On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Lost Her Own State) finally threw in the towel on her horrendous presidential campaign. Contrary to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestions, Warren’s loss had nothing to do with misogyny in the Democratic Party — although it is deliciously ironic to hear Pelosi say such a thing. No, the Massachusetts senator has always been a horrible candidate who failed to appeal to a broad segment of her own party — for good reasons.
Ever since the legacy media decided to actually look at the details of Warren’s pie-in-the-sky plans, the Massachusetts senator has struggled to give a convincing reason why Americans should support her instead of the more radical and more honest Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR).
Warren has always been the Bernie-lite. She has condemned billionaires, championed unions, and supported Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Yet she dissembled from the beginning. While Sanders calls himself a “democratic” socialist, Warren insists he just wants a “better” (read “less free”) form of capitalism. While Sanders doesn’t try to be all things to all people, Warren went out of her way to appear friendly and down-to-earth. While Bernie Sanders is himself, Warren was always trying to be somebody else.
From an early age, Warren milked her family’s legend about Cherokee heritage. She has insisted she never benefitted from posing as Native American, but Harvard touted her as proof of its diversity, she identified herself as Native American in an application for the Texas State Bar in 1986, and she submitted recipes for a Cherokee cookbook.
Only when President Donald Trump called her out on this by referring to her as “Pocahontas” did the Massachusetts senator finally break down and get a DNA test — and the results were notoriously embarrassing.
Yet she managed to make her campaign worse, over and over again. Warren released a cringe-worthy beer-drinking video that showed just how out of touch she is. She falsely claimed that she was fired for being “visibly pregnant.” She promised to let a “young trans person” choose her secretary of Education — and then made grandiose promises about who her secretary of Education would be. Then she accused Bernie Sanders of telling her that a woman could not win the presidential election — an accusation Bernie steadfastly denied and which would have been out of character for him.
Warren also didn’t help her cause by billing herself as the technocratic candidate who always has “a plan for that” and then changing her plans when the press called her out for just how mathematically impossible they are. Andrew Yang may never have had much of a chance at taking the Democratic nomination, but at least he was consistent in his support for math. You can’t be the technocratic candidate and then merely wave your hand and say, “Sure, I’ll give you free health care and education, and I won’t raise taxes on the middle class.”
So Warren wasn’t honest, she wasn’t a true believer like Bernie, and she wasn’t the technocratic candidate she billed herself as. It doesn’t matter if you’ve won the identity politics lottery — if you’re a half-black half-Asian woman, for instance. A candidacy like this is doomed because Americans can’t trust a candidate who repeatedly lies, who can’t make up her mind, and who lacks a clear message for why they should elect her.
Warren made things even worse by refusing to drop out of the race early. She must have had some internal polls that suggested Massachusetts wasn’t going her way, and she must have known that if she lost her home state — the state she represents in the Senate — she couldn’t make the case that Democrats should nominate her to face Trump in November. She not only lost her home state, but she also came in third behind both Biden and Bernie.
Yet Warren didn’t drop out then. She didn’t drop out when her internal polls ostensibly told her she was going to lose — like Amy Klobuchar might have done. She didn’t drop out when she lost Massachusetts on Super Tuesday. No, she waited two days to drop out. Why?
Warren has tried to present herself as the compromise candidate — she has Bernie’s radical policies but a less radical rhetorical style. She banked her candidacy on the idea that the establishment couldn’t stomach Bernie but it could reconcile itself to Bernie’s voters by choosing her. This strategy won Warren The New York Times endorsement, a kiss of death that may have done more harm than good for her campaign.
Yet this mentality may have also led Warren to hope that even if she didn’t win her home state — even if she suffered a humiliating loss — she could win enough delegates to force a contested convention, and then she could pull the strings at the convention to get the Democratic establishment to fall in line behind her.
Democrats detest this kind of slimy shenanigans and Bernie Bros, in particular, despise it. Warren has always been a cold calculating Washington player, and this seems to have been her endgame. That’s likely why she didn’t drop out even when it became clear she had no path forward — and the fact that it is plausible that this was Warren’s strategy all along helps to explain why she never caught on the way Bernie Sanders did.
Warren may have ruined Super Tuesday for Bernie by staying in the race after Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar had dropped out and endorsed Biden. It is feasible that Warren’s presence in the race cost Bernie four states, including Texas. Now the establishment has rallied behind Biden, and he seems the favorite to win the nomination.
Democrats can learn many lessons from Elizabeth Warren — lessons about honesty, the need for a clear message, the errors of excessive pandering, and voters’ distrust of a slimy establishment player, for instance — but one lesson they should not take away from her failure is the idea that voters are misogynistic for refusing to elect a woman. Like so many of the supposedly promising 2020 Democrats, Warren was just a thoroughly bad candidate. Observers need not resort to ridiculous accusations of sexism to explain why she lost.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.