The question came on a ranching appeal in April 2019, just months after Elizabeth Warren announced her presidential bid: How would she “respond to the urge to flee to the safety of a white male candidate”?
After a question-and-answer session presenting her plans to combat maternal death, criminal justice, housing, redlining, and tribal sovereignty, that remark came as “a big bucket of cold water,” Massachusetts Senator Ms. Warren writes a new one Treatise on their failed campaign.
“We all knew the fear she was talking about,” she writes. “Could we – should we – support a woman?”
Her book “Persist” examines Ms. Warren’s efforts to address this issue. Received by the New York Times prior to its publication the next week, it provides a glimpse into Ms. Warren’s personal view of her loss – a defeat she attributes in large part to not explaining how she would pay for her health plan Senator Bernie Sanders, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s name recognition – and her own shortcomings.
“There is always another option, a much more painful one,” she writes. “At that moment, I may not have been good enough against this president in this field of candidates to reassure voters, bring in the doubters and encourage the hopeful.”
Determined not to wallow in defeat, Ms. Warren focuses most of the book on her political prescriptions, some of which were passed by the new Biden administration. Reflecting on the racial justice protests that upset the country after the primary, she devotes a significant portion of a chapter on races to her decision to identify herself as a Native American early on in her career – a “terrible mistake,” she says. And she pays a moving tribute to her eldest brother, Don Reed Herring, and attributes his coronavirus death to a government failure last year.
“This book is not a campaign reminder,” she writes. “It is not a repetition of large public events. It’s a book about the battle ahead. “
However, an open discussion about their gender – and the associated barriers – runs through the 304-page book. Although she never directly attributes sexism to her loss, she provides ample evidence that it remained a serious factor in the race. Her book features stories of discrimination against women, telling the struggles of her own career and offering recipes for change such as paid vacation and affordable childcare.
Time and again, Ms. Warren suggests that Democratic voters were cautious about nominating a second woman because they feared another loss to Donald J. Trump. She “had to run against the shadows of Martha and Hillary,” she writes, a reference to Martha Coakley, who lost two statewide campaigns in Massachusetts, and Hillary Clinton.
While Ms. Warren expected to face a certain amount of sexism, her plan was to simply exceed those expectations with a strong team, a vibrant grassroots organization, and numerous political plans.
“I would do more,” she says. “I would fill any room with ideas, energy and optimism. I would hope that being a woman isn’t that important. “
This idea clashed with the reality of competition pretty quickly. When Ms. Warren called donors at the beginning of her campaign, she was surprised at the number of times potential supporters mentioned Ms. Clinton’s defeat.
“I was wondering if anyone would say to Bernie Sanders when they asked for their assistance, ‘Gore lost, so how can you win? ‘I was wondering if anyone said to Joe Biden,’ Kerry lost, so America just isn’t ready for a man to be president, ‘she said when she was in bed after her first day and getting money for garnered her presidential bid. “I tried to laugh, but the joke didn’t seem very funny.”
After her handover as Vice President and Treasury Secretary, Ms. Warren has held back for the past few months, preferring to exert her influence through private conversations with the White House. Her top aids were won over to powerful posts across the administration and on the Democratic National Committee.
She praises Mr. Biden – “a good leader and a thoroughly decent man” – and most of her former rivals throughout the book. An argument with Mr. Sanders – “fearless and determined” – over whether he told her in a private meeting in 2018 that a woman could not defeat Mr. Trump is largely ignored.
But a former opponent gets much more withering treatment. Ms. Warren spends several pages describing her determination to overthrow Michael R. Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor, in a February 2020 debate, “undermining our democracy” by essentially turning the nomination over to the richest man.
Ms. Warren describes herself as “stunned” when Mr. Bloomberg ignored her early attacks: “Like so many women in so many settings, I wondered if he even heard me,” she writes.
Her debating performance was largely attributed to the completion of Mr. Bloomberg’s bid. But Ms. Warren can’t resist mentioning an “unexpected kick” in response to her attacks – a remark that she was too “mean and angry”.
“And there it was, the same damned remark about every woman who ever stood up for herself and threw a punch,” she writes. “Repeat after me: Fighting hard is not looking good.”