What Elizabeth Warren’s loss says about us
Donald Trump has a plan for nothing. So why did voters reject the candidate who has a plan for, well, everything?
In her year-plus on the campaign trail, Sen. Elizabeth Warren met hundreds of little girls and told them the same thing: “I’m running for president because that’s what girls do.” She would then have them make a “pinky promise” to remember that.
Super Tuesday: Live results
On Thursday, after disappointing performances in the early states and on Super Tuesday — including a third-place finish in her home state — the Massachusetts Democrat announced her exit from the 2020 presidential race, according to multiple reports.
But that pinky promise is something that women and girls across the country will remember, even as the White House continues to elude them. One woman — Tulsi Gabbard — is still in the race, of the group of six women once vying for the Democratic nomination.
But Warren, who at one moment was considered among the strongest contenders for the nomination, has dropped out.
Warren, 70, was perhaps the most competent candidate in the race, even if former Vice President Joe Biden is running as the most qualified.
She released dozens upon dozens of detailed policy proposals on a litany of issues throughout her campaign. “Warren has a plan for that” became a familiar refrain.
It set her up as a stark contrast to President Trump and a White House often ridden with chaos.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren campaigning in Detroit, Michigan on March 3, 2020. Scott Olson/Getty Images
Alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren represented the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in the fight for the 2020 nomination. (It’s not yet clear if she’ll endorse Sanders now that she has exited the race.
) She was often integral in shaping the conversation of the race and promised “big, structural change,” telling her supporters to dream big and fight hard for their cause.
Un Sanders, Warren promised not to reject much of the political system altogether but instead to overhaul it from the inside, rooting out the corruption she sees as the cause of so many of the ills of American society today.
“Corruption has put our planet at risk. Corruption has broken our economy. And corruption is breaking our democracy,” Warren told thousands of supporters at a September rally in New York City’s Washington Square Park. “I know what’s broken, I’ve got a plan to fix it, and that’s why I’m running for president of the United States.”
Over the coming weeks and months, there will be much examination of Warren’s presidential bid, what went right, and what went wrong.
As a candidate, she wasn’t perfect, nor was her campaign — the release of a DNA test purporting to show her Native American heritage early on in her bid was objectively a misstep, and in the midst of the race, her decision to get into the weeds on the Medicare-for-all debate bogged her down.
But more than what Warren’s exit says about Warren herself, it’s worth wondering what it says about us.
In the face of a man with a plan for nothing, why not choose a candidate with a plan for everything? Under an administration rampant with corruption, why not elect someone who pledges to purge that corruption? Why have we, yet again, rejected an uber-qualified woman for the highest office in the land?
Elizabeth Warren, lady nerd
During the Senate impeachment trial just days ahead of the Iowa caucuses, many lawmakers made no secret of their boredom with the proceedings. Some of them snuck out to take breaks and fell asleep. Warren took notes, alternating between a blue pen and a yellow pencil.
Warren has worn her nerd identity on her sleeve throughout her career, and she brought it to her campaign.
On the trail, she would joke about “nerding out” on policy questions and often seemed to relish doing a really deep dive into wonky issues.
Beneath the nerd label is an impressive set of credentials that would have given her a unique set of abilities for the job, as Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote:
Warren went from being a public school teacher in 1970 to a Harvard Law professor in 1995. She published The Two-Income Trap in 2004. She was named to the TARP oversight board in 2008. She became director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010.
She won her Senate seat in 2012. And now she’s a few good breaks in the primary away from becoming the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020.
She has had an extraordinary, once-in-a-generation political rise, and it speaks to her once-in-a-generation combination of political talents.
In a society where women and girls often downplay their knowledge in economics and math and are underrepresented in those arenas, it was cool to watch a woman Warren flaunt her skills. And women voters appreciated it: Warren was the only 2020 candidate with a majority of women donors and a majority amount of cash raised from women.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren leaving after the Senate impeachment vote in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2020. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
But her campaign also exhibited the pitfalls of getting too into the weeds and taking “nerding out” to an extreme.
After months of simply saying she was “with Bernie” on Medicare-for-all, she eventually responded to critics pushing for details on her stance.
