‘We’ll elect anything before a woman…’
(Liberty Headlines) On Super Tuesday, Democrats resoundingly declared themselves a party for septuagenarian white men from New England.
Having already eliminated all of the minority candidates, several women and one gay man, the only serious competition for longtime frontrunners Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren—whose minority claims were widely considered debunked by a 2018 DNA test.
Bloomberg, having already squandered $500 million on winning a single U.S. territory, was quick to cut his losses. On Thursday, Warren—who was one of the first major Democratic candidates to enter the ring, made the agonizing decision to do the same.
While most focused on circling the wagons and rallying around their two highly flawed selections, some on the Left were quick to express buyer’s remorse. Not necessarily because of the candidates they were stuck with, but because of the ones they eliminated.
For voters like Jill Warren (no relation) of Detroit the news of the Massachusetts senator’s departure from the presidential primaries was devastating . The exit was a final blow to hopes, once so bright, that a woman would be chosen to face President Donald Trump in November.
“It’s a day for many people of mourning, just true mourning and grieving,” said Jill Warren, a 61-year-old semi-retired nonprofit consultant.
“The ascendancy of old white dudes is not over,” Jill Warren said.
Elizabeth Warren’s exit, coming after the one-time front-runner couldn’t win a single Super Tuesday state, brought home a new and painful reality to some voters who had crowed that 2019 was the Year of the Woman, with a record number of women sworn into Congress.
Although Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, remains in the race, most on the Left have dismissed her—with former candidate Hillary Clinton even claiming she was a Russian plant—do to her centrist embrace of conservative-leaning left-wing principles. She currently has only two pledged delegates.
Polling during a string of primaries has revealed the durability of doubts about female candidates and electability. At least half of Democratic primary voters believe a woman would have a harder time than a man beating Trump, according to AP VoteCast polling in four states that voted Tuesday.
What’s more, women are somewhat more likely than men to say so. That comes even as solid majorities of those voters say it’s important to elect a woman president in their lifetime.
The message is clear: We want a woman, but not this time.
As she announced her departure on Thursday, Warren’s voice cracked when she talked about meeting so many little girls while campaigning around the country the past year, knowing they “are going to have to wait four more years,” at least, to see a woman in the White House.
And she addressed what she called the “trap question” of gender in the race.
“If you say, ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner!’” Warren complained. “And if you say, ‘No, there was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’”
How different things had looked back in the summer, when Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, had ventured to hope the female candidates could shake up the age-old electability question left hanging by Hillary Clinton’s stinging loss to Trump in 2016: Is the country ready to elect a woman president?
But this week, Walsh was left to muse on how early Democratic primary voters were acting out of fear and caution and were buying “a false narrative out there that women candidates are too risky.”
“This was the year that the Democrats were hell-bent on winning,” Walsh said. “A woman was defeated in 2016. There was all this talk after that, trying to explain, ‘How did Donald Trump happen?’ And this caution and fear has largely motivated us to the place we are right now.”
Warren, in particular, sought to trumpet her role as the choice for voters, particularly female voters, who thought it time for a woman to be president.
But there was little evidence that female voters were prioritizing gender this time around; Biden pulled ahead with female voters in most states Tuesday—including in Massachusetts, Warren’s home state, where she finished in an embarrassing third place.
To be sure, many voters say progress still has been made, even though a woman won’t be at the top of the ticket. And there is a broad expectation that both Sanders and Biden will feel pressure to name a woman as their running mate.
Still, the frustration among some voters was palpable. A younger Warren supporter, LaShyra Nolen, the first black woman to be elected student council president at Harvard Medical School, said it’s not enough to have women on the ballot. Voters then need to step up and support them, she said.
“I still do believe we are living in a society that is ridden by patriarchal control and inequality,” said Nolen, 24, of Los Angeles.
For some, the dimming of women’s political fortunes felt like a marker of a fading movement. The #MeToo movement may have toppled powerful figures across industries, but some of the momentum behind gender equality is tapering off, believes Kaitlin Cornuelle, a 29-year-old director and writer in Los Angeles.
That may have an impact on how engaged women—voters critical to Democrats’ calculus in November—will be next fall, she said.
“It makes me really frustrated that we have three men who are in their late 70s, early 80s that cannot relate to me and cannot relate to most of the people in this crowd,” Cornuelle said, referring to those gathered around her at a Warren rally ahead of Super Tuesday.
Others were quick to point out one of Warren’s clear contributions to the race—a sharp confrontation with Bloomberg over his treatment of female employees.
“Of course, she was the one to eviscerate Bloomberg,” said Iris Williamson, a 26-year-old teacher from Brooklyn, who noted with sadness that Warren didn’t seem to get credit with voters for the move. “Leave it to women to expose people for who they are and then not be rewarded for their work.”
Williamson worried how students at her all-girls school will process the results of the primaries. “I think they would question why there is such a bent toward choosing a white man all the time,” she said.
It’s not only women mourning the loss of female presidential candidates. Axel Marc Oaks Takács, a 36-year-old religious studies professor at Seton Hall University and Warren supporter, prompted an online debate as the results came in Tuesday evening, questioning why voters think Biden has a better chance against Trump than Clinton did in 2016.
“Let’s be honest, Biden and Clinton are both establishment Democrat candidates with effectively the same policies,” he wrote, asking if “patriarchy, sexism and misogyny” weren’t largely to blame.
Lucienne Beard, executive director of the Alice Paul Institute, a Mount Laurel, New Jersey, nonprofit, feels that female presidential candidates still struggle to attract the same money, visibility and media coverage as men. And when they do, the focus is too often on their delivery.
“It just seems like we can’t accept hearing a woman’s voice talking about these things. Instead we focus on her presentation: ‘Is she a nasty boss?’ Or being ‘too teacherly?’ It’s like we can’t win for trying,” she said.
“I wish I could say it surprised me,” she said. “The further we come, the goalposts just keep moving. We’ll elect anything before a woman.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press