The post-mortems on Elizabeth Warren’s withdrawal as a Presidential candidate continue to pour in.
It is sad but true but the most incisive reporting about Senator Warren’s run for the Presidency are being published when she is no longer in the race.
Excerpted from The Guardian 3.7.2020 – Moira Donegan
She faced the impossible: be competent but not condescending, cheery but not pandering, maternal but not frumpy, smart but not haughty
A woman cannot be elected president.
If that statement was not true when Elizabeth Warren announced her intent to run, on New Years Eve 2018, it has become true now. With her exit from the race, the last serious female presidential candidate has now dropped out, and what was once a historically diverse field has narrowed to two very old white men, the former vice-president Joe Biden, 77, and the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, 78. The next president, it is now assured, will be a man. Again.
The message to the children was that women can do anything, that when they grow up their talents won’t be ignored, their intelligence won’t be mocked, their horizons won’t be narrowed because of their sex.
But if anything, Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy proved that this is not true. There is no way for a woman to be enough to overcome misogyny – there is no amount of smart she can be, there is no amount of good she can be, there is no point at which she will be so overpoweringly hardworking and so obviously qualified that people who do not want women to have positions of prominence and authority will have to give her one anyway. What happened to Elizabeth Warren is proof that women’s lives are still constrained and narrowed by sexism, that women’s talents and ambitions still matter less than men’s.
I don’t think that Elizabeth Warren lied very much during this campaign. I don’t think she lied about her principles, or her policy agenda, or about Bernie Sanders. If she ever lied, it was to those little girls.
All of this could have been avoided if the media and the electorate were less blinded by cynicism, sexism and fear and more willing to see Warren for who she was – the most capable, competent and kindest candidate in the race.
As a woman, the Massachusetts senator always faced an uphill battle of double standards and misogynist resentment. She had to be competent but not condescending, cheery but not pandering, maternal but not frumpy, smart but not haughty. As she rose in the polls last summer and fall, she came under the kind of scrutiny that male frontrunners are not subjected to, and faced skepticism about her claims and character that male candidates do not face.
This is the fate of a lot of women who come close to attaining power, and empirical data backs up the phenomenon: writing in the Washington Post, the Cornell philosopher Kate Manne cited a 2010 Harvard study that found that women are viewed more negatively simply by seeking office. “Voters view male and female politicians as equally power-seeking, but respond to them quite differently,” Manne writes. “Men who seek power were viewed as stronger and tougher, while power-seeking women provoked feelings of disgust and contempt.”
As a result, all of Warren’s virtues were recast as vices in the public eye. Her impressive credentials and superlative intellect became out-of-touch elitism. Her joyousness and enthusiasm were cast as somehow both insincerely pandering and cringingly over-earnest. This kind of transformation of neutral or positive character traits into negative ones is not something that happens to men in similar positions. Sanders can aestheticize his practiced cantankerousness for laughs and sympathy without anyone asking if its a put-on. Biden can use slang from the 1930s without anyone ever questioning whether the ostentatious folksiness of his “no malarkey” messaging might be just a tad affected. But for Warren, every smile was interpreted as a sign of concealed hatred, of secret, nefarious motives.