- Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential campaign on Thursday, making her the last serious female contender to exit the race.
- After the 2020 Democratic primary kicked off with a historically diverse field, the race has narrowed to two men: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.
- Warren’s exit represents the end of any chance a woman will hold the White House for at least another four years.
- Many see the challeneges that Warren faced as a female candidate reflected in their own lives.
- Several women who supported Warren said that they were “gutted” and “infuriated by the news.”
- One told Insider that she “would have been an amazing president, and it is absolutely because she’s a woman that she wasn’t given the chance.”
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Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential campaign on Thursday, and along with it, any chance that a woman will hold the White House for at least another four years.
A historically diverse field of candidates had narrowed, and narrowed, and narrowed, until once again, it looked like America will have to choose between two white men: Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“One of the hardest parts of this is all those…little girls who are gonna have to wait four more years,” Warren told reporters in Boston after ending her campaign.
Warren’s supporters saw this coming. After a terrible Super Tuesday performance in which she placed no higher than third in any contest, it was only a matter of time before the last viable woman exited the race. The disappointment from female supporters started to set in on Twitter beginning Tuesday night, and broke loose when the news became official on Thursday.
Supporters on Twitter begged her to #StayInLiz. Users shared a photo taken by Vogue in July 2019 that showed Warren laughing alongside her fellow female candidates Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. All but Gabbard have bowed out.
Suddenly, the picture of the women bathed in a warm, golden light seemed less like a portrait of female power, and more like the women had been reunited once again beyond some electoral version of the pearly gates.
—Cassie Jackson (@cassajax) March 5, 2020
Women who supported Warren told Insider that they were “gutted,” “heartbroken” and “devastated” by the news.
But there was also anger.
For women who have supported Warren throughout her candidacy, her defeat represents a very particular kind of hell. As they watched a candidate who they believed was the most qualified, prepared, enthusiastic, and able passed over by voters in favor of men, they were reminded of their own professional setbacks. When Warren was criticized as loud or angry, they were reminded of the times they were told they were being too loud, or angry, because they were women. And now, any chance of seeing themselves reflected in the Oval Office was gone.
“It’s enraging,” said Charlotte Clymer, a Warren supporter who had raised $170,000 for the candidate through a series of viral tweets.“It’s really infuriating to see a woman who is prepared be overlooked for a man who is unprepared. Again.”
Clymer pointed to Warren’s domination on the debate stage, particularly her verbal eviscerations of Michael Bloomberg in back-to-back February debates, as well as her slate of detailed policy proposals and progressive agenda, as evidence that she was more qualified than the other Democratic candidates.
“Especially as a trans woman, when some of these candidates were afraid to even speak up for us, the fact that she didn’t shy away from it, I can’t tell you how much that matters,” Clymer said.
Amanda Litman, founder of Run For Something, said she saw Warren being subjected to the kind of mixed messages women received about how to conduct themselves professionally: “‘Step up, speak up for yourself in a meeting’. ‘Oh no, you were too loud in that meeting.’ ‘Brag about yourself and tout your accomplishments!’ ‘Oh no you need to be more humble.'”
Litman believed that Warren “would have been an amazing president, and it is absolutely because she’s a woman that she wasn’t given the chance.”
“I feel heartbreak,” said Aimee Allison of She the People, an organization dedicated to organizing and electing women of color. Allison or her organization did not endorse a candidate in the primary, but she was impressed with Warren and her inclusive policy platforms.
“So much of her leadership in her campaign was about openness to governing with women of color,” Allison said. “It’s a big loss for the country and a big loss for us.”
Warren’s supporters see her gender as a major factor in her loss
Here are the facts: Studies have shown that when women run for office, they win at rates equal to men. In 2018, the country elected a historic number of women, predominately Democrats, to Congress, many of whom were spurred to run in response to Donald Trump’s election. Hillary Clinton, whose loss has hung heavily over 2020’s female candidates, lost the electoral college but still beat Trump by more than 3 million votes.
Gender was not the only issue that Warren faced, and she made mistakes. She stumbled immensely early on by releasing a DNA test to prove family lore that she had Native American ancestry, a mistake she spent the rest of the campaign apologizing for. She struggled to gain ground with black voters, particularly in South Carolina, a group seen as the backbone of the Democratic party and a bellwhether of a candidate’s ability to win in November. Last fall, she undercut her momentum by shifting her positionon Medicare-for-All, confusing voters.
But research by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which produces research on women in politics, shows that female candidates still face challenges that go beyond their actual qualifications.
“We know from our research that when seeking executive office, women are held to a different and higher standard, and Senator Warren is a prime example,” said Amanda Hunter, spokeswoman for the Barbara Lee Family Foundation. “She’s arguably had her ‘electability’ and ‘qualifications’ questioned more than any other candidate.”
Polling consistently showed that Democratic voters’ top priority was defeating Trump in November. After Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, the question of “electability” hung over the race, and voters tried to assess the candidates based on who could defeat Trump. For some voters and party figures, that person simply wasn’t a woman.
“The burden on women candidates is because there has never been a woman president,” said Allison. “It felt risky in a whole bunch of different ways, and Warren had to bear that burden.”
She noted that on the other hand, voters were willing to look past Biden’s gaffes, his much-criticized role in the Anita Hill hearings, and accusations that he had inappropriately touched women.
What comes next, now that the 2020 race is just white men
Warren’s onetime rival Senator Kamala Harris said Thursday that this “election cycle in particular has also presented very legitimate questions about the challenges of women running for president.”
“The reality is that there’s still a lot of work to be done to make it very clear that women are exceptionally qualified and capable of being the Commander in Chief of the United States of America,” Harris said, according to NBC News.
The Warren supporters Insider spoke to offered other ways they were moving forward, despite no longer having a female presidential candidate to support.
Litman urged people frustrated with a lack of a female candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket to support women in local and state elections.
Allison said that Biden and Sanders must pick a woman of color as their vice president. “We have to have a balanced ticket,” she said. “The lesson learned from 2016 is that an all white ticket is a loser.”
“I will support whoever gets the nomination wholeheartedly,” Clymer said. “But…the fact that we continue to overlook women and people and color, the fact that we start out with the most diverse presidential field and are now bound to two older white men, that’s not ok.”
“Thanks,” Clymer concluded her interview, “for letting me vent.”