The Briefing, Vol. VIII, Issue 3: Sexist Sanders vs. Backstabber Warren

This week:

  • Sexist Sanders or backstabber Warren? 
  • The fight to frame impeachment 
  • Marshall talks Senate race with Trump 

The Iowa caucuses are only two weeks away, with the trio of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren leading Democrats into the home stretch. Meanwhile, the impeachment trial is beginning this week.


Impeachment: Democrats got off to a rocky start beginning impeachment with celebratory photographs and commemorative pens. But it is what it is. The impeachment proceeding is almost certainly headed for a partisan final vote. Democrats’ attempt to drag things out with mandatory witness testimony failed. However, it is still possible that senators will vote to request testimony from some individuals after the arguments for and against impeachment have been heard.

The impeachment trial will be a change of pace for the Senate, if nothing else. House impeachment managers will make their case, and the White House legal team announced last week will mount a defense. Republicans are expected to try to force a vote on impeachment as quickly as possible, framing the entire process as a partisan witch-hunt. Democrats tried, with their dramatic walk across the Capitol, to preserve the idea that it is a solemn occasion.

At this point, it doesn’t seem that anyone outside of a cable news network is taking impeachment too seriously. Voters aren’t. Investors aren’t. And in a sense, even members of Congress, who gave their final approval to the USMCA trade deal the same day impeachment articles reached the Senate, aren’t either.

If President Trump really does pose an existential threat to the Republic, then everybody — Democrats included — has a pretty funny way of showing it.

Democrats 2020

Leftist spat: Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were once friendly. That doesn’t seem likely to continue. 

Sanders’ campaign began instructing volunteers to go negative against her, and Warren responded with what looks like a calculated leak about a conversation the two had in late 2018. Sanders, Warren claims, told her he didn’t believe a woman could defeat President Trump. 

At last week’s debate, Sanders denied this. Warren doubled down, pretending she hadn’t leaked the information in the first place. 

Her campaign tactic here is sneaky and underhanded, and probably not very clever. It threatens to blow up her candidacy. Because at this point, there is no path to the nomination for her that does not involve winning over very large numbers of Sanders’ supporters. And the Bernie Bros are not at all happy with her.

The spat between Sanders and Warren is creating some serious bad blood on the Left. This could have a dramatic effect in Iowa due to its unusual caucus system. Here is how.

Iowa fallout: During the Democratic precinct caucuses, which will take place Feb. 3, Democratic voters will gather at schools, churches, and other official locations in the evening. They do not cast votes — rather, they divide into groups according to their candidate preference. Supporters of those candidates who fail to attract 15 percent of those in attendance will then have to join the group represented by their second-choice candidate.

So, for example, let’s say 100 people show up at your precinct’s caucus. Twenty-five each gather around Joe Biden, Sanders, and Warren. Pete Buttigieg gets 14 and Amy Klobuchar gets 11. If the Klobuchar and Buttigieg supporters cannot be persuaded to unite, then they will all have to pick between Biden, Sanders and Warren. If this precinct happens to control 10 delegates, then those 25 will determine which candidate gets four delegates and which one gets three.

Until recently, one might have expected Warren and Sanders supporters to be more or less malleable — willing to support one or the other as first and second choices. But now that the two have accused each other of sexism and lying, respectively, you can imagine that supporters of each will be far less likely to provide such an assist to the other. 

New numbers: There is another wrinkle for next month’s caucuses that is new to 2020. For the first time, the actual number of initial votes for each candidate will also be reported (the number the Republicans have always used), not just the number of delegates ultimately obtained. This could have all kinds of interesting results. 

Given that turnout doesn’t matter from one precinct to the next — each has a pre-weighted influence on the statewide result — this could even undermine the caucus system for the future by exposing its lack of direct democracy. But it could also give multiple candidates a reason to hang around. For example, the “popular vote” winner could claim a sort of moral victory, even if he or she isn’t the official winner in terms of delegates. 

Senate 2020

Kansas: The definitive announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he will not be running for this open Senate seat has left a crowded and unclear field. 

Last week, former Sen. Bob Dole (still kicking at age 94) endorsed Rep. Roger Marshall. Although he hails from the more establishment wing of the party, Marshall reportedly met with President Trump to discuss the race with him on the same day as the Dole endorsement. 

Also in the race is 2018 gubernatorial loser and former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the one Republican whose nomination might put this seat in serious jeopardy. The seat is opening up thanks to the retirement of Sen. Pat Roberts, who came within a heartbeat of losing the seat in a three-way race in 2014.

Wyoming: The decision by Rep. Liz Cheney, R, to pursue a leadership career in the House opens the way for former Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R, to run for the open Senate seat of retiring Sen. Mike Enzi, R. 

Lummis begins with the support of everyone from the state party establishment to the Senate Conservatives Fund. Fun fact: Wyoming was the first state to give the vote to women (in 1869), and Lummis will try to become its first female U.S. senator 160 years later.