She put out her own universal health care pay-for and a complete incremental plan on how to achieve it. The decision was criticized by the left and the right.
The ordeal highlights what was a pattern of Warren’s campaign that sometimes hurt her: She was hypersensitive to public criticism and tended to overcorrect in her efforts to ensure her competence. Her responses often earned her more criticism, not less.
Beyond the selfie lines
Speaking to a Republican digital operative in 2019, I asked who among 2020 Democrats they thought was doing something interesting online. I assumed the answer would be Sanders — the prowess of his online army is a well-known fact in current politics — but it wasn’t.
It was Warren and the selfie lines. In taking thousands of pictures with supporters at campaign events that would eventually show up in people’s social media timelines, Warren was creating millions of dollars’ worth of advertising for herself for free.
The selfie lines brought a joyful levity to her White House bid. They were also smart.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren posing for a selfie with a supporter in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 3, 2020. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Warren’s bet was that in being the best candidate and the best campaigner, she would be able to convince enough Americans to back her White House bid. If she tried the hardest and did the most homework, she could rally others around her and win.
The strategy has worked for her in the past, when she won her Senate race in 2012, but there have been times when it hasn’t, not only now but also in 2011, when President Barack Obama declined to nominate her to head the CFPB, the consumer agency she conceived of and built from the ground up.
There’s no clear answer as to why she didn’t succeed and why her campaign, while resonating with millions of voters, didn’t quite get there.
Misogyny is almost certainly an element — many Americans still question whether a woman can win the White House, and thus far, a woman hasn’t.
And Warren’s campaign in some ways exemplified the challenges women face in so many aspects of life: They often have to work harder and gather more credentials to even attempt to reach the same heights as men, and even then, there’s no guarantee of success.
There’s plenty of reflecting to do on Elizabeth Warren’s campaign and what she did right and wrong in her year-plus on the trail. But it’s also worth asking ourselves: Why wasn’t it Liz?
“,”author”:”Emily Stewart”,”date_published”:”2020-03-05T15:50:58.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:”https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/VYes1DMNJOvGxyOQX3yDfmWnR3c=/0x0:3776×1977/fit-in/1200×630/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/19766302/GettyImages_1204962207.jpg”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/3/5/21120368/elizabeth-warren-drops-out-2020-race-bernie-sanders-women”,”domain”:”www.vox.com”,”excerpt”:”Elizabeth Warren has exited the 2020 presidential race.”,”word_count”:1318,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}
Elizabeth Warren drops the 2020 presidential race
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts dropped the 2020 Democratic primary, her campaign announced on Thursday.
“I wanted you to hear it straight from me: today, I'm suspending our campaign for president,” Warren said in an email to supporters. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything you have poured into this campaign.”
“I know that when we set out, this was not the news you ever wanted to hear,” the email said. “It is not the news I ever wanted to share. But I refuse to let disappointment blind me — or you — to what we've accomplished. We didn't reach our goal, but what we have done together — what you have done — has made a lasting difference.”
The Massachusetts senator went on to tout her grassroots support and refusal to cater to wealthy donors and billionaires.
“Never again can anyone say that the only way that a newcomer can get a chance to be a plausible candidate is to take money from corporate executives and billionaires. That's done,” the email said. “We have shown that it is possible to inspire people with big ideas, possible to call out what's wrong, and to lay out a path to make this country live up to its promise.”
Speaking from her home after suspending her campaign, Warren told reporters that one of the “hardest parts” of dropping out was that the Democratic field has narrowed to two men.
“And all those little girls are going to have to wait four more years,” she added.
Warren failed to place higher than third in any primary or caucus so far in the race. In a particularly devastating blow, she came in third in her home state of Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Warren's campaign aides had hinted that she would drop out, with one aide telling multiple news outlets on Wednesday that she would “assess the path forward.”
In a statement, Warren's campaign manager, Roger Lau, acknowledged that the campaign “fell well short of our viability goals and projections” and was “disappointed” in the results from Super Tuesday.
