Turns out Joe Biden isn’t the only presidential candidate making tone-deaf comments guaranteed to provoke key Democratic constituencies. Enter Bernie Sanders, who postulated Friday that Elizabeth Warren is gaining on him in part because “there are a certain number of people who would like to see a woman elected.” The idea that Americans—even progressive Democrats—are so eager for the coming matriarchy that it’s an obstacle for a man like Bernie is laughable, and demonstrably false.
According to a Morning Consult poll, Bernie supporters overwhelmingly break for Biden as their second choice. Somehow the woman with whom the Democratic-Socialist senator is ideologically closest loses his voters to the most conservative candidate in the field. Twenty-six percent of Berniecrats told an Emerson poll earlier this year that they would even choose Trump in a general election. Meanwhile, Warren still has to fight to win over voters who should be her natural base: women who say they like her, but worry that she can’t win. This self-fulfilling prophecy was captured in an opinion survey this month conducted by Ipsos for The Daily Beast, which showed that while 74 percent of Democrats and independents say that they are personally comfortable with a female president, just 33 percent say that their spouses and neighbors would be. That means every man in the field has a de facto leg-up by virtue of being male.
Running for president while female is a disadvantage, plain and simple. Suggesting otherwise makes Bernie sound like any other white man complaining about supposedly being passed over for a “diversity hire.”
Warren isn’t gaining on Sanders and even beating him in some polls because she’s a woman, or because the party fix is in for her, as he’s also suggested. She’s just a better candidate.
Take the She the People forum in April where Warren made a splash with women of color by offering a precise and intersectional analysis of their needs. This is where the “I have a plan for that!” meme was born, because every time Warren whipped out another fully funded policy proposal the room erupted. Bernie got booed for answering a question about what’d he’d do specifically for black women with a one-size-fits-all answer. Responding to another question about how he’d combat white supremacy, he even tried to dine out on a decades-old reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The woman who asked about white supremacy, Sayu Bhojwani, later explained to CNN’s Brooke Baldwin that the reason Warren had “won over the audience” was because she “really gave us proof that she understood our concerns, connected her own experience to ours, and most importantly had very specific plans.” Bhojwani also warned that candidates “can’t take voters for granted and assume that we can just talk in platitudes and generalizations.” Instead, Bernie had the bad judgement to actually wag his finger at a room full of informed, triple-prime, Democratic voters who turn-out in greater numbers than any other demographic group.
If you think it’s an unfair example and that any woman would’ve had an advantage over a man at She the People, which was founded to advance women of color in politics, consider that Warren was largely considered the event’s break-out star—even compared to Kamala Harris.
And yet we don’t see Harris making excuses.
The fact is women like Warren and Harris are succeeding in spite of sexism. The very blue Women’s Wave that crashed on to Congress—100 Democrats and 17 Republicans—came months after the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s account of his alleged sexual assault—and two years after a man credibly accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault and harassment ascended to the presidency.
Women are winning by training harder and better than the men they’re up against, to overcome the gender specific obstacles keeping them out. Warren is rising in the polls because she doesn’t take anything for granted, and pumps out bold ideas directly targeted to the prime constituencies necessary to win the nomination. The two men at the top of the polls seem comparatively careless, whether it’s reminiscing about finding common ground with segregationists (on anti-busing legislation!), or shrugging off the succcess of a skillful opponent as a feminist fever dream.
Either way it’s lazy, and if they’re not careful they might get beat by a girl, because to quote Warren: “That’s what girls do.”