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Did The Patriarchy Punish Elizabeth Warren — Or Did She Just Lose?

To hear some people tell it, a loss for Elizabeth Warren is a loss for womankind. Ever since the Massachusetts Senator withdrew her presidential candidacy after finishing third in her home state primary on Super Tuesday, many have described her demise as resulting from dislike and fear of strong women and a victory for the dread patriarchy.

Oddly, nobody says that about Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who'd withdrawn and endorsed Joe Biden only days before. Evidently, some women are more emblematic than others. But hold that thought.

"America Punished Elizabeth Warren for Her Competence," was the title of a fairly typical example by Megan Garber in The Atlantic. A lively stylist, Garber did a terrific job of analyzing what I thought were Warren's weaknesses as a candidate while entirely missing her own point. One Democratic woman she saw being interviewed on TV put it this way: "When I hear her talk, I want to slap her, even when I agree with her." She quotes others describing Warren as "sanctimonious," "condescending," and "a know-it-all."

Yet to Garber, it was Warren's refusal to hide her intellectual brilliance that did her in: "The country still doesn't know what to make of a woman—in politics, and beyond—who refuses to qualify her success." She quotes an Ivy League philosophy professor to the effect that "[m]isogyny is the law-enforcement branch of patriarchy."

Sigh. I see the word "patriarchy," I reach for my revolver. Particularly when it's brandished by somebody a lot higher on the social organization chart than anybody in the unrecorded history of my family.

OK, that's a joke. A famous Nazi said that about the word "culture." I am not a Nazi, and I don't keep a pistol close at hand.

But here's the deal: An American presidential election, for better and definitely for worse, is for most voters an extended TV series. And nobody much is keen to watch "The Liz Warren Show." MSNBC could give her Chris Matthews' old Hardball program, and the ratings would nosedive.

During Warren's epic demolition of a smug and bewildered Michael Bloomberg during the Feb. 12 Democratic debate on NBC, I remarked to my wife "My God, she's a jerk. She's destroying him. But she's hurting herself almost as much as she's hurting him."

I actually used an earthier epithet, which shall remain our little secret. A gender-neutral one, I hasten to add. Anyway, Bloomberg probably deserved it. He certainly stepped into the batter's box without a helmet. But Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum noticed that Bloomberg crashed while Joe Biden soared in voter polls from that point forward. Warren steadily declined.

I've been instructed to leave Diane's own somewhat incorrect reaction to Senator Warren's demeanor out of this column. Her voice! Her antic arm-waving! Suffice it to say that while she and a couple of her girlfriends traveled to New Hampshire to stump for Hillary Clinton in 2016, with one signal exception they did not support Warren's candidacy.

Another friend, an Irish guy from Brooklyn, said she reminded him of the kind of nun who would whack your knuckles with a ruler. And Warren's not even Catholic, although she does appear to have purchased her campaign wardrobe from her local Nuns-R-Us outlet.

Catty and subjective enough for you? Good, because that's how people watch TV. It's an intensely subjective medium. Warren does very well in one-on-one interviews and town hall settings but falls flat on the big stage. Brilliant woman; failed the screen test.

On Super Tuesday, Warren collected 21 percent of the Massachusetts vote, compared to 34 percent for Joe Biden, and 27 percent for Bernie Sanders. She finished a poor third among Massachusetts women too. In the 2016 general election, by way of comparison, it was Hillary Clinton 60 percent, Donald Trump 33 percent.

So don't blame misogyny. Hillary's not exactly Miss Congeniality, yet Massachusetts voted for her. Anyway, Elizabeth Warren's not womankind, she's one woman who ran a fairly incoherent campaign: notably all over the place about her Medicare-for-all proposal and how to pay for it.

I suspect that Warren's being a Harvard professor also had something to do with her defeat. Of course, that could be my own anti-academic bias talking. But her professorial manner didn't help. During the same debate where she eviscerated Bloomberg, she dismissed Amy Klobuchar's health insurance proposal as a "Post-it note." The Minnesota senator bristled.

Even on campus, calling people stupid rarely elicits their admiration. Oh health care, Klobuchar's a pragmatist, favoring an Obamacare public option that's politically feasible, while Medicare-for-All is certainly not—as you'd think Warren's floundering on the issue might have taught her.

Or as Klobuchar herself put it, "You don't put your money on a number that's not even on the wheel."

Had she not withdrawn, I'd have supported Klobuchar, to me the most politically talented Democrat of either gender.

