NYT On Elizabeth Warren: No We Can't!
Earlier this week, a new national poll was released showing Elizabeth Warren in a statistical tie with Joe Biden. Also this week, betting markets put her as the likeliest nominee for the first time. Because I am perhaps something of a pessimist (or a realist), the moment I saw this news I said to myself, "Self, I bet you ten bucks that there soon will be yet another concern trolling article all about how people think Elizabeth Warren is super great but are too scared to vote for her because only Joe Biden can beat Trump."
And, would you believe it, the New York Times immediately came out with an article titled, "Many Democrats Love Elizabeth Warren. They Also Worry About Her" with that exact premise! Guess I'll be taking a trip to the ATM!
Do you know this spiel by heart yet? Because I do. Allow me to recite it for you. Elizabeth Warren is very smart and very popular and people seem to be very enthusiastic about what she's putting out there. She keeps kicking ass in the debates, and she keeps going up in the polls. But have you noticed that she is a woman? And that she is very liberal? And that these things are very, very concerning?
Even as she demonstrates why she is a leading candidate for the party's nomination, Ms. Warren is facing persistent questions and doubts about whether she would be able to defeat President Trump in the general election. The concerns, including from her admirers, reflect the head-versus-heart debate shaping a Democratic contest increasingly being fought over the meaning of electability and how to take on Mr. Trump.
Interviews with more than three dozen Democratic voters and activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina this summer, at events for Ms. Warren as well as other 2020 hopefuls, yield a similar array of concerns about her candidacy.
To what end was this even written? What was its author, Jonathan Martin, hoping to do here? Did he imagine he was adding something necessary to the current political conversation? Something that desperately needed saying? Because I think that just about everything in here has been just about said to death. It's been the prevailing narrative for months now, and I'm not sure that anything new could be said on the subject. Certainly not 2,000 words worth.
On the very same day (it was yesterday), the Los Angeles Times's Matt Pearce wrote a story with exactly the same theme about Kamala Harris, but magically managed to weave together scenes, quotes, and Harris herself to offer more than the New York Times's customary world-weary cynicism, despite the fact that Harris is polling considerably behind Warren. New York Times, it is possible!
Other NYT interviewees explained that while they too really liked Warren, they just weren't sure a woman could get elected:
Yet a few minutes before the Warren event here got underway, one of her admirers made this very point about Ms. Warren's White House hopes. Gail Houghton, a retiree, said flatly that she did not think Ms. Warren could win the presidency because of her gender.
"They're just not ready yet," Ms. Houghton said of the American electorate, adding that Mr. Trump's divisive conduct has normalized prejudices. "It's getting worse because we're getting permission to behave this way from the top."
Perhaps I am wrong, but I keep wondering how big this group of voters who would vote for a Democrat but not for a woman can possibly be. Sure, there are probably some, but are they truly a big enough contingent that we should hinge our entire election strategy on their perceived whims? I feel like we ought to get some kind of headcount done before we commit to this, no? Especially since it seems as though it should be pretty antithetical to our values to prioritize the wants and needs of some hypothetical ridiculous misogynists above everyone else.
What seems far more likely to me is that we end up with a whole "The Gift of The Magi" situation except with votes instead of presents. "I only voted for a man because I thought you would only vote for a man!" "What? I wanted to vote for a woman but I voted for a man because I thought you were a gross sexist who would only vote for a man!"
Others who were interviewed for the piece thought that maybe a woman could win, just not a liberal woman. Even though they too really like Elizabeth Warren and think she's really smart:
"If it were completely up to me, I'd vote for her," said Jessie Sagona, who also came to see Ms. Warren last month in New Hampshire. "But I kind of feel like, do we need somebody in the middle like Kamala or Pete," referring to Ms. Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Ms. Sagona said she had not fully made up her mind but was weighing the importance of "thinking strategically."
Jan Phelps, who came to see Senator Cory Booker at a house party of his own in New Hampshire last month, articulated a similar calculation.
"I love her enthusiasm. She's smart, she's very smart. I think she would make an amazing president," said Ms. Phelps, before quickly adding: "I'm worried about whether she can win. I worry that she's being pulled even further to the left and that concerns me. Because we need to win, we just need to win."
For what it is worth, I am not at all worried or concerned that Elizabeth Warren is too liberal to win. People aren't nearly as horrified by left-wing policies as some would like to think. Warren and Sanders have consistently come in second and third in most polls, and this is in spite of Warren's supposed unelectability and the seething hatred a segment of Democratic primary voters has for Sanders. To me, that signals that maybe, just maybe, this narrative of progressive policies being extremely unpopular is slightly flawed. I don't think the issue is that people just don't want health care, I think people don't like uncertainty. I think they want things explained to them clearly, which is a thing that someone we know happens to be very, very good at.
Another voter interviewed for the article said that as much as he liked Warren, he just wasn't sure she could overcome all the negativity.
"I think she's terrific but my questions about her are, can she get elected with the negativity, with all the stuff that's thrown at her?" asked Rick Morris, a New Hampshire carpenter who attended a house party for Ms. Warren there last month. "Usually in the primary I vote for whoever I like the most, but this one I will put in electability."
This is truly a difficult question. Can Elizabeth Warren get elected if people keep writing negative articles exactly like this article, in which interviewees are encouraged to hem and haw about the various reasons why other people might not vote for her? We may never know.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse