Commentary: Goodbye, Elizabeth Warren


Photo credit: Kathy Fang, Harper Aquilla

2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren holds a rally in Oakland in May 2019. Warren was the final major female candidate left standing in the 2020 Democratic primary but dropped out of the race Thursday morning.

When I got the New York Times push notification Thursday morning that Senator Elizabeth Warren had decided to suspend her campaign, I wasn’t surprised. After disappointing levels of support in the early primaries in Super Tuesday including a third-place finish in her home state of Massachusetts, her exit from the race seemed like a given.

So why did reading her campaign suspension speech bring me to tears?

There’s something heartbreaking about watching a fiercely intelligent, passionate, earnest and extremely qualified woman fall from a front-runner to an afterthought. There’s something heartbreaking about watching the master orator who dismantled a billionaire’s campaign on national television realize that even her brilliance is not enough. And there’s something heartbreaking about realizing that sexism is alive and well and that you played a part in it.

I told myself that Warren wasn’t my candidate of choice because she was too radical, but I never gave her a fair shot. I couldn’t let myself believe she might win. She reminded me too much of Hillary Clinton. On the night of November 8, 2016, I vowed that I would not underestimate the power of misogyny again. So when the primary season started, I guarded my heart against Warren. I thought believing in her would lead to four more years of bitter division and international humiliation at the hands of Donald Trump. I couldn’t bring myself to hope that we, as Americans, could be better.

Now, I worry I was wrong. Did I contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy? I would not allow myself to believe Warren was electable, so I failed to contribute to efforts that might get her elected. While I was not old enough to vote in the primary, I could have done something. Instead, I sat at home, paralyzed by my own fear.

Last summer, a survey found that when Democratic voters were asked which candidate they would make the nominee that day, they chose Joe Biden. When asked which candidate they would make the president with a wave of a magic wand, they picked Elizabeth Warren. Perhaps the Democratic Party could not bring itself to support Elizabeth Warren simply because it did not think it could bring itself to support Elizabeth Warren.

I’m still not sure whether telling myself that Warren stood a chance would have made her my top choice candidate. But I should have given myself the opportunity to figure that out.

So where do we go from here? As focus shifts to the Sanders-Biden race, I propose that we take a moment to heed Warren’s final words to her supporters. The candidate told the story of meeting a mother with two daughters on Tuesday. The mother recounted the family’s nighttime ritual, which Warren connected to the ongoing call to fight for change.

“After the kids have brushed their teeth and read books and gotten that last sip of water and done all the other bedtime routines, they do one last thing before the two little ones go to sleep,” she said. “Mama leans over them and whispers, ‘Dream big.’ And the children together reply, ‘Fight hard.’ Our work continues, the fight goes on, and big dreams never die.”

Sometimes, the hardest battle to win is the one against your own fear. So next time, I hope I have the courage to do what those little girls already know to do: dream big and fight hard for the world I want to live in, a world where my country is led by a woman.