With impeachment proceedings about to begin there are more significant things to discuss than the media-inflated battle between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over whether he told her privately back in 2018 that a woman could not be elected president. Unfortunately it’s causing much consternation in progressive circles and much glee among their moderate competitors.
Sanders denies he said it—she insists he did. One of them is lying, or at best fails to recognize a possible nuance in the statement. I like them both and have no idea who said what, but here is what I believe:
A woman clearly can be elected prez—but based on history involving much of the misogyny we have seen in the electorate, it is a legitimate question that many men and women consider, debate and reach differing conclusions. If one believes it will be difficult, if not impossible, for a woman to win, it does not make one a sexist pig. The issue is how one deals with the conclusion.
Let’s assume for a moment that Bernie actually said it back then. There is no evidence whatsoever that he or his minions have repeated it publicly or otherwise used the idea to discourage people from supporting Warren or any other woman. Therefore I think it was a cheap shot on Warren’s part to bring it up now to use against him. In the long run I fear it will hurt her more than him, at a time it is much more urgent to determine whether a progressive populist can get nominated and beat Donald J. Trump.
If he did not actually say it, I would be bitterly disappointed in Warren–a candidate I have felt close to for months. But we probably will never learn the truth.
As we have seen over and over, identity is not the driving issue in this campaign. Beating Trump is.
Women have not coalesced around any woman candidate, while two who made strong feminist pitches—Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand—were early dropouts. African American candidates failed to win significant black votes while Joe Biden—viewed as more likely to beat Trump—draws nearly half the AA voters and Sanders gets the next largest share. So too with Latinx.
Some might ask whether a professed socialist can win. If you don’t think so, that does not necessarily make you a McCarthyite. If Buttigieg makes a strong showing in Iowa some folks will surely debate whether a gay man can be elected—and that does not necessarily make them homophobes. They are unanswerable questions until history answers them.
Remember–a Catholic couldn’t be elected until JFK did. Needless to say many of us didn’t think an African American could until 48 years later.
Back to the Sanders-Warren scuffle, the upshot of this needless fight is it will be harder for the two to come together in a progressive alliance even without further attacks on each other. They both have the resources to continue and if neither is blown away in early primaries, a contested convention becomes more likely—which helps Biden.