What happened to Elizabeth Warren?

I’ve heard about people suffering crushing despair when Elizabeth Warren withdrew from the presidential campaign. I’ve heard about women — mostly women — crying.

I didn’t sink, not exactly. Instead of depression, I felt lowered. And grim.

Everyone I know had ideas about which candidate would be the best president. Different ideas. I’ve heard solid arguments for several candidates, and chagrin at the continuing campaigns of some.

I did not hear much about Elizabeth Warren, and I suspect I know why. I suspect a  massive jinx fear hovered over the entire country: so many people were re-living November 2016, and were afraid even to whisper, “Elizabeth Warren is terrific.”

It is abundantly clear Elizabeth Warren was the best candidate in the race. So much so, I’m not beginning this paragraph by saying, “In my opinion…” She was more than the best candidate; she was an ideal president.

As the campaign went on, I read carps about Warren on Twitter, digs about her in readers’ comments in the New York Times. They were far removed from objectivity, tending toward, “she is annoying,” “arrogant,” “shrill,” “ambitious,” “corporate” (whatever that means; the current vocabulary of name-calling bewilders me no end, seems to have no translation into anything like a genuine critique).

Since Warren was not one of those things, I would blink multiple times as I read these comments. Very quickly, I figured a whole bunch of adults were still having problems with their mommies — problems they should have grown out of by the time they were 30.

But as I watched the numbers on 538.com, I was prepared for what happened, although immensely discouraged by it. In my genetic optimism, I had expected women voters to swarm the polls for Warren, Harris and Klobuchar. I envisioned a women’s march to voting precincts as a way of expressing their (and my) rage over what had happened in 2016. As a furious rebuke to the idea that any man with white skin, no matter how degraded a human specimen, is better than an excellent woman.

What happened to Hillary Clinton was, for me, a monstrous dis. A spit-in-my-face dis. A denial of the persistence of all those women who, for centuries before 1920, worked their asses off and hearts out for voting rights, for equal rights. For respect as equals.

But I was hearing thoughtful women saying that although they loved Warren, they weren’t going to vote for her because they didn’t think she would or could win the primary, let alone the general. Tangled up as this reasoning was, the only argument I could provide was simple logic: she can’t win the primary if you don’t vote for her.

And I watched the primaries and realized they weren’t voting for her. Must say, I cursed them for abject cowardice, for bowing to white males again and again and again.

But mostly, I knew their failure to support Warren in huge numbers was something else: they were terrified there could be a repeat of November 2016, when our whole world turned upside down and fell on us. That trauma, again, when they were not yet over the PTSD of three and half years ago.

Fearful women voters could not face the pain of such a thing happening again. And so they voted, for anyone but Warren.

I can’t yell at them. Although I wasn’t afraid, I do empathize because I have not forgotten what it felt like when the worst thing happened.

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