I didn’t realize how much a woman in the White House would mean to me until November 9, 2016, when I woke up to the devastating news that Hillary Clinton had lost the presidential race to Donald Trump. Like many other Democrats, I took Hillary’s win for granted, thinking her victory was all but guaranteed. I still had so much to learn about politics and how this country really works.
That day, I sat in my apartment and cried. I had to work to bring myself to be able to watch Hillary’s concession speech, her purple pantsuit seared into my memory. I had the luxury of being able to take the day off work, of living in Boston where so many others felt and understood such an emotional reaction. I felt silly, though. It wasn’t the first time I’d cried over election results: George Bush’s 2004 win over John Kerry marked my first angry tears and Barack Obama’s 2008 win was my first experience with tears of joy and optimism. Still, I’m not what I would consider an overly political person—I didn’t canvass or phone bank or organize for the Clinton campaign, and I have a short attention span for political news coverage and discussions. But Clinton’s loss, combined with the sting of Trump’s rise to power, was a cruel 1–2 punch. It gutted me in a way I had never experienced before.
Elizabeth Warren’s Super Tuesday loss feels different. I became a Warren supporter early on in the race. Though I appreciated Kamala Harris’ fire and respect Bernie Sanders’ progressive policies, Warren was always my clear first choice. In the tumultuous aftermath of the 2016 election, when I was among the hordes of formerly sort-of political Americans trying to make sense of our political process for the first time, calling local reps and senators on the reg, I took comfort knowing that Elizabeth Warren was one of my senators. I knew I didn’t need to worry about her votes because she had my back.
Initially, I had concerns about her run for President, because of her outspoken nature and progressive policies. Like many others, I got mired in the “electability” narrative, worrying about her chances of beating Trump in the 2020 race. But the more I thought about it, the more I listened to her statements and read about her “plans for that,” and learned more about her background, I was totally convinced that she was the best candidate in the crowded Democratic field.
As numbers rolled in for Iowa, then New Hampshire, then South Carolina, I was confused. You may wonder, had I not learned anything from the 2016 election? But Elizabeth Warren is likable, accomplished, and has truly worked her way to where she is, in ways that I never fully felt with Hillary Clinton, as much as I believed she would make a good president. Sure, I could understand Sanders’ appeal to voters, and even Biden’s. But why wasn’t she doing better than Buttigieg in those early races? Why were people suddenly talking about Bloomberg as a viable candidate? Why was everyone writing off Elizabeth Warren before the race had even really started?
But I had hope for Super Tuesday. I believed it would be a reckoning, especially after Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out of the race. I believed Super Tuesday would be the day everyone would finally take notice of Elizabeth Warren’s viability as a candidate. In the words of…someone on Twitter: “She’s fucking electable if you vote for her!”
To that end, I did a couple of things I’d never done before: I phone banked and did “visibility”—aka standing outside a polling place with a sign. (I’d also previously made several donations.) In the scheme of things, these were very small steps, but it felt important to me to show my support in a concrete way. The phone banking didn’t go well (the technology was wonky and the only people I spoke with were non-English speakers), but I really enjoyed the visibility work. Of course, it helped that it was a gorgeous day by March in Boston standards, and I stood outside an elementary school with several other Warren supporters, chatting about how strongly we believed in her mission, while the other residents of my VERY progressive neighborhood filed by, many with cheers and thumbs-up to show that they, too, supported Warren.
The sign I held read “Dream Big, Fight Hard.” I’d like to live in a world where this would be enough, but clearly, it’s not. Joe Biden would win many of the states on Super Tuesday, including states he had not even campaigned in. Warren did not take first place in any of the 14 states, including here in Massachusetts, a devastating illustration of all the ways the deck was stacked against her all along.
As this Vox article points out, I recognize all the ways I’ve been living in a bubble—a bubble of highly-educated white people, mostly women. This is Warren’s strongest demographic, and it’s a demographic that is in no way representative of the majority of the voting population. It’s a very privileged group to be a part of. Even so, it hurts to feel ignored, especially as a woman, a (very large) segment of the population that has yet to be represented in the White House.
The Super Tuesday defeat feels different than the 2016 election, in many ways. It still feels very personal—a strong reminder that no matter how hard a woman works, how strongly she fights, how much her values and policies would help this deeply-troubled country, she’s still a woman, and most people, though they’re not likely to admit it, just aren’t comfortable with a woman THAT accomplished, competent, and confident. This sends a very clear message to all of us regular women out here striving, just trying to do our best, who are consistently ignored, ridiculed, attacked, objectified, and disregarded in return. The hardest thing, though, is that it doesn’t feel surprising anymore. I may still have a lot to learn, but 2016 did teach me how to be cynical, how to expect the worst, and how to keep trying in spite of it.