Living in Society

Why Support for Elizabeth Warren Persists

Tomatoes with Bumper Stickers

Now that Elizabeth Warren’s presidential candidacy is gaining traction among Democratic voters, in fund raising, and in a number of political polls, the knives are out.

The arguments against her seem without merit, although, like it or not de-bunked arguments often drive our politics in the 21st Century.

There are two main arguments advanced to harm Warren’s candidacy, the first is she is a woman.

Who will be the first woman elected president? None of us knows the answer and if the results of the 2016 election mean anything, it was a triumph of male dominance and an American patriarchy of moneyed interests that elected our current president. People often say Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate, however, I disagree. Whatever flaws her campaign had, she did the work and won the popular vote. Campaigns are always clearer in the rear-view mirror. If she’d approached a few states differently she might have won the Electoral College as well as the popular vote. There are no do-overs in national politics so the results of 2016 were the results.

I spend part of my time discussing politics with progressive Democrats. What gets said in private conversations is the United States is not ready to elect a female president. In both women and men it is a deeply held belief. My retort is if Democrats don’t run a female candidate we’ll never elect a woman president. Is Elizabeth Warren electable?

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan, a Warren supporter, laid out the argument de-bunking the idea a candidate is “electable” in an Aug. 20 letter to the editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette titled “Electability is a Sham.”

“’Electability’ is not real,” Sullivan wrote. “It is a creation of pundits — pundits whose predictions are about 80 percent wrong. ‘Electability’ can only be measured after the fact — did the person in question get elected? Anyone who pretends to know something about ‘electability’ before an election is simply a fraud.”

It is time for Democrats to get over the idea a woman can’t be elected president by picking the candidate most closely aligned with our values regardless of gender.

The second argument often advanced to damage Warren’s candidacy is she is too liberal, another media-driven piece of buncombe.

I recently had coffee with David Redlawsk, Soles professor of political science at the University of Delaware. According to his official website, Redlawsk’s expertise includes being a political psychologist who studies voter behavior and emotion. He focuses on how voters process political information to make their decisions. He’s teaching this semester at the University of Iowa while studying the Iowa caucus process.

I’ve known Redlawsk since he was treasurer of Democrat Dave Loebsack’s first congressional campaign. What he said over coffee last week was similar to what he said back in 2006. The majority of liberals and conservatives will vote for the Democratic or Republican nominee for president respectively regardless of the nominee. This leaves a small slice, maybe 10 percent, who are persuadable and could determine the election outcome. This is a mainstream belief about elections and while Redlawsk was more nuanced, there is relevance to the 2020 presidential contest.

Enter the media. Over the weekend the Washington Post published an article by Michael Scherer and Matt Viser titled “Uncertainty takes over the lead in the Democratic presidential race.” In it, they quote former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu on Warren:

“She has a plan for everything except for how to beat Donald Trump. That needs to get tested,” Landrieu said. “She says she can do all these things. There’s a thing called political reality. . . Aspiration is wonderful, but you can’t eat aspiration for lunch and send your kids to college on it. That’s a fundamental decision that Democratic primary voters need to make a decision on.”

As Redlawsk mentioned, liberals and Democrats will vote for Warren in substantial numbers in a match up with Donald J. Trump should she be the nominee. Most politically aware voters recall that Barack Obama struggled to get parts of his agenda done despite the brief period when Democrats held a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Whatever plans Elizabeth Warren has, and one of her taglines is “I have a plan for that,” there is a political reality as Landrieu mentioned. That’s not significant because it would be true for any Democratic nominee as it was when Obama won the presidency in 2008.

If someone came up with a reasonable argument when Elizabeth Warren should not be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, I’d listen. In the meanwhile, I’ll persist in supporting her.