In 2014, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders was openly musing about running for President.
I decided to email famed linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky and ask him if he preferred Sanders to other candidates. He told me he did, but that “it’s not in the cards” — meaning that he didn’t think Sanders would be very competitive.
Three years later I wrote a follow up email to Chomsky to ask him if he thinks Sanders would have won if he was the Democratic nominee. “Quite possibly, ” Chomsky replied.
I decided to run the same routine with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. I asked Chomsky what he thinks of her, both on the merits and about her electability.
“Not much to say. Seems to me a credible candidate,” he told me.
Only this time, Chomsky decided to follow up with me before I had the chance to bug him again three years later.
“Pretty good on domestic policy, has pretty much kept away from foreign policy,” he said, expanding on his original thoughts.
It’s rare for Chomsky to call any politician “pretty good” on anything, so his words are noteworthy.
But it’s worth noting that while Warren was an avowed critic of many of Barack Obama’s financial policies, she voted to confirm CIA Director John Brennan, who sold Obama on the targeted killing program. Sanders, a likely rival of Warren’s for the 2020 nomination, did not. In some ways, dissenting from the bipartisan foreign policy establishment is even more difficult than dissenting from the bipartisan political economy establishment.
There are more examples of Warren being less-than-anti-establishment on foreign affairs while Sanders has dissented, but we’ll save those for another time.