This week, CNN and the New York Times reported that Elizabeth Warren said Bernie Sanders told her in 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency. Bernie denies this, sort of. What Bernie actually says in his denials is that he never said a woman couldn’t be president.
It’s a slight difference, but a notable one. Plenty of people who believe a woman is qualified to serve as president have doubts that a woman can actually win the election. Why? Because America is still full of sexist jerks who don’t want to see a woman in charge. Some of these sexist jerks are actually women. Some are Bernie Bros.
Sanders might well believe that a woman can be a great president while simultaneously believing a woman can’t be elected. And he may believe that a woman can be elected while also believing that a woman will have trouble being elected this year. I know people who believe these things.
In his denials on the debate stage Tuesday night, he pointed to the fact that Hillary Clinton earned three million more votes than Donald Trump as proof that a woman can win, but he leaves unsaid what we all know: that woman is not in the White House. Thanks to an incredibly flawed electoral system, a few people in a few states can override the will of the larger electorate. I suppose that’s what happens when your system of government is designed entirely by men.
I don’t believe either Sanders or Warren is lying about this exchange. I do think Bernie is parsing his words pretty carefully. I suspect he expressed doubts about a woman’s electability in the age of Trump. I suspect Warren pointed out, as she did on the debate stage, that the same concerns were raised about the electability of Catholics and African Americans and that the Democratic party shattered those doubts. I’ve had these same conversations with people. I suspect many of you have too.
I do believe a woman can be elected. I believe a woman can be elected this year. Trump and his band of merry misogynists have crawled into the spotlight and exposed their hatred to the world. It’s ugly, but also motivating. In 2018, a record number of women were elected to public office. With more women than ever serving in the House and the Senate and as governors and mayors across America, the presidency looks more winnable every day. But we won’t win it by letting the media goad us into petty squabbles.
Elizabeth Warren has proven herself to be resilient, prepared, qualified, and presidential. Frankly, she strikes me as the smartest person in the field of candidates. She is vibrant and her energy seems endless. I’d love to see her win the nomination. I’d dance to the polls to vote for her.
But let me be clear, I’ll be voting for whichever one of these candidates wins the nomination. Even if it’s Biden. Even if it’s Bernie. Even if it’s Mayor Pete. Even if it’s Tom Steyer, with his odd sports metaphors and his plaid ties. I’m not excited about these candidates, but I’ll vote for them. Hell, I’ll drag other people to the polls to vote for them.
We can’t afford four more years of ceding our nation’s power to sexist, racist, and homophobic jerks. So if you’re one of the decent people who wonders if a woman can really be elected president of the United States, stop wondering and start working to build the sort of world where it is bound to happen.
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