My President was almost Liz Warren

The photo above is Elizabeth Warren telling her staff she would not be named director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on June 21, 2011 (Courtesy of Victor Zapanta).

Being poor, depressed, under-served, underpaid, under-classed makes a person sick. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Put Michael Bloomberg in the shoes of a public servant, a nurse, a teacher, a social worker, a facilities or waste management employee — and you’ll hear a different tune than his remark that “American is a wonderful country.” This is not to say America isn’t wonderful or life isn’t beautiful. This is to say, America does not look the same from a basement apartment, a shelter, a family friend’s couch, a car and gas station bathroom… America does not look awesome from the front of my classroom: where I see 36 kids stuffed in a room meant for 25; where I see kids who haven’t eaten, haven’t been to a doctor, haven’t seen dad because he’s been repatriated despite working hard and paying taxes; kids who’ve been up holding a crying baby because their other parent works the night shift. These kids could be angry, but they aren’t. They are still young — they believe it will all work out. Or could.

I want it to work out. I do. I volunteered for the Elizabeth Warren campaign decisively, thoughtfully, intentionally. Because I thought she had ideas and views that were ideologically commensurate with mine — and the best track record when it came to championing and serving kids and families like mine and my students’. The truth? I did not expect she would be president. I didn’t. I am a woman in the world. I’ve worked since I was thirteen. I know how it is. But another truth: I believed that maybe, given our current socio-cultural-historical moment, there might just be a chance, you know?

Prior to Warren suspending her campaign, the insults started. “Selfish.” “Egotistical.” “Mean.” “Divisive.” “Annoying.” “Silly.” “Nasty.” Any woman who has stepped out of her lane, who hasn’t laughed at derogatory shit along with men, who hasn’t played along to be part of the club, who hasn’t nodded when a man asserts ‘it’s not about the fact that she’s a woman’, who has refused to ‘get on code’ knows these remarks. They are our daily bread. They are utterly predictable and utterly easy to believe. They are consoling, even. It is easy to get mad at a woman. She deserves it. By dint of being a woman. And easier still to get mad at a woman with an opinion. She is a crime against nature.

Today, in a f-book post, Rebecca Solnit writes: “After E Warren explains exactly why the market is crashing, how global supply chains work to create a domino effect that permeates our economy, how economics are also related to the spread of the coronavirus, and how the White House is handling things exactly incorrectly, Rachel Maddow says: ‘It would be amazing if we had a president who understood these things, all at once, and could spout off on them, like off the top of her head with no notes and no warning that I was going to ask you that.’”

Most of us have trouble speaking authentically and automatically. We basically read from scripts. And the line does *not* go like this: “Warren could win. Sanders should have thrown his svengali-like weight behind the candidate eight years his junior, with her slew of victories against entities like Wells Fargo and Mike Bloomberg, with the creation and implementation of the CFPB — “an agency she initially proposed in an article as a law professor more than a decade ago [with] a singular mandate: to stand up for everyday Americans against the financial industry and the banks” (Stewart 2019) in concert with republicans, with the best gun-violence/victim/survivor legislation in the ring, with an immediate and authentic strategy for addressing the Coronavirus pandemic, with a plan for our border staffed with the most experienced and progressive coalition ever seen, with the support and endorsement of national trans community organizers and activists, with the highest rating of any of the democratic candidates from the perspective of racial equity, with education experience and discrimination experience — and a structural knowledge of how to combat that.”

(It wasn’t enough.)

The script went like this: “She should have dropped out/never started and supported Sanders (who I voted for in 2016 and won our state of Minnesota). She should have stuffed her accomplishments and beliefs and vision into her pockets and stood behind him. She should have gone to the border all those times — not as an advocate for the vulnerable — but as Bernie’s surrogate — not her own force of reckoning, with a reputation for persistence and justice, but as ‘Bernie’s wannabe VP.’ She should have lied to desperate people and promised Medicare For All despite the logistical impossibility as Congress currently stands. She shouldn’t have conceded: ‘If we can’t get it passed, we’ll get the public option — we’ll take the win — and we’ll go back to the mat for the next round.’ That wasn’t honest and tactical — that was weak, flip-floppy. She should have simply held her Bernie sign and rolled over. Right? She should have taken the comparisons to Hillary Clinton as a matter of course, as writing on the wall.” OR “She should have gone after Bernie Sanders more.” OR “She should not have gone after Bernie Sanders. She should have embraced Bernie Sanders on stage.”

“It’s almost like she doesn’t care that the only way her agenda will get passed is with Bernie. It’s as if she never really believed in the agenda, and was just pandering.” — US Democratic Socialists

As I scroll through the sludge draining down my various social media platforms, I see many Sanders supporters speaking in the idiom of Trump and I am not here for it: offensive slander, categorical character assessments with no basis, evidence-less critiques of various entities, naive and short-sighted flexing. I’m reading some toxic, hateful, demands towards me and the candidate I believe had the far and away strongest chance to achieve progressive causes. I’m getting the classic “you suck bitch” and “you don’t care about the poor” and “sorry you feel that […] but you picked the wrong candidate — she was too wishy washy.” (No, she wasn’t. She was pragmatic and honest.) I’m a card-carrying member of my local — a union I’ve worked with to try to achieve better health care for our members, a high school teacher, a volunteer, a protester, a Minneapolis public schools site council member, an animal rights advocate, and a leader of several youth movements (coexist club and literary club) in my community. I’m also a parent and partner. I believe in the work. I believe in action. I believe in us. Yet I am hesitant to follow their candidate towards a revolution with no map, no real plan (especially regarding gun violence), shifting goal posts, and — paradoxically — a lot of ego. If demeaning one’s choices/reasons/rationale while tacking on a lil’ snake emoji is the way forward, I’m not along for that ride. It’s tired; it’s gross; it’s used for rhetorical effect, but substantively meaningless. It’s the same kind of demagoguery we decry from Trump and his followers.

“I don’t hate women candidates — those snake emojis were symbols of love and respect for them — I just hated Hillary Clinton, and now I hate Elizabeth Warren.” — Devorah Blachor

I’m sorry you think Elizabeth should have got on her knees. I’m sorry you think she still should. She didn’t. She shouldn’t have to. Neither should I. But I will vote. There is a path forward for any candidate who wants this vote. (Again, I’ve already voted for Sanders and with specific qualifications, I’d like to vote for him again. No pandering, demanding, demeaning, or dehumanizing language needed.) We can do better.

Partner and Daughter walking in Boulder, CO, 2019
The author standing on a rock.
Me on a rock, 2019

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Abbi Mireille Dion

Teacher, Writer, Parent, Sister, Survivor, Spouse, Student. “Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.” — Bruce Lee