Saturday Night Live Spoofs Fox, Pays Tribute To Sen. Warren

Saturday Night Live opened with an all-cast satire of Fox News Channel and its bizarrely complacent coverage of the lethal coronavirus. With Kate McKinnon starring as Fox personality Laura Ingraham — plus cameos by Jeanine Pirro (Cecily Strong) the Trump brothers (Alex Moffat and Mikey Day), and Chris Matthews (Darrell Hammond) — the cold open mercilessly lampoons the way Fox is misleading its vulnerable audience.

"Americans are not at risk, especially not our viewers who skew elderly, are in bad health, live cloistered together in homes specifically for sick people and have smoked their entire lives," declares Pirro.

The segment concludes with a remarkable surprise appearance by the real Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as McKinnon dons her Warren costume. It's a touching tribute to the Massachusetts progressive and her presidential crusade.

Click and enjoy.

That Not-So-Super Tuesday

Last week, I sat on a stage in front of more than 200 women in Columbus, Ohio, and tried to answer a simple question.

I don't remember exactly how interviewer Angela Pace asked it, but I heard it this way: What do you want your granddaughters to remember about you?

To my embarrassment, my eyes teared up and my voice began to quiver.

It's been such a long three years.

We have seven grandchildren: four boys and three girls. I love them equally, as I made clear that day from the stage. But we were talking less than a week before Super Tuesday, when most political punditry had already congealed around two presumed front-runners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren, the smart, talented, compassionate senator from Massachusetts, was already invisible, right before their eyes. Like millions of other women, I still see her and the hope she always brings with her. It's as bright and crystalline as hydrangeas in the dusk's light, glistening after a soft summer rain.

What do I want my granddaughters to remember about me?

My love for my grandchildren keeps my heart on the brink of combustion, but when I think of Jackie, Carolyn and Ela, ages five, four, and two, something else kicks in; I can't deny it. I'm old enough to know which dreams died but young enough to remember when I thought they defined who I — who we — would be.

I try never to lead with my injuries, but it's one thing to work hard to get over a disloyal love. A heart can heal, after all. It's something quite different when the betrayal never comes to an end.

Once again, it seems, we will have to wait at least another four years to see a woman sworn in as president of the United States.

"It's not because she's a woman," people tell me.

"It's because she's that woman," people tell me.

"It's because of Hillary's loss that it feels like a woman couldn't win," people tell me.

You can tell me and you can tell me and you can tell me — but let me tell you: There's not a lie I haven't heard about what a woman can and cannot do. At my age, every act of sexism and misogyny is an encore production.

Jessica Valenti, a brilliant feminist writer two decades younger than me, wrote this after Super Tuesday, for Medium:

"Even just supporting Warren has come with an unbearable amount of misogynist condescension. I'm tired of being told that I'm a single-issue voter because I care about a candidate's gender, even if it's not the only thing I care about. I'm over being made to feel as if representation for half the population isn't a necessary and radical political position. I don't appreciate being told that I'm either anti-revolution because I didn't support Bernie Sanders or unrealistic because I won't vote for Joe Biden. I especially resent the theory being bandied about that Warren somehow 'stole' votes from Sanders; it's nonsense."

If you had told me 20 years ago that we'd still be having this conversation about the limitations of women, the only thing I would have allowed you was a running start to get out of my way. Our daughters aren't much younger than Valenti, which might be why these words of hers took my breath away:

"Whoever the nominee is, their campaign is going to have to come to terms with the intense misogyny so many female voters have dealt with — and understand that it's an issue we care deeply about. And their supporters are going to have to let us be sad — depressed, even — that once again we're going to watch a race to leadership between old white men."

Will we vote for that nominee? Of course, we will, in droves. We love our country.

What do I want my granddaughters to remember about me?

All those little, big things. How much I loved them. How I kept a book of the smart and funny things they said. How I lined our walls with their photos, year after year.

Still, why did I cry?

Maybe it's because I don't take for granted that I will live long enough for them to have many memories of me.

Maybe it's because I hope that, in their toughest moments, long after I'm gone, my persistent opposition to this president's racism and misogyny will remind them that this is who we are, we women in this family.

Or maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe I cried because I, too, needed a moment to be sad, after all these years.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "…and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

No Winners In Muddled, Chaotic CBS Democratic Debate

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Well, that was a complete disaster.

Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate in Charleston was the last time the candidates would meet on stage together before the potentially pivotal South Carolina primary, and largely because of absolutely dreadful moderation, the whole event was essentially pointless.

