March 5, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Ode to a Working Man’s Superwoman
Elizabeth Warren's campaign will be missed.
When the news broke this morning, I wasn’t surprised. I was sad, though. Elizabeth Warren really is the kind of American we need as a president. I’ve never seen so much corruption, so much inequality, so much betrayal of my country. But various forces—knowable and unknowable—prevented her from ascending. She dropped out today.
Again, not surprising. She hadn’t performed well during the early nominating states. She came in third Tuesday in her own state of Massachusetts behind Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. The Democratic Party is consolidating rapidly around the former vice president. It’s pushing a factional senator back to the margins where he belongs. Half of her supporters are ready to break for Biden. Half of them are ready to rally around Sanders. (I’m guessing about the proportions.) There’s no way forward for the working man’s superwoman. She’s indeed right for the time. The time sadly wasn’t right for her.
Elizabeth Warren built a women’s movement.
You don’t know what you can’t know until the moment has arrived in which it’s possible to know. And even then, you might not realize it until after the fact. That rule of thumb seems applicable to Elizabeth Warren. Some say her best shot at the presidency was in 2016. She could have beaten Sanders and then Hillary Clinton, they say. I suppose there’s something to that. I know I would have voted for her. But no one can claim that with any certainty. Even if someone could, it makes no difference now.
That she dropped out after Super Tuesday, rather than beforehand, is worth pondering a bit. She must have known there was an even chance of losing her home state. Losing your home state is humiliating. Most candidates, seeing there’s a chance, would pull out in a heartbeat. Perhaps she believed she could win other states to compensate. Polling didn’t suggest that, though. Even if she did win other states, coming in third is just humiliating. Warren is no dummy. Why didn’t she drop out before it was too late?
I think she was taking one for the team.
Her supporters hate it when I say this—it sounds like I’m blaming her for Sanders’ struggle—but the fact is that Warren probably took a sizable share of Sanders’ votes in states like Maine, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, all states Biden triumphed in. In other words, Warren stayed in long enough to help the party’s elder statesman.
You don’t stay in a race you know you’re losing. You don’t stay in a race you know is going to humiliate you. You don’t—unless it’s in the service of the greater good. The future of the republic depends on defeating President Donald Trump. Biden is seen as the best chance of beating a criminal authoritarian threat to American freedom. Warren is a superwoman. It makes total sense that she’d sacrifice herself for that.
This is probably as close as Warren will get to appearing to take a side, though. As I said, half of her supporters are pragmatic enough to go wherever the mainstream is going (Biden) while the other half is ideologically inclined to rally around a foundering Sanders’ campaign. There will be intense pressure to endorse one. She probably won’t.
That she probably won’t—and that she sacrificed herself for her country—indicates to me that there isn’t as much of a gulf between the left-flank of the Democratic Party and the so-called establishment as we are made to believe. It indicates something else, too. Unlike Sanders, Warren has always understood that structural reform—anti-corruption, greater equality and getting the government to serve normal people—isn’t going to come from attacking the party. It’s going to come from working within it.
I’m convinced sexism played a huge role in bringing down Warren’s campaign. But I’m equally convinced that sex—meaning, the female sex—is what will save us in the end. Warren wasn’t just building a presidential campaign. She was building a coalition, a women’s movement, by going woman to woman—girl to girl—creating from the ground up networks of like-minded Americans who believe our nation is stronger together.
Though they are cut from the same cloth, Warren never demagogued the way Sanders does. She faced skepticism of her many—many—policy proposals head on. She didn’t, as Sanders nearly always does, lump critics with enemies later to be destroyed. Her greatest strength was getting skeptics to see her point of view by way of reasoning, evidence, perseverance and patience. She’s no radical. She a small-r republican liberal.
Biden is likely going to win. Sanders is likely going to lose. Neither indicates that the Democratic establishment struck back nor that the progressive movement, such as it is, was defeated. Both however are vestiges of the past, not harbingers of the future.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.