So now there are none, women, that is, running for president, leaving out the quixotic Tulsi Gabbard.
Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign Thursday but didn’t do what others have done — endorse Joe Biden, the candidate her party has coalesced around as the one who can deprive Donald Trump of another four years. Bernie Sanders, who’s treated his so-called friend like gum on his shoe in the course of his campaign, is hoping that means her endorsement will come his way. He might not want to hold his breath.
Warren should send Sanders packing in a Massachusetts minute, and it sounds like she might.
Talking with Rachel Maddow Thursday evening, Warren discussed “this onslaught of online threats” where her supporters “felt really under attack.” She said that “we are responsible for the people who claim to be our supporters and who really threaten ugly, dangerous things to other candidates.”
Maddow interjected: “And it’s a particular problem with Sanders’ supporters.”
And Warren replied: “It is. It just is.”
She said that she’d talked with Sanders about that particular problem, and that “it was short.” She added that “It’s a real problem.”
Past that, Warren declined to characterize her conversation with Sanders (which of course was one of the things that led his supporters to that “real problem” the last time she did so), saying “It’s something he should speak for himself on.”
The Warren-Sanders interplay tells us a lot about why the Democratic primary that started out with six women has devolved into an uninspiring one between between two men, both white, both flawed, and both over 70. In exiting, Warren said she started out believing there was room for her and Sanders in the race but “Evidently, I was wrong.”
True, but what an admission. Sanders drove her off the shoulder of the road in his Humvee with his left blinker flashing constantly and she let him, although she was the much better person, an actual Democrat and capitalist, to carry the progressive torch.
Warren had a plan for everything. Bernie has a plan for nothing, or vague ones in a briefing book somewhere. If you have a question, she has an answer and if you waited long enough after a speech, she held office hours where she would explain the finer points of restructuring institutions holding working people down—a health care system that bankrupted them, college costs that crippled them, and banks that exploited them. And then she’d pose for selfies where she’d get contact info for her massive operation of field directors, paid staff and volunteers, and a get-out-the-vote effort in states others hadn’t set foot in.
By the fall, after hundreds of lectures, rallies attracting 10,000 roaring fans, and stellar performances at debates, she was a front runner. It didn’t last. When everyone was yelling last fall for a price tag for Medicare for All, Warren, the A student, stepped up and offered one. That bought breathing room for Sanders, who still hasn’t. And Warren suggested there would be a transition period before anyone’s private insurance would be taken away. That was heresy to purists but not enough reassurance to moderates to keep her from sinking in the polls.
Last month, Warren took the risk of being too aggressive, which for a woman means being aggressive at all, and took down Mike Bloomberg. I haven’t heard Sanders or Biden thank her for that, which had the added benefit to them of reducing the time she had to point out their shortcomings.
It had been a sideshow but a telling one when Warren was rattled by Sanders’ underhanded breach of their non-aggression pact. His campaign had been making calls to voters claiming that she was too elite to win. In the dust-up that followed, she was more hurt than angry. She shot back that he’d told her a woman couldn’t be president. He denied it, and she asked him, off mic, if he was calling her a liar. He was. But voters couldn’t follow the dust-up, and the betrayal, like so much else, didn’t stick to him.
When Sanders did pay attention to Warren, it was to compliment her on agreeing with him on issues he took up first. Mostly he treated Warren like a supporting actress in his star turn as a romantic revolutionary admiring of Fidel Castro. Good luck with Florida’s 29 electoral votes if he makes it to the general election.
You only have to look at the debate stage next week, emptied of women, to know something’s wrong in our politics. It used to be “I’d vote for a woman, just not this one.” Now we know there’s always something that makes any woman just not right.
If we're going to have a Hollywood ending, where my daughter cheers at the inauguration of the first woman president, it may be that we have to have a Hollywood candidate. We know the first isn't going to look like Warren, or Amy Klobuchar, or Hillary Clinton. She's going to look like Tea Leoni’s Madame Secretary (whose show was canceled after she became president) or Julia Louis-Dreyfus (whose show petered out after the Veep moved into the Oval Office), or Sela Ward who studied Clinton in 2016 thinking the first female president to-be would provide pointers for her role as commander-in-chief in Independence Day 2.
Sanders welcomed Warren’s supporters into his fold earlier on Thursday, remembering Warren with cold words like disciplined, focused, and hard working. He told Maddow that “it’s too early to talk about her as a running mate but I would love to sit down and talk to her about what sort of role she could play in my administration.”
I have an idea, how about if she runs it?
Warren got emotional earlier on Thursday when she lamented all those little girls she made pinky promises to who would have to wait another four years for a woman president. And she tiptoed up to gender, the third rail of politics for women. “If you say, yeah, there was sexism in this race, everyone says ‘whiner.’ And if you say no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, what planet do you live on? I promise you this, I will have a lot more to say on that subject later on.”
We’ll be listening, and hoping that Warren will stick with her initial decision not to endorse anyone. Biden doesn’t need it and Bernie doesn’t deserve it. Here’s hoping that, after a lot of hard knocks, a woman can learn.