During a rather-tamed first Democratic debate of 2020, Sen. Elizabeth Warren side-stepped an obvious trap to spat with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Instead, Warren made a striking statement on behalf of all women running for president — past, present, and future.
This particular debate point came out of news reports on Monday alleging Warren confirmed rumors that in 2018, Sen. Bernie Sanders told her he didn’t believe a woman could become president. Sanders vehemently denied this, pointing to the countless instances where he publicly talked about a woman becoming president, even in speeches dating back 30 years.
“Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States?” Sanders, well, screamed.
He went on to state that if any of the women on stage should win the nomination that he would do everything in his power to support their candidacy and oust Donald Trump from the Oval office. It’s unclear where this left Warren and Sanders given that Warren did accuse him of saying this in 2018, but they also do have a non-aggression pact as two leading candidates in the race.
When the question we were all waiting for did inevitably hit the cutting room floor, Warren opted to do a full pivot, readdressing the issue rather than playing a game of “who said it.”Instead, she brought out one very important receipt: stats.
Since the question of whether or not a woman can be president was raised, Warren said she wanted to tackle it head-on. “The best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump?” she asked, before launching into the most memorable moment of the night. “Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. “The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women — Amy and me.”
After the understandable audience cheering, uproar, and probably a few gasps, Warren went on to state that she was the only person on stage to beat a Republican incumbent in the last 30 years. To this point, Sanders comically brought up a 30-year-prior win, which Warren immediately called him out on, and there was some awkward silence that followed.
Still, to Warren’s point, women are beating men in elections across the country in recent years. In 2019, women held 25 of the 101 Senate seats and 101 of the 435 House seats, according to a Rutgers report. Not to mention, Nancy Pelosi is the first-ever woman Speaker of the House and is second in the succession line to the President. Although women are still the minority in Congress, these numbers illustrate a huge jump from recent years. And they don’t even touch on state legislators or municipal officers, either.
Luckily, Sen. Amy Klobuchar chimed in with some names and facts in support of Warren’s statements. Klobuchar named Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer for beating a republican incumbent, as well as Kansas governor Laura Kelly, who beat Kris Kobach.
“You don’t have to be the tallest person in the room, you don’t have to be the skinniest person in the room, you don’t have to be the loudest person in the room. You have to be competent,” Klobuchar said. She also reminded everyone of her track record in elections: “I have won every race, every place, every time.”
What Warren capitalized on in this spat with Sanders was the fact that a woman’s electability is constantly questioned — even in 2020. The fact is, women will likely continue to face sexism throughout this election, but combating that tired trope is exactly what makes them so electable. Both Warren and Klobuchar were able to diffuse a tired question about a woman’s place in the White House with first-hand proof: they were both the lone election winners on the debate stage.
But perhaps it was Bernie Sanders who made the point best: Hillary Clinton did win the 2016 popular vote, and that in itself proves that a woman’s place in 2020 may very well be in the Oval office.
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