I often write up my analysis of debate nights by explaining my subjective perspective about who came out stronger after the debate and who left weaker — winners and losers. But by the midpoint of the debate on Tuesday night, that format looked less and less appropriate. The muddled, confused, and slapdash nature of the event made the candidates all look like they were struggling to get a word in edgewise. They talked over each other. The questions would insubstantial and amateurish (ironically, one of the best questions came from Twitter.) There was no cohesion to the discussion and no internal logic behind which candidate got to speak. And while there were jabs and counterattacks between some of the candidates, the moderators were usually unable to pull the discussions in a meaningful direction.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had some success in getting speaking time through force of will, but the result was such an uneven mishmash of topics and attacks that it’s hard to imagine that she came out ahead.

On a list of losers, the moderators, led by CBS News’ Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, surely come out first. They were the subject of endless scrutiny on social media, including for others in media who know the struggles of the presidential debate format.

“Debates are hard. TV news rivalries are hardcore,” said CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter. “That said, debate pros at other TV networks are exchanging messages calling this a ‘disaster,’ a ‘nightmare’ and worse.”

Errol Louis, a local TV news host in New York City, pointed out that the moderators completely failed to manage the candidates when they talked over each other:

When the candidates start talking over each other, the moderators should:
1) Bring the whole thing to a dead halt
2) Give them an order in which to speak (“you, then you senator, then you Mr. Mayor,” etc.)
Not complicated. You have to keep control.

— Errol Louis (@errollouis) February 26, 2020

The amount of crosstalk resulted in a lot of completely useless airtime. Sometimes it wasn’t even clear who was speaking or who was supposed to be speaking.

Then there was the completely vacuous questioning. King, for instance, let former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg claim falsely that he stopped the city’s abusive policy of stop-and-frisk — in fact, a judge stopped it and Bloomberg fought the ruling, but you’d never know from King’s response. Later, after this lie, she asked Bloomberg a purely factual question — whether life expectancy improved in the city during his terms — instead of presenting the facts about his record and asking him to defend them.

And the moderators seemed completely caught off guard when Warren brought up one of the most dramatic accusations of mistreatment of women that Bloomberg had faced, that he allegedly told a female employee to “kill” the fetus when she got pregnant. By being unaware of this information, the moderators made it seem like Warren was leveling an extreme charge against the former mayor, rather than accurately reporting news reports that Bloomberg disputes.

At the end of the debate, the moderators wasted a bunch of time asking candidates to list a misconception about them and their personal mottos. These kinds of gimmicks always leave primary candidates in a tough bind: Do they stick to the rules and answer the question as straightforwardly as possible? Or do they use the speaking time to launch into their stump speeches? The candidates took different approaches with varying levels of success, but overall the segment was just a huge missed opportunity to discuss substantial issues that impact the country.

Faiz Shakir, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, expressed his frustration with the debate as well:

This poorly moderated debate so far… pic.twitter.com/W6FXEYz8nY

— Faiz (@fshakir) February 26, 2020

Because it was so poorly moderated, the viewers — myself included — must be listed on the “losers” side of the ledger as well. No one looking for substantial debate about policy issues, the upcoming election, or even for the kinds of passionate exchanges about candidates’ histories that we saw at the previous debate was likely to come away satisfied or enlightened.

And then there was the audience in the debate theater itself, which booed and cheered at the oddest times. The audience, or at least some vocal portion of it, seemed passionately in favor of Bloomberg, despite his lackluster performance.

Of course, no candidate running from behind comes away from such a dismal debate as a winner. These high-profile stages offer a rare opportunity to make a splash in a campaign that is usually drowned out by the daily outrages of the Trump White House. But failing to give candidates a decent platform to make their marks is no advantage.

Even Sanders, the frontrunner of the primary, can’t really be said to come out ahead. Going into South Carolina, he certainly has the wind at his back from his successes in the first three competitions. But he faces his biggest challenge yet in the primary on Saturday, because former Vice President Joe Biden has long been positioned for a strong showing in South Carolina.

Recent polls show Biden still with a narrow lead. If Sanders could snatch victory from his chief rival in the state, it would go along way to bolstering his campaign and raising the chances that he could wrap up the nomination sooner rather than later. But if Biden gets a win in South Carolina, it could put a real drag on Sanders’ campaign. And there’s no reason to believe that Tuesday’s debate gave Sanders any additional edge that he is looking for.