The Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Meeting
My name is David. I was a paid staff member for President Obama in 2012. At the time, President Obama was the left. I bought into hope and change. I did not truly understand how our political system is designed for the rich and powerful. After the election, I found a home as a Union Organizer with Service Employees International Union. I’ve been there ever since. I like union organizing because members bring issues to you and then you get to work on those problems with them. In politics, you bring ideas to people and hope they sell, that is, unless you’re running for office and understand social movements. What we have seen over the last few days in the Democratic Primary has reminded me of why politicians and their staffers need to change. Here is my deep dive into what happened, or might have happened, between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
I want to start off by saying that the following question is a good one: Can women run for President and win? This should be a part of our political discourse. An answer to the question talking about how women have unseated incumbent Republican men is just fine. What is not okay is if we’re talking about this issue because a man told a woman it is not possible. That man would lose my respect and I hope yours too.
There are a few ways to explain how this question came forward. The first is that we need to cancel Bernie Sanders because he said women can’t be President. The second is that senior political advisers had information of a meeting Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders had in 2018 from the start and had a plan in place to use that information to help their candidate. The third is that an outside source, acting independent of either campaign, leaked the information.
As someone following the election, we were presented with a story where unnamed person(s) said that Bernie Sanders said a woman could not be President. In a statement, the Warren campaign said, “Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.” The statement does not explicitly say that Bernie said a woman could not win.
It is naive to not pretend to understand why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met in 2018. Bernie urged Warren to run in 2015. After he created a movement in 2016, he wanted to finish what he started and run again. This time, however, he wanted Warren’s support. He must have known she had thoughts of running herself. At this meeting do we think Bernie said women can’t run for President? Bernie just lost the Democratic Primary to a woman and watched her win by 3 million votes. Is it possible that Bernie commented on institutionalized sexism? Donald Trump is President. To earn her support, might Bernie have said women have a harder time running for President because of sexism and that Trump knows how to weaponize that. Look, that isn’t a reason for a woman not to run for President but is it sexist? Does it get to bring the attack on Bernie that he is facing now?
But we were robbed of our chance to find out what really happened. The moderators brought it up. Bernie said he did not say women can’t run for President. He gave a great response and pivoted to the video surfacing online of him saying in 1987 that women can be President. The moderator then turned to Warren and asked her how she felt when Bernie said women can’t be President. This is reprehensible. They could have asked her what was said at the meeting, as they had just done with Bernie. They, instead, allowed Warren to answer a perfectly fine question — can a woman be President? But the question was asked under the premise that Bernie has sexist opinions and does not think that is true. Warren took advantage of the moment and knocked her scripted response out of the park. She said that women can run for and win the Presidency. She talked about how she beat an incumbent male Republican. She gave what some will undoubtedly perceive as a feminist rallying call. Why does this matter?
Bernie considers Elizabeth Warren to be his closest friend in the Senate. Well, his closest friend in the Senate isn’t below insinuating that he is sexist even if it’s not true in the name of scoring political points. Whether it was her campaign that leaked the story or not, she is losing in Iowa and needed to do something to make up some ground. She saw her opportunity and did not hesitate. If she cannot rally in Iowa and New Hampshire, she will be facing a very uphill battle. Biden will take some of the southern states. Warren might take a few in the northeast on Super Tuesday, but without Iowa and New Hampshire, the race might become a two way contest between Sanders and Biden. Warren’s base has a lot of college educated white folks in it. Bernie and Warren share similar messaging and a lot of voters like both of them. Warren wants to see if some of those voters will gravitate towards her and used some opportunistic feminism to make her case.
Even if this is some sort of ploy by the media to bring both of them down, Warren did not correct the record. She let this happen and took advantage of it. She is in it to win at all costs. The former political staffer in me thinks that this situation reeks of senior advisers doing what they think they need to do to win. It is disappointing. There are no morals. There are no values. I will say something I have been saying all campaign: ideology matters. Bernie is the candidate furthest to the left, closest aligned with the working class, with the 99%, and not the 1%. Elizabeth Warren does a disservice to social movements when she uses feminism to gain a political advantage in this way. Many people can see through what just happened. Bernie supporters, by and large, do not have a problem with women. They would gladly elect President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Bernie supporters do, however, have a problem with corporations and the 1%. They want a candidate who opposed the Iraq War and voted against Trump military budgets. They want a candidate who is pushing for Medicare for All and for lower prescription prices. They want a candidate who is fighting in coalition with grassroots organizations for a Green New Deal. They want a candidate who has values not because of what a poll says or what a political adviser is saying, but because they have a long history of doing the right thing. They want someone who will fight for government to work for all of us and not just the super rich. They want Bernie Sanders.