“I don’t know why anybody goes through all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), visibly irritated. This was last night, and well over an hour into the first event in this week’s debate two-fer on CNN. And while we had to wait for that pitch-perfect line, it was obvious from the start that Warren would not just grin and bear it while men tried to lecture her.
Last night Elizabeth Warren was tired. She wasn’t exhausted or without “stamina,” but she was tired. Tired of waiting for sputtering men to make their small-minded points. Tired of leading questions. Tired of being pitted against a millionaire whose own staffers reportedly asked him to drop out. Tired of parsing what’s possible and reasonable and safe in a country that elected Donald J. Trump. Just plain tired. And so she uttered one simple sentence that seemed to sum up how women trailblazers have felt for decades: I didn’t come all this way to sit here and half-ass it.
On last night’s debate stage, progressive women in America watched 10 presidential candidates enact a one-act drama that seemed to tell the stories of their collective professional lives, as a smart woman faced off against both some qualified peers and a bunch of lesser rivals, smote them all, and then faced a referee who suggested her tactics were “too radical” to win.
Six women candidates are in this race, and no, not all of them are as progressive as Warren. But each of them is prepared to defend her unique vision for a country that badly needs a road map. From Warren to Marianne Williamson (even her!), these women know that opportunities to make a difference are rare and chances for women to be the people to do it are rarer still. Now is not the time to squander that shot.
But the fact that women are even in this race seemed lost on the moderators last night, who utterly disregarded the historic and urgent nature of this election in favor of drawing out minute differences between near-identical men. Instead of giving candidates a chance to outline a holistic vision for America, the moderators forced them to package their ideas in 15- or 45-second sound bites. Instead of asking the candidates to answer questions that progressive voters need to have answered, they seemed more concerned with how Republican viewers would interpret their agendas. And with an unprecedented number of women onstage, they overlooked some of the most critical political, economic, and social issues of this moment that just so happen to overwhelmingly affect 51% of the population.
As Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) pointed out on Twitter, there were virtually no questions about “reproductive rights, paid leave, child care, or how we ensure women and families can succeed in America.”
“We need a president who will prioritize these issues,” she continued, “not treat them as an afterthought.”
Still, despite a lot of manufactured conflict, some truly insane facial expressions from John Delaney, and a baffling performance from Beto O’Rourke, Warren shone. Trust a woman to do her homework. And so while Jake Tapper—like America’s punitive, bespectacled dad—cut candidates off and scolded those who dared to venture overtime, Warren patiently, determinedly made her points and delivered a one-sentence case for a bolder approach to this race. Whether she wins the nomination or not, it’s a message that American women in particular needed to hear. We didn’t get this far to turn back now.
Molly Jong-Fast is the author of three novels. Follow her on Twitter @mollyjongfast.
Originally Appeared on Glamour