Nel's New Day

March 8, 2020

International Women’s Day: Warren & Electability

March is Women’s History Month, and today is International Women’s Day. The 2020 theme for today is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” to bring together diverse people with the goal of creating a gender-equal world. The month honors women who fought to win suffrage rights for women—accomplished in the U.S. 100 years ago–and the women who keep fighting for voting rights of others.

For me, the woman who best represents these themes is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race three days ago. Last fall, she was ahead of Sanders, but since then the U.S., terrified of another term by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), talked about little else than a candidate’s electability. 

A question in the November debate was whether Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) favorite talking point, Medicare for all, would raise taxes. With characteristic honesty, Warren paused and then gave a nuanced answer that taxes might increase but costs would not. Taxes are higher in countries with universal healthcare, but costs are lower because healthcare is free. Warren then came out with a medical coverage plan that doesn’t raise taxes, but people couldn’t hear over Sanders’ bluster.

Sanders, seeing Warren as a threat, charged that a woman wouldn’t be able to beat DDT—the old electability argument. Warren offended men by addressing Sanders on his statement. Purist progressives pulled most support for Warren when she said she was “capitalist to the bone” and the U.S. “needs ICE.” They ignored her plans for Social Security expansion, universal childcare, and a green economy, practical plans instead of pie-in-the-sky hopes.

Amanda Marcotte wrote:

“Warren is a slight woman, but always feels like an outsized presence. Her towering intellect, her quick wit, her ability to crush small men like Mike Bloomberg with just her words, her skill at explaining complex ideas simply without dumbing them down, her deep well of compassion that is the thing that drove her into politics in the first place: All of this made her shine so much brighter than her counterparts on the debate stage.

“Americans apparently couldn’t see that she is a once-in-a-generation talent and reward her for it with the presidency. That is a shameful blight on us. She wrecked Bloomberg in the debate and, in the process, may well have spared us from seeing a presidential election purchased by a billionaire. We responded as we so often do for women who go above the call of duty: We thanked her for her service and promoted less qualified men above her….

“The same forces that pushed Warren out of the race — such as asking her to do the work of figuring out how to finance Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, and then criticizing her for it while he skated by on generalities—offer a microcosm of how we treat women generally, and the reasons why women work so hard both at home and on the job yet make less money.

“Warren’s walk-on song for her campaign rallies was ‘9 to 5’ by Dolly Parton, an upbeat protest anthem the candidate picked because it encapsulated a feminist vision married to her long-standing fight for economic justice. In retrospect, however, the lyrics feel like a dark prophecy:

       They just use your mind and they never give you credit

       It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it

       9 to 5, for service and devotion

       You would think that I would deserve a fat promotion

       Want to move ahead but the boss won’t seem to let me

       I swear sometimes that man is out to get me!

“The same week that Warren was pushed out of the race, the Supreme Court heard the case it clearly plans to use to repeal abortion rights. On the bench was Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by at least two women and confirmed anyway. He was appointed by President Donald Trump, who, as we all know, likes to ‘grab them by the pussy.’ So yeah, suffice it to say that men have seen women (slowly, slowly) getting a little more power, and their efforts to stop us have not been subtle….

“’There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own—nobody,’ [Warren] said to the small group of people at a house party. ‘You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.’

“It sounds like common sense, but it’s a kind of common sense almost no one had articulated as concisely or as bluntly in decades—or even since. Even Sanders struggles to frame his economic populism in language that clearly illustrates the interconnected nature of our society and our economy. Only Warren is quite so good at this.

“And I think gender clearly plays a role in her sharp understanding of these systems. The way that capitalists render invisible the underpaid, thankless labor they rely on to build their fortunes parallels the way that men have long rendered invisible the amount of unpaid and thankless labor women do to make men’s lives possible: The child care, the housework, the emotional tending, the social-calendar maintenance, the status-boosting. That problem is compounded for women in the workplace, where, as Parton astutely observed, they’re often expected to do the work but not take the credit.

“Labor issues and women’s issues are inseparable, and that understanding is what Warren built her career on. It infused her campaign. It’s why so many women feel seen by Warren, who is incapable of talking about ‘women’s issues’ as if they existed in some bubble separate from the economic issues she built her career on….

“It helps, of course, that Warren is who she says she is. One really feels that no matter how many offices and accolades she accumulates, she’s still down to earth and that is exceedingly rare in politicians….

“Voting for Elizabeth Warren was like making a little wish: A wish for a world where women as bright and kind and hard-working and decent as she is—and there are many forgotten women who are many or all of those things—finally get the recognition that is their due.”

In another piece, Kerry Eleveld wrote:

“Elizabeth Warren had some incredible accomplishments this cycle. In an era of grievance and vitriol, she forced a conversation about real policies and transformative ideas and even rose to the top of the pack on them. She turned her campaign into a virtual think tank for progressive change and left a shelf full of detailed plans for the taking by any Democrat who wants to make good on them. She, like Hillary Clinton before her, became a powerful symbol for a generation of young girls who will grow up knowing that, yes, women run for office—even the highest office in the land. She saved our democracy for now from becoming a succession of billionaire scrums every four years. And on a personal note, through her smarts, compassion, decency, accountability and ingenuity, she became the only politician I have ever truly fallen for.”

Sarah Jones wrote:

“Dismissal is what happened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a wound in the collective psyche of so many women in our country that will not heal until women are respected as important, autonomous beings with the same rights and freedoms as men, including the right to have their reputation matter. That wound changed the women in this country for a generation. It was the last straw, after Trump the predator being elected by our fellow citizens in an unspeakable betrayal.

“That wound is even larger today, the day that the last viable Democratic woman dropped out of the presidential primary, four years after the most qualified candidate in modern history ‘lost’ an election to a self-confessed sexual predator.

“To get the woman vote, a candidate needs to understand this rawness and let women know he or she is on their side, will respect them, will listen to them, will champion their rights. But Sanders is currently dismissing the Democratic votes for Biden as “establishment Democrats.” Women are as far from the establishment as one can be in this country. The ERA has yet to be ratified….

“Women shouldn’t be afraid to voice that they want someone who innately respects them. They shouldn’t be afraid that supporters on the left will attack them and threaten them for voicing their opinions and preferences. But many of them are, once again, just like they were in 2016.

“After four years of Donald Trump’s assaults on women, including nominating credibly accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court for his lifetime, women known now, if they didn’t before, that attitudes translate to policy and to nominations, which impact them in their daily lives.”

With Warren officially suspending her candidacy, Sanders is asking for and his supporters are demanding her endorsement. In the 2016 election, she waited until the final election to endorse Hillary Clinton. She has more leverage without endorsing anyone, and she has also spoken with Joe Biden. Her goal is where she’ll get the greatest power to follow her agenda. Her complaints about both front runners echo those of many Democrats—Sanders is ineffective and Biden likes the status quo of widespread economic unfairness. Warren’s position in the senate will give her a great deal of clout.

During the last few days, the mass media on both the left and right have explained what Warren did wrong in her campaign. Imagine where she’d be if the voters weren’t determined to use electability as the primary criterion.

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