The Democratic Presidential Primary Is a Story of Female Erasure
Two years ago, pundits praised the electoral power of women. Now Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is all but finished.
Now that the dust has settled from Super Tuesday, Elizabeth Warren sits in a distant third. The only other female candidate, Tulsi Gabbard, has absolutely no chance of winning the nomination. The frontrunners, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, are both white men. This primary started with more viable female candidates than any before in history. It was supposed to be the contest that tapped women’s post-Trump rage and activism, the so-called pink wave that elected unprecedented numbers of women and gave Democrats the House. Four years after Hillary Clinton’s defeat, that energy would have another strong shot at finally putting a woman in the White House.
Instead, the contest has shown that while women’s energy, rage, and grassroots activism are essential to Democrat’s success, the party faithful are even more hesitant to back a woman for president than they were in 2016.
Throughout the 2018 midterms, female Democrats did the bulk of the organizing against Trump. They flipped the House blue and ultimately elected 118 women to Congress, an all-time high. Sociologist Theda Skocpol, who traveled across the country to Trump-supporting counties to study post-Trump resistance organizing, calls the post-Trump women’s movement “an inflection point,” wherein “college-educated women have ramped up their political participation en masse.” Female voters were following different patterns than they had in years past — and when that energy was harnessed, as it was in 2018, it had a tremendous impact.
Pundits extolled the power of the pink wave, and, at least in the beginning, it sure seemed like the momentum would carry over into the presidential primary. But soon the women were winnowed out: Kirsten Gillibrand tanked by enraged Al Franken defenders, Kamala Harris subject to death by a thousand cop memes, Amy Klobuchar edged out to make room for Biden. Now we’ve only got Warren still standing, though she too is constantly urged to drop out, including by her rival who has a history of staying in races long after he’s lost.