The Romanticization of Elizabeth Warren
Groups across the country want to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president, most notably the Ready for Warren PAC, Democracy for America, MoveOn.org and, of course, The Boston Globe, which could not have been more adamant in its support for Warren last week.
These groups want the senator to run against Hillary Clinton for several well-crafted, seemingly nuanced and substantive reasons, including, as Ready for Warren argues: “Democrats want a progressive champion.”
In sum, Warren is a great populist.
Another argument in favor of her bid for the presidency is that Warren “fits the moment,” as Bay Area Democratic donor Guy Saperstein told MSNBC, while Clinton represents old, failed ideas.
In other words, Warren is innovative.
Another argument, this time from The Boston Globe’s much-discussed editorial last weekend, is that Warren’s ideas about income inequality and consumer protection are needed to shape the presidential debate and force Clinton to talk about such issues.
In other words, Warren is a thinker.
If you notice, all of these arguments for Warren’s candidacy are careful to frame her achievements and political traits as the primary, maybe sole, reasons for her to run, to the point where they avoid one glaring reality:
Warren is a woman.
Incidentally, the leading Democratic candidate, Clinton, is also a woman and has become entrenched in the party’s psyche as the woman to beat in 2016.
One must wonder, then: Would there be so much fervor and support for Warren had Clinton not been the glaring front-runner in polls that give her a 60 percent lead ahead of other potential candidates?
To be clear, Warren is formidable, and the widespread support of her is sincere, but there seems to be an element of partiality toward her because of the blueprint set by Clinton.
Notice, for example, that at the same time every group supporting Warren has praised her, they have also positioned her as a direct response to Clinton.
One could argue that the Warren-Clinton comparison is happening solely because Clinton is the front-runner, and every candidate will naturally be compared to Clinton, no matter what. However, the dearth of female choices in politics overall makes that argument difficult to believe; there is value to being a history-making woman president, value to which political parties are not blind.
The deliberate courtship and continued romanticization of Warren, who has said so many times that she will not run for the nation’s highest office, would not exist had there been a massive field of other female candidates running.
Furthermore, the pitting of two lone women against each other so that one can test the other one, or either can test herself, as advocates of Warren argue, comes across as a yearning for an underdog. It also highlights the extent to which presidential candidacy is gamelike and contrived — i.e., “a woman” is running, therefore we need “another able woman” to run against her, even if the latter has rejected the notion on numerous occasions.
And while the groups in support of Warren are noble to highlight her formidability without openly admitting that they are engaging in a woman-to-woman contest, their adamancy about Warren shows how much American politics is about boxes.Whether they admit it or not, the physical representation of one “woman” begets the imagined representation of “another woman” to match — almost at the risk of minority candidates being a fad. Had President Barack Obama been constitutionally allowed a third run as “the candidate to beat in 2016,” for example, there’d be a louder call for, and accordingly a romanticization of, say, a Cory Booker.
It just seems natural, easy, common to match competing candidates by whoever seems to be leading; no doubt the GOP will champion its own “female foil” to Clinton — Carly Fiorina, to be specific.
And, while it is a great sign of progress in the United States that the leading candidate is a woman, and that the current president represents diversity, we cannot deny that we are a gridlocked nation dealing with extreme partisanship, and, as a result, we search constantly for a savior in a box that can be ticked on a government form.
We secretly hope, for example, that a woman candidate would mean a better approach to women’s issues, or that an African-American president would mean a less racially divided nation, and so on.
We have a fantasy of progress through the push for minority candidates that we fail to live up to in Congress and in real life.
In our attempts to match other woman candidates to the leading woman candidate, Clinton, we should not forget to match our everyday lives with our vision for a more diverse presidency.
We should keep in mind that the physical representation of a woman in office does not absolve us from the need to attack our penchant for stereotypes, sexism and lack of political cooperation.
In fact, without a personal, national and congressional change in our attitudes, without a daily practice of combating stereotypes, standing up for the disadvantaged in our actual, lived realities, would a Warren presidency really be that different from a Clinton one?
Sure, Warren’s proponents argue that she would be speak out more strongly in favor of banking regulations than Clinton would, for example, but would her fight with a dysfunctional Congress or voting populace yield markedly different results?
Wouldn’t any future women or “minority” presidents have to meet the same toxic banter of extreme right-wingers and relentless slights against their race and gender?
The ideal leadership is not represented by just the physical symbol of change advocated by various groups, or “the female match to Hillary Clinton,” no matter how complex they try to make it sound. The ideal leadership starts with us. No matter whether we choose Clinton, Warren or even Fiorina, we are in charge of the social culture that brews underneath our idealistic selections for president.Your support matters…
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