What The End Of Warren's Campaign Means For The Prospect Of A Woman As President
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
This election cycle started out after a record-breaking hundred and three women were elected or re-elected into the U.S. House in 2018 and five female presidential candidates high-fiving in a photo shoot for Vogue the year after. Now there's no woman candidate among the top vote-getting tier of Democratic presidential contenders.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ELIZABETH WARREN: If you say, yeah, there was sexism in this race, everyone says, whiner. And if you say, no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, what planet do you live on?
CORNISH: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren dropped out today. So what did this primary season teach us about the state of things for women seeking the highest office? We're going to hear next from opinion writers - first, Connie Schultz. She joins us from Cleveland.
CONNIE SCHULTZ: Thanks, Audie.
CORNISH: And Mona Eltahawy, speaking to us from upstate New York, welcome as well.
MONA ELTAHAWY: Thanks for having me.
CORNISH: Connie, I want to start with you. Tulsi Gabbard, of course, is still in the race, but I want to talk about what Warren represented. How did you see her goodbye today?
SCHULTZ: Well, I watched it live, and I've been able to think about it for a while since watching it. And watching the coverage swirling around it, I still think what my initial impression was. She was strong, and she was steadfast. She was answering the questions of millions of women and girls who had stood with her and for her. And as I listened to that clip you just played, it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the late African American poet Lucille Clifton. She said, what they call you is one thing. What you answer to is something else. And it's up to Elizabeth Warren to decide what she will answer to now.
CORNISH: Mona Eltahawy, I want to ask you about how Warren embraced her gender as part of her campaign and what the reaction was to that.
ELTAHAWY: Well, I think when we remember how she confronted Michael Bloomberg, we have to acknowledge that she did it as a woman who herself had faced pregnancy discrimination. Nobody else on that stage confronted Michael Bloomberg in that way, and yet when she did that, she had the worst stereotypes of women come out to haunt her. She's too aggressive. She's too this. She's too that. But for me, she was a qualified female candidate who was doing exactly what she should be doing. And I think at the end of this sad day - I haven't endorsed any candidate, but at the end of what I consider a sad day, we have to acknowledge that the United States of America is not ready for a woman president.
CORNISH: At the same time, isn't it saying something that a candidate like Bloomberg could be eviscerated on the debate stage by Warren precisely because of her accusations of sexism?
ELTAHAWY: And it - absolutely, Audie. And I think that's a reminder of why we need every identity possible on that election stage. None of the men brought up the NDAs with Michael Bloomberg. None of the men confronted him and said, you know, it's not just Donald Trump who's the sexist. It's this man right here next to me. And we needed a woman to remind us of that.
CORNISH: Connie, you've written that at your age, quote, "every act of sexism and misogyny is an encore production." What did you see in this primary season that reflected that?
SCHULTZ: Well, as you know, Audie, I'm married to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a colleague of Elizabeth Warren, so I've gotten to know her long before she ran. I wouldn't identify her as a close friend, but I certainly got to know her sincerity and her intelligence. And as I look at what we're learning - yes, she did confront Bloomberg on stage, and - but we also have to look at what the response to that was. And it certainly was not fully in support of her, and the stereotypes and the cliches about women really got rolled out again, which is what I mean when I say there is nothing you can say to me at this age about women that I haven't already heard or already seen. And I'm really tired of this play.
CORNISH: Mona, I just want to ask you one thing - a few seconds left - the response to women who were haunted by 2016 and were afraid to vote for a woman.
ELTAHAWY: I think we have to remember that in the United States, the bar is low enough for men to - for us to ask, who is the best of the worst? And the bar was so high for women, it's almost impossible to qualify. So we have to ask, how low can the bar be for men, and how high must it be for women? It's as high as, can she walk on water? And we have to start acknowledging the misogyny and sexism that is foundational to politics in the United States.
CORNISH: That's Mona Eltahawy, author of "The Seven Necessary Sins For Women And Girls," and Connie Schultz, author of the forthcoming novel "The Daughters Of Erietown."
Thank you both.
SCHULTZ: Thank you.
ELTAHAWY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.