Where is the Hype for Liz Warren?

Chantelle Leswell ‘20J

Assistant Opinions Editor

The polls are showing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the preference for democratic candidates lies with affable old white men. While it’s true that as long as Donald Trump is in the White House, the Democrats have a fair reason to want to “play it safe” with candidates who are palatable, we should try to unpack why palatable in the twenty-first century is still old, white men. Why, when we have the most diverse Senate in history, and some of the most vocal women in politics are running for the presidency, is the public still so inclined towards the likes of Joe Biden? Is it couched in a romanticization of times gone by when the White House wasn’t occupied by a tyrannical reprobate, or do people genuinely like Biden’s policies? In light of his campaign launch, which shows him espousing Thomas Jefferson’s “All men are created equal,” there ought to be more of a cause for concern, especially considering he has recently been placed in a long line of powerful men  accused of inappropriate sexual conduct. His “harmless uncle Joe” front is hard to reconcile with the blatant and repeated oversights of his own subjectivity.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Warren brags a host of fully-fleshed out positions that are not derived from or dependent on popularity-contest politics. She shows conviction where others remain silent. She, for example, has been of the most vocal in pressing for accountability with regards to the Mueller report, stating that if anyone else did what Trump has done, they’d be in jail. Shortly after, she called on the House of Representatives to impeach him. Assuming that Liz Warren is one if not the most qualified and prepared Democratic candidate, why is she facing such difficulty in the polls? We ought to consider whether this is driven by thinly-masked misogyny, or if there’s a genuine issue with her or her platform. When Hillary took front and center in the primaries a few years ago, there was a burgeoning need, an almost effervescent drive, to support her in any way possible. Now, I know it’s still in the early days, but the patterns are already emerging in which Warren is presented as a disposable candidate. Like Clinton, Warren has faults, but I struggle to fully understand why the two women have experienced such wildly different public receptions.

Before she was gearing up to run for president, I distinctly remember Warren being admired and notably favoured, at least by the people in my circles. I heard her speak at the Boston Women’s March in 2017 and as much as people were tired, disoriented and struggling to hear, she left the crowd invigorated and inspired. Through a rhetoric rooted in “fighting for a country that works for all,” Warren encouraged the people gathered with her call to action for  “...the power of women to make sure that, as our country enters a new political era, that the voices of the people will be heard.” Listening to the speech again, I firmly believe that Warren’s candidacy is only occurring in direct response to her anger at what the Republican party has allowed to happen with Trump front and center. When she spoke at Holyoke Town Hall last year, she alluded to this anger again, but this time, layed out her plan: “...Tick tock, tick tock. Thirty-eight days until the midterms….I am in this fight to take back the House, to take back the Senate,” with a crowd of around a thousand cheering in the background. The only thing that I can say for sure has changed since then is her claim to Native American heritage which was hurtled into the limelight last year but has been on the periphery of public knowledge since 2012. Following Warren’s public apology to Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, in which she elaborates on her regret surrounding the confusion raised around tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship, CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza, argued that “her path to the Democratic presidential nomination has grown significantly steeper since last October.” This is disheartening to say the least; not because I think Warren was right for touting Native ancestry, but because her multiple and nuanced apologies show a self-reflectiveness and drive for accountability that Trump lacks with regards to… well, everything, and Biden with regards to Anita Hill and the other women he has failed to adequately apologize to.

Warren’s student loan forgiveness proposal has also received widespread attention. In a country that cowers at any mention of socialism, Warren’s bid to even out the playing field is pretty revolutionary. In this age of Trumpism, and with the fact that he will be running again in 2020, I know people are afraid to push the left too far from the center, but Warren’s proposed policies are coming at a time when large-scale change is desperately needed across the strata of economics, the social world and in the environment. When given a platform, she consistently elevates the voices of the oppressed and the struggling in this country. She spoke out about Hurricane Maria, and how the American government failed the people of Puerto Rico. She also spoke  more recently on the need for hospitals to better serve black mothers and address their health in a way that is equivalent to white women’s health treatment in a bid to lower the horrifying mortality rates of black women. She uplifts the voices of people of color, the poor, those whose religion marginalizes them, immigrants, and more often than not, she is addressing women, subverting the notion that men are the expected audience to which we should make ourselves palatable.

While people have the freedom to vote for whichever candidate they feel serves them best, I can’t help but wonder the extent to which voters are influenced by their own, and the media’s implicit bias against certain candidates or policies. That Elizabeth Warren is a woman is not enough to rule her out of the candidacy, but her supremely progressive policies might just be. We see this in how Bernie has tactically watered down his platform since 2016, and we see it in the public perception of her as shrill and ineffectual on the one hand, and overambitious at best, and downright ridiculous at worst on the other. Maybe I’m overextending my analysis, but either way, something isn’t registering with voters that perhaps now is as good a time as any to have a woman president, especially given the ground she is breaking with her ambitious stances and drive to follow through.