Ever since Elizabeth Warren ended her presidential primary run, there’s been a deluge of articles analyzing what went wrong with her campaign. After all, on paper at least, Warren was the ideal Democratic candidate for 2020: brilliant, capable, experienced, compassionate, and female. She had real policies for fixing many of the problems that plague hard working Americans. She had a plan for everything. And after the near-miss in 2016, America seemed ready to put a smart, capable, qualified woman in the White House.
Political analysts looked everywhere for the reason Warren never placed higher than third in any primary — why she didn’t even win her home state of Massachusetts. Some argued she was doomed out of the gate by the mishandling of her claim of Native American ancestry and by allowing Trump to bait her into taking a DNA test. Others argued it was her public feud with Bernie Sanders over whether or not he told her that a woman couldn’t be elected president. One analysis laid the blame squarely at the feet of her chief campaign strategist Joe Rospars for softening her edges and trying to hide her image as a fighter, arguably her most compelling quality.
But most pundits came to the conclusion that, just like in 2016, the true reason for Elizabeth Warren’s failure was that we just don’t like women. Call it sexism, misogyny, testimonial injustice, or a double standard, the only logical explanation for why, in a campaign that began with a historically diverse field of candidates, the putative Democratic nominee for president in 2020 is an old white man.
But it wasn’t sexism that sank Warren’s campaign. Or Amy Klobuchar’s. Or even Hillary Clinton’s. It was invisibility. Elizabeth Warren’s problem isn’t that she’s a woman per se; it’s that she’s a middle-aged woman. And in our society, middle-aged women are simply invisible.
My 91 year old Aunt Heidi is a big fan of Mayor Pete, and last week in the middle of an engaging chat about his chances of winning the Democratic nomination, she confessed that it bothers her a little when Pete talks about “his husband.” It’s not the fact that he’s gay or that he’s married to a man — that doesn’t concern her at all. And she isn’t like the woman at the Iowa caucus who voted for Buttigieg and then discovered that he was gay and wanted her vote back. But when Pete says “my husband” it confuses Heidi. Shouldn’t he say “my wife”? or does Chasten call Pete his wife?
You can add Attorney General Bill Barr to the list of people happily enabling Trump’s demagogic tendencies. After blatantly mischaracterizing the results of the Mueller investigation, Barr’s most recent move has been to intervene in the sentencing of Trump loyalist, convicted liar, and self-proclaimed dirty trickster, Roger Stone. Barr’s interference has officially ended any pretense that American justice in the Trump era is fair and impartial, or that our criminal justice system is immune from political influence. This move has dramatically undercut one of the foundational tenets of the American system.
Like a crocus tentatively emerging through the late-winter snow, I have begun to awaken from the darkness of Impeachment Season, and as the blustery winds of the Democratic Primaries pummel my delicate spirit I search desperately for some warmth which will encourage me to bloom. Fortunately I see some rays of hope, and I turn gratefully towards them. The hope that I cling to is that, like the long dark winter nights, voter apathy is receding into the past.
This is the week that Donald Trump was acquitted of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress by a Republican Senate so cowed by his bullying that they are willing to empower him to shred the very document that they have sworn to protect and defend. He has now claimed total vindication and is completely untethered from any real or perceived limitations on his self-enriching, autocratic, vindictive tendencies.
It’s the morning after the Super Bowl and as usual everyone’s talking about the half time show (faux outrage!) and the ads (Groundhog day was my favorite). But as usual, they’re not talking about the ad that I want to talk about.
I want to talk about Mike Bloomberg’s ad. Not about Mike Bloomberg specifically; I don’t have much to say about a Bloomberg candidacy. Except to say that I’m not sure that we need yet another old white man with so much money that he can simply write checks and bypass the entire nominating process. But that’s not why Mike’s ad is on my mind.
[January 29, 2020: While watching the sham of an Impeachment Trial today, I was reminded of this post which I originally wrote in 2016, shortly after the election. Sadly, I realized that we are now living in my nightmare scenario.]
I’ve been told that a good way to help with anxiety is to identify in detail the thing you are most concerned will happen. This is the Worst-Case Scenario approach, and the theory is that sometimes specifically identifying what we fear can help us realize that our anxiety may be unfounded. So I challenged myself to name the thing that I am most afraid of regarding a Trump Presidency.
Wherever I go, that’s the question on everyone’s mind. Whether I’m having dinner with friends or out for coffee, whether I’m with one person or with a group, everyone wants to talk about it. Even at work, where politics is taboo, the subject comes up: Bernie or Biden? What about Warren? Some candidates, like Mayor Pete and Kamala Harris were the hot topic for a while, but their stars have begun to wane, as has Corey Booker’s, and Beto O’Rourke’s and many of the rest. No one seems to be particularly excited about any of the possibilities, but everyone is anxious about the outcome.
The overriding consideration in every conversation, of course, is beating Trump. But there’s a whole lot of angst and disagreement about the best way to do that.
Political junkie confession time: I have no interest in watching the debate this evening.
This primary season has been utterly disheartening, as has the political environment in general over the last 3 (or more!) years.
The debates are promoted like sporting events, with splashy graphics and pre- and post-game analysis, because apparently someone has determined that sports is the only thing that Americans can understand. The moderators and the networks are more interested in ratings than they are in helping voters understand the issues. Honestly, how much has anyone learned about any of the candidates in the previous two events? Close to absolute zero, I’d estimate.