Would Elizabeth Warren be More Popular if She Was a Man?
How sex might be playing a role in Warren’s 2020 campaign.
There is no question that out of our vast array of presidential candidates, few are as substantive and policy oriented as Elizabeth Warren. It has become almost a friendly joke among progressive media outlets like TYT that she’s coming out with a new detailed policy proposal or piece of legislation every other day. Most recently, Warren released a plan that would wipe up to $50,000 dollars of student loan debt for households with an income of $100,000 or less. Warren’s plan also came with a detailed proposal concerning how to pay for it, calling for a 2% tax on wealth above 50 million and a 3% tax on wealth above 1 billion. According to The Hill, a significant majority— 64% — of the American people approve of Warren’s plan.
Given that we live in an era where the democratic voters are so clearly in favor of fundamental change, why is a candidate with the most to offer polling below candidates like Pete Buttigieg, who haven’t offered any clear policy proposals yet?
Of course, a significant reason for that had to do with media coverage. And yet Bernie Sanders, a candidate with values almost identical to Warren’s, is consistently polling in first or second. I’m sure much of that has to do with name recognition, but I can’t help wondering if Warren’s candidacy and policy proposals would be taken a little more seriously if she was a man.
It’s no secret that progressive policies aren’t favored or considered practical by the establishment media. On top of that obstacle, Warren has the added layer of sexism that comes along with being a woman working in a man’s world. Male politicians are almost by default considered bold, intelligent, passionate advocates for what they believe in. On the other hand, women like Warren often get dismissed as “nerdy”, too angry, or are subjected to the condescending view by their male colleagues that they just don’t know what they’re doing. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for example, in spite of her consistent substance when it comes to the issues and her popularity among the democratic base, gets dismissed as just a “young bartender”.
The reality is that if Elizabeth Warren was a man, her poll numbers would be higher. Buttigieg is widely considered to be the intellectual in the race, largely due to his Ivy League education and Rhodes Scholarship. Meanwhile, Warren is given little if any intellectual credit in spite of the fact that she is a Harvard Law Professor and leading scholar in bankruptcy law, who was twice recognized by graduating classes for her excellence in teaching. Warren is one of our brightest academic minds, and yet she isn’t given that title the media so readily handed to Buttigieg.
Of course, this reality is not limited to Elizabeth Warren.
While it might be uncomfortable for Republicans to hear, it’s safe to say that Hillary Clinton would not have been as intensely despised by the right wing if she was a man, and the sexism she dealt with was rampant. When it comes to the intersection of obstacles that progressive women of color like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib face, this argument only intensifies and we cannot allow it to go unnoticed.
We should view this 2020 primary season not only as the time to pick our Democratic candidate, but as an opportunity to delve into the inherent issues within our society that our women candidates are facing. If there is anyone who has earned a fair shot and the right for their voice to be heard on the debate stage, it is Elizabeth Warren. Regardless of whether she’s our first choice or not, as voters we must consider all the underlying aspects of what affects her campaign that is not affecting the men.