“All of us have worked for Elizabeth long enough to know that she isn't a lifetime politician and doesn't think one,” Lau said. “She's going to take time right now to think through the right way to continue this fight.”
Sticking to one of her signature slogans — “Nevertheless, she persisted” — Warren tried to position herself as a “unity candidate,” with the goal of picking up enough delegates on Super Tuesday to make it to the Democratic National Convention.
But Warren's dismal performance on Tuesday left her lagging far behind the competition in delegates and undermined her campaign's strategy for staying in the race.
Warren greets members of the audience after the Democratic debate at Loyola Marymount University on December 19. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Warren, 70, rose in national polls over the summer and fall, building her support with a policy-focused campaign that appealed to educated white progressives. She was viewed for several months as a frontrunner in the race.
In Insider polling, most of Warren's supporters — about 68% — said their second-choice candidate would be Sanders, so the Vermont democratic socialist is hoping for a boost as Warren leaves the race. But many of Warren's fans also Biden and could shift their support to his camp.
In November, The Times and Siena College released a set of polls finding Warren trailing President Donald Trump by 3 to 6 points among registered voters in three key battleground states — Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida — and tying with the president in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Both Biden and Sanders fared better than Warren in head-to-head matchups with Trump.
Warren ultimately failed to emerge as the top candidate in any one lane. Sanders dominated with progressive voters, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota came out ahead among voters seeking unity, and Klobuchar had an edge among voters looking for a female candidate.
Warren with Reps. Deb Haaland, Katie Porter, and Ayanna Pressley during a campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire. Associated Press
'I've got a plan for that'
Warren ran on a long list of far-reaching, comprehensive policy proposals, including universal daycare, debt-free college, and free public college.
While Sanders made his case for a “political revolution,” Warren, who's described herself as “a capitalist to my bones,” pushed for structural change.
She argued that, un Sanders, she's relatively new to Washington and politics, having run for office for the first time in 2012. At the same time, she also made the case that she knows how to get things done in DC.
Warren emphasized her anti-corruption proposals and said she would have sought lobbying bans for top government officials, new executive-branch conflict-of-interest laws, and a ban on stock trading for members of Congress and other top officials, among other ethics reforms.
But Warren lost some momentum amid questions about her stance on Medicare for All, a healthcare policy that has significant support among progressive voters, which she has hesitantly endorsed.
Warren puts her arm around Sen. Bernie Sanders after introducing him at a rally in Boston on March 31, 2017. Mary Schwalm/Reuters
Sanders and Biden jockey for Warren's backing amid a brutal primary season
Warren and Sanders are longtime friends who have championed the progressive agenda. They made an unofficial pact not to go to war with each other during the primary contest, but that deal blew up amid reports in January that Sanders told Warren during a private meeting shortly before she launched her campaign that he didn't think a woman couldn't win the presidency.
Warren's campaign initially declined to comment on the reports, but the Massachusetts senator later confirmed them, adding that she had “no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences in punditry.”
Still, the development sent shockwaves through the political and media spheres, and the two senators clashed during a debate in Iowa.
But the two campaigns appear to be reconciling. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday evening that top allies and surrogates linked to both campaigns were discussing how to unite their camps and push a common liberal, progressive agenda after Warren's disappointing showing on Super Tuesday.
Insider polling found that of Warren's supporters, 70% would be satisfied if Sanders were the Democratic nominee. Skye Gould/Business Insider
According to The Post, lawmakers who support Sanders' campaign began reaching out on Wednesday to people in Warren's camp to gauge her willingness to endorse the Vermont senator. They also reportedly appealed to Warren's supporters to throw their support behind Sanders as he gets ready to duke it out with Biden in a series of critical primaries.
Biden's camp, meanwhile, has also been in talks with Warren's associates about joining forces if she drops out, The Post reported.
Insider's polling found that 70.5% of Warren's supporters would be satisfied if Sanders were the Democratic nominee and 55.6% would be satisfied with Biden. Conversely, just 15.6% of her supporters said they would be dissatisfied if Sanders were the nominee, while nearly twice that numbers, 27.4%, would be dissatisfied if it were Biden.
Jake Lahut contributed to this report.