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9/17/19

Warren voters should condemn the WFP's endorsement shenanigans

The Working Families Party has endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president. And it looks probable that she won with votes from only 22 to 40 percent of the rank-and-file, Matt Bruenig writes - votes that were overruled by an 82 to 100 percent majority among the leadership. But the WFP has refused to release the specific totals, making nonsensical claims that doing this would violate "the secret ballot" and lying about its access to these numbers.

Predictably, Sanders supporters aren't happy about this - but it seems to me that there are some simple reasons why Warren's supporters should also condemn the WFP's endorsement shenanigans.

1. Basic fairness. From a democratic standpoint, the WFP's voting structure violates the basic "one person, one vote" principle by weighting the votes of 56 leaders to count as much as those of 10,000 members. Leftists should condemn this unequivocally, and if procedural arguments are being wielded to defend it then the procedure is clearly wrong.

But even setting aside the democratic argument, the WFP's stonewalling cannot be defended on procedural grounds. It appears to be lying about its ability to disclose group totals - and the claim that it cannot disclose aggregate data without exposing individual votes is almost certainly false, too (unless literally 100% of leadership voted for Elizabeth Warren).

2. Political consistency. Elizabeth Warren's politics and approach to policy are fundamentally organized around a commitment to transparency. Her latest "Plan To End Washington Corruption," for example,
requires federal government appellate courts to livestream audio of their proceedings, share case assignment data in bulk, and make all electronic case records...more easily accessible and free of charge...
and goes on to argue that
The American people have a right to know whether their elected leaders are acting in the public's best interest...Under my plan, Congressional committees, government agencies, and federal contractors would be required to publicly release key information so that the American people...can hold the federal government accountable.
Warren also relies on transparency initiatives in her climate change plan, her prosecution and judicial reform plan, her trade plan, her immigration plan, her plan for working with Native Americans, her agricultural plan, her prison reform plan, and so on. Transparency even motivated Warren's infamous decision to release her DNA-results, she said: "I believe one way that we try to rebuild confidence is through transparency."

This is not just a recurring feature of her policy: it is a foundational principle of her politics. Speaking to the Financial Services Roundtable, Warren explained:
Good regulation is not about impeding market forces; it is about unleashing those forces to work better. Good regulation is not about retribution designed to make an industry suffer; it is about rooting out deception so that straight up competition actually works...A free market is one where consumers have the ability to make well-informed choices, where the choices are visible and the terms are clear, and where there are cops on the beat to make sure everyone plays by the same rules.
A critic of capitalism might insist that good regulation is in fact precisely about impeding market forces - that, as Bernie Sanders put it, "the issue of unfettered capitalism is not just an economic debate - poverty, economic distress, and despair are life-threatening issues for millions of working people in the country."

But if supporters of Warren disagree with Sanders, and agree that her liberal anti-corruption and transparency agendas are enough to challenge power in our country, then calling for transparency from the WFP would be an excellent way to demonstrate their confidence in her agenda.


3. Commitment to a Sanders-Warren "truce". This will not apply to all Warren voters, of course - but a significant faction of her base have repeatedly called for a non-aggression pact between her supporters and people who back Bernie Sanders. The rationale, we are told, is that Sanders and Warren voters may have to rally behind a single candidate in order to beat Biden.

But obviously, this sort of truce can't actually hold if one camp is accepting unfair advantages over the other. If the Warren campaign is benefiting from an anti-democratic voting system and a dishonest cover-up, then it should take the lead in calling out the WFP's leadership. At the very least, Warren supporters should insist on a public release of the voting totals, and it should stand in solidarity with Sanders supporters who have every reason to believe that they're being lied to. This isn't just necessary as a matter of principle; it's also necessary by the terms of the "truce" that so many Warren supporters have endorsed.


I don't get the impression that many Warren supporters are actually likely to condemn the WFP's endorsement shenanigans, and ultimately this probably will have little impact on the outcome of the primaries. But this incident does not exactly inspire confidence in the commitment of Warren voters to a fair process, to their own ideals, or to the dubious terms of their much-heralded truce.