Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on March 5 finally put a merciful end to her long-flagging bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. That she was the last of the prominent also-rans to call it a day is no coincidence. The Massachusetts senator initially responded to dismal performances in the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 and then in multiple states covering the full scope of Super Tuesday on March 3 with oddly perfunctory plodding through her standard campaign stump speech. It was as if Warren did not want to accept the harsh reality that voters were inflicting on her. These marked the final awkward moments for a candidate who often didn’t seem to fully grasp the effects on voters caused by the many self-inflicted wounds that marred her uneven candidacy.
Consistent and Persistent Flaws
The first sign of future disaster came in the autumn of 2018 when Warren, weary of criticism on the subject, had a DNA test performed in order to prove her touted Native American heritage. The results proved just the opposite, yet Warren chose to cling to a threadbare narrative of vindication for some three months before eventually apologizing to the Cherokee Nation in early 2019. In hindsight, the incident highlighted several traits that would haunt Warren throughout her presidential run. She was impetuous, she was unmoved by negative reactions to her actions, and she was defiant in the face of unwelcome facts.
The specter of that debacle harmed her as the campaign heated up over the course of 2019, but the foibles and shortcomings of her Democrat rivals did much to help her overcome the controversy. Like many a now-departed 2020 Dem, Warren was even briefly anointed the frontrunner in October based on a sudden rise in the polls in the wake of progressive rival Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) heart attack earlier that month and the continuing stumbles of the establishment top dog and former vice president, Joe Biden.
Assuming this new position at the top of the pack, Warren chose to immediately expose herself to more ridicule. At a nationally televised CNN town hall on Oct. 10, the Warren campaign inexplicably allowed its candidate to field a question from a 9-year-old transgender child. The moment was of negligible political value in a Dem primary that had been dominated by progressive talking points from all aspirants. It could only have proven off-putting to potential voters not already tightly tied to a radical social agenda. Nevertheless, she persisted. Ahem.
Even worse – and in keeping with her stubborn persona – Warren chose to double down on the mistake three months later. Right before the Iowa caucuses were to kick off the primary voting season, and as her progressive rival Sanders was rapidly gaining momentum, Warren announced that the transgender child she had talked with in October would personally vet her secretary of Education nominee. “I’m going to have a Secretary of Education that this young trans person interviews on my behalf,” Warren declared at a forum in Cedar Rapids, IA on Jan. 26. This was a priority she was advancing to voters just as actual balloting was about to kick off?
High Noon in Des Moines
Around this same time, Warren was showing a tendency to lose focus during the endless series of debates held by Dem contenders. At a Jan. 14 debate in Des Moines, IA, Warren came out of the gate strong, scoring points against Sanders and the rest of the field with hearty populist denunciations of U.S. military interventionism abroad and unfair economic playing fields for American workers at home. Instead of pressing her advantage, however, she pivoted into hackneyed swaggering on female political power. The evening quickly deteriorated into syrupy pap from there. Warren had done much to steer it that way.
Later that evening, Warren made her next big, and perhaps in retrospect her most fatal, mistake. In a scene that appeared thoroughly contrived as it was caught on camera, Warren confronted Sanders as the debate concluded and accused him of calling her a liar on national TV. At issue was her claim that Sanders had said to her in a private conversation that a woman could never be elected president in 2020. Sanders easily fobbed off Warren’s ominous Clint Eastwood preening, and from that moment on he took charge in the progressive lane. Warren came off looking petty and obsessed with things other than the issues American voters most cared about.
Another ghost haunting Warren throughout her run was her habit of not telling the truth about seemingly mundane facts in her own personal life. On Nov. 22, Warren was captured on video lying to a charter school advocate in Georgia about her children’s education. Sarah Carpenter told Warren, “I read that your children went to private schools.” The senator replied, “No, my children went to public schools.” In fact, her son Alex had attended expensive private schools in Texas and Pennsylvania while Warren served as a college professor in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Warren also claimed at other points of the primary race that she was fired from an early job because she got pregnant and that her racist grandparents forced her parents to elope due to her mother’s Native American heritage. Both accounts were immediately shown to be highly dubious, the first by her former employer and the second by other family members.
The meaningless personal deceits, inexplicable bizarre pandering on an issue of almost zero political benefit, and an odd recurring tendency to pose as some kind of feminist comic book hero all prevented Warren from pushing her actual policy stances to the fore.
Looking back, it would appear clear that Warren’s campaign got too caught up in her own individual persona. Perhaps she was the most prominent member of the crowded 2020 Dem field to fall into the Obama-esque trap of believing that her very presence as a woman on the big stage made her a transformative figure on the American landscape.
Whatever the case, the tough-talking economic progressive too often veered away from the issues that first got her elected to the Senate in 2012 and gave voters not already fixated on electing the first female president in U.S. history little reason to climb on her bandwagon. In the end, Elizabeth Warren’s biggest roadblock wasn’t some mythical glass ceiling. It was Elizabeth Warren.
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