Elizabeth Warren did not die in a tragic accident yesterday. But judging by the reactions of America’s journalists and academics, you would be forgiven for thinking she had. Instead, she suspended her presidential campaign after a string of self-inflicted, humiliating failures. Yet huge swathes of the overeducated US intelligentsia responded the news as though their entire worldview had been shattered. I don’t see much of a difference in the reactions of Warren’s elite opinion-maker supporters to her campaign suspension and the way Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash was processed by NBA fans: raw trauma and disbelief, with some anger and desperation mixed in.
Warren’s portrait at the Harvard Law School faculty building was adorned with despondent remembrances in the form of colorful Post-It notes. Her staff spent the day tweeting elaborately emotional confessional threads about how deeply distraught they were by the end of the campaign, and how deeply offended they were that such an accomplished woman had been denied the presidency — again. (Lots of Hillary holdovers in this crowd.) Many of these staffers had titles like ‘National Latinx Engagement Director’. Surrogates representing the Warren-supporting constituency of ‘Black Womxn’ were also shell-shocked. Evidently, their strategy of appealing to working-class minority voters by replacing vowels with the letter ‘x’ did not work so well. Perhaps in the campaign postmortem they can commission a survey asking how many black women in the United States use the term ‘womxn’.
Rachel Maddow, having secured an exclusive post-dropout interview with Warren from her home in Cambridge, reported further tales of widespread angst. While at least displaying the modicum of self-awareness necessary to acknowledge that she, Rachel, is in Warren’s demographic sweet spot — white woman over 40 from New England with an advanced degree — she nonetheless relayed harrowing stories of female friends and colleagues who were absolutely ‘bereft’ all day yesterday and ‘can’t get off the couch’. Because the idea is that if Warren can’t get elected president, no woman can. She is just so extraordinarily ‘qualified’ that it’s impossible to conceive of any other woman being able to ever win.
Devastated Warren fans echoed this message on social media. Clare Malone, perhaps the least perceptive member of the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast crew (which isn’t saying much) called it ‘stupid’ to say there were sufficient differences — ideological or otherwise — between Bernie Sanders and Warren to justify voters preferring Bernie for reasons other than sexism. ‘Everyone loves the woman once she’s not trying to take power away from men anymore,’ lamented Adam Jentleson, a former Harry Reid staffer and current member of the professional progressive non-profit complex. (Am I misremembering, or isn’t Harry Reid an old white guy?). You wonder whether Jentleson had the same reaction when Sarah Palin was denied the vice presidency in 2008. Sawyer Hackett, the communications man for failed Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro (who quickly endorsed Warren upon dropping out — oops) proclaimed melodramatically that Warren’s demise of course must not mean that ‘we should just give up on electing women’. So I would assume Hackett will be out there on the trail this fall campaigning hard for the following women up for re-election:
- Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
- Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ)
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
- Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)
- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
- Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV)
No, of course Sawyer Hackett won’t be doing that. Because his rhetoric of supporting and electing women is transparently bogus — as is the rhetoric of so many others projecting their identity-related psychodramas onto the political personage of Elizabeth Warren. None of these people are ‘for women’ in a vacuum, they are ‘for women’ who happen to share their elite liberal sensibilities. Of course, few of them can even bear to acknowledge that Tulsi Gabbard is actually still in the race, and has in fact accumulated delegates (two from American Samoa, more than Kamala Harris will ever receive in the 2020 election).
As far as Warren’s next move, it’s hazy. She has certainly made it clear that she’s in no rush to endorse anybody, not least Bernie. In the Maddow interview, a subject expounded on at length by Warren was the allegedly vitriolic nature of ‘Bernie supporters online’. Rachel saw fit to raise the issue of snake emojis on Twitter, which everyone associated with the Warren campaign, including Liz herself, apparently found extraordinarily offensive. Liz even alleged that vicious Bernie Bros made women of color fearful for their safety, and proposed developing yet another ‘plan’ to curtail hurtful political speech on the internet. According to Liz, presidential candidates bear direct personal responsibility for what their supporters do online. Right. Seems like a workable standard.
Conspicuously, Warren also had many nice things to say about Joe Biden. But I doubt if she’d endorse either Bernie or Joe any time soon. Warren is highly aware of her role within the system of the Democratic party and will want to maximize her leverage over the party’s disparate factions. Laying low for a while and dangling an endorsement could further that goal.
Either way, her campaign was clearly a train wreck and elite ‘influencers’ are in total denial about it. There’s heavy irony in the oh-so-predictable move to accuse Democratic primary voters of rampant sexism because they happened to reject one particular woman. (Remember, Warren surrogates are now making this accusation not of Trump voters, but Democratic primary voters). For one thing, liberal pundits spent the past four years bemoaning that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 because of sexism. And now you want to blame voters for taking gender into account when they arrive at candidate preferences? What are they supposed to do? Democratic voters’ monomaniacal obsession is to defeat Trump at all costs. Why would they gamble on another elite white woman?
And that’s assuming Democratic voters really did reject Warren on gender-related grounds, which is highly questionable. In the Virginia primary, Biden won 57 percent of women compared to 12 percent for Warren. Are we supposed to believe that all these female voters were motivated by deep-seated hostility toward women? Or perhaps there are other dynamics at play, and most voters simply don’t think in the same terms as smug liberal pundits writing for prestigious magazines. Just a theory.