For years, women running for office have faced the question of "electability" far more often than men. During her 2020 Democratic presidential bid, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has largely avoided getting into the subject of electability — until now. Just before the Jan. 14 Democratic debate, CNN reported that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders had allegedly told Warren during a private meeting in 2018 that a woman could not win the 2020 election. Sanders has denied making this comment. However, the subject (of course) came up at the Jan. 14 Democratic debate, and Warren's response was note-perfect. Warren's quote about women winning elections is the perfect response to sexism across the board.
On Jan. 13, CNN reported that Sanders and Warren privately met at Warren's Washington, D.C., apartment back in December 2018 to discuss their respective presidential bids. During this conversation, Warren reportedly argued that she would be a strong candidate who would earn the support of women across the country, to which Sanders allegedly responded he didn't believe a woman could win. Sanders has denied this allegation, saying in a statement to CNN that he had said Trump was likely to "weaponize whatever he could" against his opponent, including gender. Warren initially backed up the CNN report by claiming in a statement, "I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."
When debate moderators asked Warren about this exchange during the Jan. 14 debate, however, Warren decided to reframe the conversation. Rather than continue discussing her private exchange with Sanders, Warren tackled the question of women and electability head-on, and made an important point about the election victories she and her fellow candidate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, have achieved.
"Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie," Warren said. "But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on. And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record."
"So, can a woman beat Donald Trump?" Warren went on to ask, adding just a touch of gentle snark. “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.”
Warren also highlighted her record of winning a seat previously held by a Republican. In 2012, Warren won her Massachusetts Senate seat by defeating the Republican incumbent, Scott Brown. "The only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me," Warren concluded. This statement prompted a bit of pushback from Sanders, who mentioned his own election victory against a Republican in 1990, but the two senators largely appeared to bury the hatchet afterwards. “We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party,” Warren argued.
The alleged "feud" between Warren and Sanders dominated many headlines this week, but Warren attempted to go beyond those headlines to talk about a real problem during Tuesday night's debate. During the November 2018 midterm elections, women and people of color achieved record-breaking victories and reclaimed the House of Representatives for the Democratic Party. But when it comes to presidential elections, Democrats and Republicans alike continue to debate whether or not a woman could actually win the presidency. The question of women and electability has become especially prevalent in the era of Donald Trump, with Democrats in particularly worrying Trump would seize on any opportunity to denigrate a female candidate. But Warren and Klobuchar — the only two women on Tuesday night's debate stage — have made it clear a sexist political climate will not stop them from pursuing the country's top office.