Just Let Me Be Sad About Elizabeth Warren

Sure, I will pick another candidate. But right now? I'm wallowing.

Let Me Be Sad About Warren (Personal Essay)
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In the 24 hours since Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign for president, much has been written about the legacy of her candidacy, her contributions to the 2020 election writ large (the annihilation of Michael Bloomberg, to start), and the young women and girls to whom she had become a living legend.

And then, the punditry: Will Warren’s supporters turn to Bernie Sanders or to Joe Biden? If anything, the talk is proof of how she appealed so well to both the old and new guards of the Democratic party. But instead of acknowledging that, it’s Warren voters should’ve seen the writing on the wall. They should be coalescing behind a new candidate already. Not even two days have passed since our hopes for President Elizabeth Warren were dashed — can’t we mourn for just a little bit longer?

Alas, we all saw the numbers on Super Tuesday. The women who supported Warren could see plain as day that she didn’t stand a chance at grasping the nomination following that loss. But that doesn’t mean it hurt any less to see the most coherent, practical, and composed person in the room walk away from the race for a job that we all know she was more than fit for.

The Bernie bros in my life were quick to remind me of their plans to canvass for Sanders over the weekend, as if I should dust myself off and get with the movement. But I'm not done being sad yet. I don’t want to move on, to think about the options in front of us and the “best path forward.” Not yesterday, not today, and probably not tomorrow. Of course, when the time comes, I’ll put on my Election Day red lipstick and head to polls, but do I really need to be jumping on a Bernie or Biden bandwagon right this second? It's about to be International Women's Day for god's sake.

Let Me Be Sad About Warren (Personal Essay)
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Internet, I beg of you: Let me wallow in the fact that had Warren been a man, things would have been different. Let me grieve for just a little bit longer because I won’t have the chance to vote for her. Let me collapse under the weight of the fact that, once again, a woman was passed over in favor of a man, and there’s no telling if we’ll ever get to see a woman president — but it for sure will not happen anytime before the year 2025.

And please, please do not tell me that it had nothing to do with sexism. Our president tried that, and only illustrated some of the very sexist ideas that have held women like Warren back in every industry. “She is a very mean person and people don't like her,” he said, when asked if sexism played a role in her downfall. “People don't want that. They like a person like me that isn't mean." They want, he may as well have said, a man.

I heard so many smaller echoes of this, so many “I like her, but”s over the past few weeks. “What about that time when she claimed Native American heritage,” they say. And I hear, “But what about her emails.” Progressives bemoaned her Republican past, and moderates dinged her for leaning too far to the left. She’s too mean, some said, after she left Bloomberg quaking on the debate stage with his tail between his legs; but no — she’s too friendly, she won’t be able to take on Trump.

Speaking of whether America was ready for a female president, Warren — letting her eyes well up — told Rachel Maddow on Thursday night, “I walked through my headquarters today and I saw all of those strong powerful women. I saw all of those women who said, ‘Thank you for standing up to Michael Bloomberg.’ I saw all those women who said, ‘Thank you for being smart, and for making that OK. Thank you for talking over men sometimes, because I'm just damn tired of always having it go the other way.’"

But to answer the question, she added, “We'll know that we can have a woman in the White House when we finally elect a woman to the White House!”

One thing I loved about Warren was her relentless patience. This is a woman who, after all, spent decades of her life in front of eager students — a few of them, statistically, probably condescending assholes. Is there any role more perfect for preparing an individual to work with those with whom you disagree? To listen to them, and to bring them to your side? Hasn’t she already proven that strength by taking big banks to task and building the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

On the campaign trail, Warren was asked about why she has yet to sponsor the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care act, a bill that would ensure care for rape survivors. “Let me take a look,” she replied, “I don’t know why we wouldn’t do that.” She didn’t break her promise. On Instagram shortly thereafter, Warren posted the clip of the question along with her answer as the caption: “I'm proud to be a co-sponsor. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.” Isn’t that all we can ask for in a leader? Someone who listens, who doesn’t write off our difficult questions with a rude remark about our employer or our competence, or even just straight up ignore us; a person who follows up? Warren made her followers feel seen in a way that felt natural and sincere, whether by answering our questions or standing for hours to take photos with each and every one who waited in her infamous selfie lines.

Let Me Be Sad About Warren (Personal Essay)
The Washington Post/Getty Images

For too much of the campaign, Warren was the forgotten woman. Coverage of her candidacy seemed to fall off a cliff after her brief surge as the front-runner. Last month she was left out of a poll that predicted the odds of the Democratic candidates in a head-to-head faceoff with Trump — despite polling higher than Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who were both included. In my own conversations, she was consistently stuffed into the “but she’s not Bernie” box.

My point is, I don’t want to forget her now. She deserved so much more than she got, and I need time to pay my respects. We all should. As women, we all benefited from her candidacy, from the visibility of a confident, qualified woman telling young girls that she’s running for president “because that’s what girls do.” And we benefit from hearing again and again, that the reason she lost is because America isn’t ready for a woman president, not because no qualified woman has entered the race — and it’s not just the conservatives, but the Democrats proving this to still be true. We could all stand to listen to these important conversations. At least for a few more days.

A friend of mine, who had been planning to vote for Bernie anyway, recalled a surprising rush of emotion after finding out that Warren was leaving the race. There was a sense of sadness she hadn’t expected, and that she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

“She was just so … close,” she told me. As women, haven’t we all been there? Isn’t Elizabeth’s pain our own?

Addressing her staff about her decision on Thursday, Warren said, “We have shown that a woman can stand up, hold her ground, and stay true to herself — no matter what.” I want to spend a little bit more time thinking about that and, okay, maybe crying about it. But I promise, like Elizabeth Warren, I won't give up — even though it means I'll be casting a vote for someone else.

Related Articles