The Democratic establishment is looking at the party's 2020 presidential primary field and seeing nothing but reasons to fear a progressive nominee—though they prefer one of the two to the other.
That's according to a number of reports over the past two days which suggest that powerful elites in the party are increasingly worried about the potential of a nomination win by either Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both of whom who have made progressive change a centerpiece of their campaigns.
"The presidential primaries are not going at all the way these rich and powerful Democrats want," wrote The Nation's Jeet Heer on Wednesday. "Their preference is for a centrist presidential candidate."
On Tuesday, New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin found that major party donors are increasingly worried that Warren particularly—Sanders is not mentioned until the article's penultimate paragraph—will take the nomination and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop that from happening. The party elite are courting members of the party like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, as well as nominal independents like former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to jump in the primary race. But nobody, at least so far, is biting.
"If Biden were surging, I doubt you would be hearing this," Democratic consultant Harold Ickes told the Times. "This shows a restlessness among a lot of people."
The issue here is not electability. Sanders and Warren would both be heavily favored against Trump. The issue is that the donor class—the people who socialize with NYT reporters—don’t want left policies. https://t.co/87dkAL5YmW
— Every Billionaire Is A Policy Failure (@DanRiffle) October 22, 2019
Times reporter Astead Herndon remarked on Twitter that Martin's piece presents the opposite of concern to Sanders and Warren.
"Establishment fears will not shake Sanders or Warren, their candidacies are premised on these people being wrong and creating a movement to prove it," Herndon tweeted.
A Washington Post piece Tuesday evening featured comments from 17 party leaders and donors whose worries about the field mirrored the half dozen donors Martin interviewed. Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), who is running for the 2020 nomination, told the post that Sanders and Warren are too far to the left.
"You need to run on things that half the country agrees with you," said Delaney, who is polling below 1%.
Sanders & Warren, and yes Biden too, have high favorability ratings among Democratic primary voters. Polls show them to be broadly acceptable. Who are the "activists" (as opposed to the donors & party figures) who are "fretting" so much? https://t.co/uHgY9K09Gh pic.twitter.com/fFSkhy1wAV
— Taniel (@Taniel) October 23, 2019
The Democratic establishment isn't alone. Corporate leaders and Wall Street executives are also worried about a left-leaning Democrat like Warren or Sanders. In an interview with Politico, "Leon Cooperman, a billionaire former Goldman Sachs executive who is now CEO of investment firm Omega Advisors and who predicts a 25 percent market drop should Warren become president," said he was afraid that a Warren presidency would be a disaster for the country and the capitalist spirit.
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"I believe in a progressive income tax and the rich paying more," said Cooperman. "But this is the fucking American dream she is shitting on."
Cooperman also questioned what was wrong with a system that keeps half the world's wealth in the hands of 0.9% of the global population.
"What is wrong with billionaires?" Cooperman wondered.
Have the super wealthy given thought to what, exactly, has made Elizabeth Warren’s message so popular? https://t.co/8ToEF2i4zo
— Kay Steiger (@kaysteiger) October 23, 2019
"The endorsements keep pouring in," said writer Elad Nehorai.
There are some on Wall Street, however, who are open to a Warren presidency. In interviews with Vox, some of those executives said they would find the Massachusetts Democrat acceptable even if it meant some personal loss of wealth.
"Even though, on a personal basis, Elizabeth Warren may be bad for me economically, she would be better for society, which I want my kids to grow up in," one director at CitiBank told Vox.
But to Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson, an outspoken Sanders supporter, that conciliatory tone from Wall Street is reason for the left to be wary of Warren.
"These finance people say quite bluntly that they think Warren doesn't pose any real threat to their class position," said Robinson.
This important Vox article on Wall Street support for Elizabeth Warren should set off giant blaring alarm bells for any person on the left. These finance people say quite bluntly that they think Warren doesn't pose any real threat to their class position.https://t.co/98evg0E0gm
— Nathan J Robinson (@NathanJRobinson) October 23, 2019
Writer Shuja Haider opined that Democrats are less interested in beating Trump than keeping Sanders away from the White House.
"Democrats will get behind anyone except the candidate who has the most low income campaign donors and polls the best against the incumbent Republican," tweeted Haider.