Elizabeth Warren Lost Because She’s Elizabeth Warren
Sexism had nothing to do with it. The Massachusetts senator was unlikeable and showed contempt for the truth.
If there’s one good thing that’s come out of this long and excruciatingly stupid primary season, it’s the clumsy and undignified demise of Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign.
The Massachusetts senator has demonstrated a unique ability to provoke the ire of a wide range of groups in the American electorate, assembling a multigenerational, multiracial rainbow coalition of enemies from a broad spectrum of ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. In the spirit of charity, we should give credit where it’s due: Warren really did become the “unity candidate” that she always proclaimed herself to be. She displayed an astounding capacity to bring together a polarized country around their shared distaste for her candidacy.
Compiling a complete discography of Warren’s detractors would be an impossible feat, but for the sake of partisan schadenfreude, we should briefly revisit the greatest hits. These include the Native American tribal leaders who weren’t particularly fond of a wealthy white Harvard professor claiming their ethnicity for personal gain (even co-authoring a cooking guide titled The Pow Wow Chow Native American Cookbook), the Bernie Sanders supporters infuriated by Warren’s cynical attempts to paint their candidate as a woman-hating misogynist, police unions offended by Warren’s open dishonesty about violence in law enforcement, religious conservatives who found her contemptuous dismissal of anyone with traditionalist views of sexual morality to be in profoundly bad taste, and pro-lifers (who still comprise 34 percent of the Democratic electorate) for whom Warren’s radically pro-abortion policy objectives were unconscionable.
It’s worth noting, of course, that this is just a small slice of the groups that found Warren enormously unlikeable. The senator’s casual-at-best relationship with the truth (listing herself as as “woman of color” in Harvard’s faculty listing, claiming that she was fired from a teaching position for being pregnant, refusing to admit that her various spending plans would require raising taxes on the middle class, and so on) probably didn’t help. And shockingly, her painfully contrived attempts at catering to the woke activist base (vocal support for reparations, pledging to let a transgender child pick her secretary of education, endorsing affirmative action for non-binary people) paired with her technocratically manicured professorial wonkiness—she’s got a plan for that!—never caught fire in the blue-collar neighborhoods in the Midwest and South.
For many of Warren’s surrogates, however, the senator’s chronic unpopularity is due not to her own shortcomings (it never is), but to that perpetually vague cause of every malady to have ever befallen the female race: the patriarchy. From the bowels of woke Twitter, a predictably absurd post-Super Tuesday take reads: “The total routing of Elizabeth Warren last night, the straight up disrespectful dismissal, after all that lady’s hard work – it’s absolutely sexist and patriarchal, and I don’t care to hear any other hot takes than that one. Don’t @ me with no bulls**t.”
And another: “Sen. Warren was superb when facing off against the Trump Democrats, the uber-rich, cocky businessmen: John Delaney and Michael Bloomberg. Instead of believing their eyes and seeing her electability, many Americans believed their sexist ideas.”
And one more, for posterity: “If Elizabeth Warren were a man, she would be the next POTUS. Full stop. Her gender is her biggest obstacle. America has a long long long long long way to go.”
If a better sub-280 character summation of Warren’s eminent unelectability exists, I’m unaware of it.
Never mind that most women voted for other candidates on Super Tuesday, and that those women were all rational agents rather than infantilized victims of “internalized misogyny.” Never mind that you generally need to provide evidence when you accuse the entire electorate of incorrigible sexism. Democratic self-governance itself must be sexist.
Such is the danger of catering one’s campaign to the effete tastes of the New York Times editorial board: intersectionality just doesn’t play well with the American electorate, which is still significantly more conservative than its cultural overlords. African-American voters in particular—largely the constituency that elevated Joe Biden’s comparatively moderate candidacy on Super Tuesday—are significantly more conservative than their white progressive peers, even on issues of race.
It’s no surprise, then, that the self-satisfied brand of elite white progressivism that Warren represents turned out to be politically toxic. And to the great shame of the senator’s Twitter-based apologists, no amount of hand-wringing about the heteropatriarchal sexism of their (historically diverse) electoral base can change that.
Senator Warren, we hardly knew ye.
Nate Hochman is an undergraduate student at Colorado College and a Young Voices contributor. You can follow him at Twitter @njhochman.