over African Americans, would like to be the “unity” candidate, she told us near the end of the debate:
ABBY PHILLIP: Sen. Warren, what do you say to voters who like your policies but they’re worried they will scare away swing voters you need to win this race in November?WARREN: So I was born and raised in Oklahoma. I have three older brothers who are all retired, who are all back there still. And two of my three brothers are Republicans. And, sure, there are a lot of things we disagree on, and we can take to our corners and do the Democratic/Republican talking points, but the truth is there's a whole lot we agree on.You know, my brother is just furious over Chevron and Eli Lilly and Amazon, that are giant corporations making billions of dollars in tax — make billions of dollars in profits and pay nothing in taxes.My brother said, "I don't get this. I have to pay my taxes. Somebody has to keep the roads paved and the schools open and pay for our defense."They understand that we have an America right now that’s working great for those at the top; it’s just not working for anyone else. We have a chance to unite — unite as Democrats, but also with independents and Republicans who are sick of living in a country that’s working great for the politicians that are taking the money; it’s working great for the lobbyists; it’s working great for the corporate executives, it’s just not working for everyone else.
But Warren did not answer the heart of the question: What comfort could she give moderates and independents that her “big, fundamental change” won’t amount to an extreme, unworkable agenda pretty much in the mode of Sanders?
Repeating the mantra that she is “building the grass-roots movement, leading the fight” or “going to make this America work for everyone else" does not respond to concerns about her extremism. Nor will the Massachusetts senator get brownie points from skeptical moderates, independents or soft Republicans simply by hailing originally from Oklahoma or having siblings in the military.
It is also hard to be a unifier when she has bashed moderates for “running in the wrong primary” or “nibb[ling] around the edges.” One’s tone matters, and trying to run Democrats out of the party for refusing to back Medicare-for-all, only to back away herself, leaves one open to the charge of opportunism.
In short, Warren has struggled throughout the campaign to leave no daylight between her and Sanders while simultaneously trying to make herself seem more electable and set herself up as the unity candidate. Those two things are inconsistent. You can pretty much be like the socialist or you can be electable, but not both. You can speak the language of conciliation or you can go to war with a large share of the party, but not both.
If voters want an electable candidate pitching unity, they should try Klobuchar (“I want to be president for all of America”), Buttigieg (“If you are watching this at home and you are exhausted by the spectacle of division and dysfunction, I’m asking you to join me to help turn the page on our politics”) of former vice president Joe Biden (“There is not a single thing beyond our capacity to do if we do it together”), all of whom have not only talked the talk of unity but have devised policies that, as Klobuchar put it, represent pragmatic progressivism. Saying you are a uniter does not make it so.