Elizabeth Warren is out of the race; and if you haven’t already, you’re going to see a lot of opinion pieces (and social media hot-takes) proclaiming that “the patriarchy is what rooted Warren out!” And you know what? That is a fair point. There is plenty of misogyny in this country to go around, and that certainly that had a lot to do with why she was roundly ignored at debates (until she started using Mike Bloomberg as a well-deserved punching bag) while her Y-chromosome counterparts got one pass after after another as their campaigns stumbled along.
But that really isn’t the whole story. If you ask me (which nobody did, but I’ll give you my hot-take anyways), what ended her bid was the fact that although Warren was a genuine, and progressive candidate, she loaded up her campaign with former Obama/Clinton staffers who had no idea how to sell their new boss to the masses.
Back in early 2019 (you remember, 30 years ago), the media spilled a lot of ink and pixels going on about how Warren was smart to get into the race so “early.” The Pod Save America crowd were all abuzz about how, by being one of the first to announce, she had the pick of the litter when it came time to staff-up and hit the trail. So she did, quickly nabbing some top-level folks from both Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and Clinton’s 2016 bid. A dream team in the making, one would think. Right?
The problem is that it looks, at least from the outside, like that team gave her bad advice at every turn, and with the exception of those Bloomberg jabs (which were glorious by the way, and were just Warren being that genuine Warren) they steered her campaign into the ground.
In theory, if we were to look at everyone who has been on that debate stage this season and judge them by how competent, reasonable, and what a good person they are, there is really only one conclusion. I‘m a Warren person all day long. I think she’s fabulous, and she was the only candidate I donated money to this campaign cycle. (Full disclosure: I was trying to win that “Grab a Beer Elizabeth!” contest for my wife and me).
The Warren who wooed me was Liz the Policy Nerd™”, the candidate who had a comprehensive and realistic plan for almost everything; the Warren making pinky promises with young girls dreaming of a female president, and charming mid-west voters with stories of “growing up on the ragged edge of the middle class.” But the structural decisions made by her campaign made me check my support at every step.
The way her campaign handled the PR frenzy over the Native American blood test “issue” made me stop and think. This non-issue didn’t reflect negatively on her character – people misconstrue their genealogy all the time – but it was still embarrassing, gracelessly managed, and made me question her viability. The cynically-constructed “Bernie said a woman could never win” attack from a few debates back, and which failed to take hold, seemed gratuitous. And I had to wonder at how, on the evening of Super Tuesday, when she was crushed even in her own state, Warren’s campaign thought it was a good idea to send out emails to supporters saying “Don’t worry folks! We have more primaries coming up in just one week! Send in your donations to _________”. This, at a time that the national progressive narrative was starting to (unfairly, mind you) shift to “Why is she staying in the race?! It’s like she’s intentionally trying to hurt Bernie!”
These weren’t decisions that Warren made by alone in a vacuum. They were campaign team-level decisions. An election is largely an exercise in public relations, and Warren’s campaign team – all of those advisers and consultants from the Obama and Clinton campaigns – betrayed her by failing to capitalize on her strengths and her genuineness, and choosing instead to run a traditional and, at times, cynical campaign. Warren deserved better but she put her trust in the wrong team. That is what loses elections.
Warren returned to the genuine in her campaign suspension speech. Reporters mobbed the candidate as she lamented “One of the hardest parts of this is all those pinky promises…” The real Warren, the woman who would have made the great president that we need at this point in history, was back in the spotlight. But it was too late.
So, here’s to you Elizabeth Warren. I hope we haven’t seen the last of you on the national stage.
Now I’m going to “grab a beer” in her honor.