Professional-Managerial Chasm

AS ELIZABETH WARREN has moved into the lead in recent Democratic presidential primary polls, leaving Bernie Sanders behind, tensions between their respective supporters—once suppressed in the name of progressive solidarity—have flared. From some of the zealous, online sections of the Sanders rank-and-file, one now hears an increasingly vocal class analysis of the difference between the campaigns. “Warren’s base primarily belongs to the professional-managerial class—she takes the highest share of college graduates of the top four candidates,” writes Meagan Day in Jacobin. “To take Brooklyn as a microcosm, Elizabeth Warren dominates Park Slope, while Sanders dominates everything less upscale.” Sanders, then, is the candidate of the working class, as evidenced by the humble social makeup of his enormous donor base, his polling strength in the lower strata of the income distribution, and so on. The tribune of the disenfranchised masses, he is running not to fix the gummed-up system, but to break it.

Warren, while a basically admirable figure, is characterized as a progressive technocrat, a plan-maker rather than an earth-shaker. Without a thoroughgoing vision of social struggle, per this critique, she will both obstruct Sanders and wind up falling into the same political traps as Barack Obama did, regardless of her intellect and intention. Between us and “big, structural change” stand Joe Manchin and Susan Collins, Mitch McConnell and the Supreme Court, and they cannot be reasoned with, only overwhelmed through large-scale political realignment. There exists no viable response to climate change or the health care crisis that looks like an improved version of the process that led to the Affordable Care Act—it’s New Deal–style mass mobilization, or it’s nothing. According to this story, Warren’s vision emphasizes the plan, rather than the people, because of the affluence, high social status, and thereby the ultimate political caution of her social base. This base is the “professional-managerial class,” or “PMC.” Spend time in the forums of socialists who’ve long been loyal to Sanders and critical of “identity politics”—Jacobin readers, say, or in the listeners of Chapo Trap House—and you’ll see “PMC” everywhere, a sociological designation turned into an epithet and hurled like a missile.

N+1 Magazine Online