Like the first baseman chatting with the player who just hit a single, we’ll never know what that exchange between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren was about at the end of the most recent Democratic primary debate. From all appearances it didn’t look warm and fuzzy. There was no handshake, no body language of ‘we’re all in this together.’ If anything, it looked more like an agree to disagree moment. That may be the best we’ll get at this point.
I am guessing that you know that the entire kerfuffle came about because of a disputed statement, supposedly made by Sanders to Warren, during a closed door meeting. She said he said that a woman can never be president. He is saying that what he actually said is a woman won’t be able to beat Trump. When asked about it at the debate, he denied, while she came up with the line of the night (only the women on this stage are undefeated in elections!). Whichever one of her staffers came up with that zinger should get a bonus.
I am less interested in the he said, she said than in the substance of the claim itself. Actually, both claims. Can a woman be president? And can a woman beat Trump in a general election? The answer to both questions has to be yes. The first one is easy to answer – of course at some point a woman will be president. Many have pointed to the fact that Hillary Clinton had millions of more votes than Trump, despite losing in the electoral college system. That alone indicates that women are very close. It seems (to me, at least) it is just a matter of time.
Which leads to the second question – can a woman beat Trump in a general election? We can’t answer that by returning to Hillary’s simple majority victory. Instead, what we are really asking is can two specific women – namely, Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar – beat the current president in the upcoming election of 2020? You would have to hope so. Both women are intelligent, well versed in the issues, savvy, have a nuanced understanding of and respect for the political system, and are experienced as well. But the real answer is we won’t know until first of all, one of them becomes the nominee, and second of all, the general election results are counted in November of this year.
One thing I can tell you for sure – the time feels ripe for a woman in the White House. Just take a quick glance around at popular culture, always, I believe, a good measure of the general zeitgeist. Little Women has returned as a splendid movie that feels entirely contemporary, with its protagonist Jo March playing as a proto-feminist character. If you watch the Crown on Netflix you are currently seeing a truly spectacular performance by Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth. The series Fleabag on Amazon (via the BBC) has become a sleeper hit with its living on the edge lead character making her life in London. Even the newest Star Wars trilogy focuses on a young woman as its central hero!
You may remember the Star Wars setup line: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
If it can happen there, it can happen here. In fact, maybe it should! We will all know soon enough.
And by the way, can it only be coincidence that the Queen and Senator Warren share the same first name?