Elizabeth Warren Holds a Mirror to Our Failing

Nobody *deserves* to be president. But Warren deserved better than she got.

Elizabeth Warren (Gage Skidmore)

Sarah Thankam Mathews


March 5, 2020


10 min

On Thursday, in a Patagonia puffer the shade of a hard bruise, Senator Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign for president. She was smiling, gracious and grateful to her supporters and staff. When prompted, she registered a degree of wonder at how far the little girl from Oklahoma — the former single mother who had grown up on the “ragged edge of the middle class,” whose lack of affordable childcare almost drove her out of the workforce — had come.

Despite leading in the polls around October, Warren did not win a single Super Tuesday state, finishing third in Massachusetts, where she has been a senator since 2013. Holding on would have meant the slim prospect of a win that would come through a brokered convention, where, if no candidate won a delegate majority, delegates would be freed from voting according to their state results in the primary. Staying in the race would likely have caused real harm to the Democratic Party, already weakened by infighting and factionalism. Dropping out was the right tactical move for the collective party good.

I come to bury Elizabeth Ann Warren, not to praise her. Warren’s life trajectory is the story of the American dream in myriad ways; the political missteps that formed the stairway of her undoing are a microcosm of deeply-held American failings. The single mom went to public university for $50 and ended up a Harvard professor and U.S. senator. The white woman who had heard family lore about their “Cherokee blood” and went on to check the Native American box on census and job applications, leading Harvard Law School to claim her — falsely — as their first professor who was a woman of color. 

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