The Atlantic Politics Daily: Elizabeth Warren’s Last, Last Stand

Her latest debate performance may have made for compelling television, but at least in Nevada, it may be too little, too late. Plus: Is Bernie Sanders another George McGovern?

It’s Friday, February 21. In today’s newsletter: Is Elizabeth Warren’s latest debate performance too little, too late, at least in Nevada? Plus: Comparing Bernie Sanders and ... George McGovern.



This is the story of the rise and fall (and, fill-in-the-blank here) of Elizabeth Warren.

Elizabeth Warren probably didn’t expected to be heading into the Nevada caucus tomorrow in her position. In a field split between heavyweights and minnows, her time on the campaign trail has been something of a roller-coaster ride:

Late 2018: Warren entered the race months before any of the other candidates now polling ahead of her. As my colleague Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote then, her opponents snickered at the timing, but it may have been an early stroke of genius.

September 2019: Warren’s steady stream of detailed policy plans helped propel her into the 2020 top tier. In the fall, a crop of Bernie Sanders supporters flocked to her—and some 20,000 raucous rally-goers turned out for her in a New York City campaign stop. Sensing the momentum behind her, rivals declared war on Warren at October’s Democratic debate.

November 2019: As Medicare for All came under growing scrutiny, Warren’s steadfast support of the health-care overhaul may have cost her support from moderates.

January 2020: When Warren came back to New York for a campaign rally, some of her die-hard fans were getting anxious about her standing in the race.

February 2020: Warren’s lackluster showing in New Hampshire only compounded her supporters’ anxiety. My colleague Adam Harris was with Warren backers in New Hampshire.

Warren’s in dangerous territory, though her lacerating takedown of Michael Bloomberg in Wednesday’s debate may have thrown her a lifeline (and raised her a lot of much-needed cash).

A punchy performance is compelling television, but at least in Nevada, it may be too little, too late.

—Saahil Desai


1. “When commentators tell you that Bernie Sanders is another George McGovern, the correct response is: You’re not wrong.”

The parallels between Sanders and the failed 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern are plentiful: They’re both anti-establishment, grassroots-friendly, and working-class warriors, but the America of 2020 is nowhere near what the America of 1972 was. Derek Thompson takes a closer look at the parallels.

2. “Trump seems to view clemency as a way to reward celebrities and please his supporters.”

The president announced a slate of controversial pardons this week, including the commutation of a federal sentence for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

America’s founders hoped for the presidential pardon to serve as an act of grace, not as such a naked reward for loyalty, one political scientist argues.

3. “Climate change now sits alongside only four other mainstays … in its ability to command the electorate’s attention.”

Climate is second only to health care in the issues that most Democrats in the upcoming primary states care about, and is a top-five concern among all voters according to a new poll provided exclusively to The Atlantic. But the issue is becoming more polarized than abortion, Robinson Meyer reports.



They’ve come up with another generation label.

Much has been written about how Millennials are killing every industry and how Gen-Z is obsessed with the video-sharing social media platform TikTok. But marketers, researchers, and cultural commentators who created these labels have now moved on to the generation that comes after “Z.”

This is all a pointless task, Joe Pinsker writes, since the divisions used to define these generations are largely arbitrary.

For instance, the youngest Millennials, born in 1996, might have more in common with the oldest Gen Zers, born in 1997, than the oldest Millennials, born in 1981; to name just one difference, many children of the late ‘90s grew up with the internet, while the 1981 babies spent most of their childhoods without it. (This sort of tension has birthed some niche generational labels for those born on the outer edge of their cohort, such as “Xennials.”) Even the Baby Boomer label—which is grounded in a measurable fertility trend—doesn’t entirely make sense, Settersten pointed out, as some of the oldest Boomers are the parents of some of the youngest ones.

Tag yourself.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an editor on the Politics desk, and Christian Paz, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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