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The Smartest Person in the Room

The Smartest Person in the Room

Illustrated portrait of Senator Elizabeth WarrenMy candidate for President just suspended her campaign. I made my decision to vote for Senator Warren well before the first primary. She articulated her plans clearly and of all the candidates, her platform most closely aligned with my own political ideology. That’s how voters are supposed to make up their minds, right?

In 2020, Democrats were offered a variety of options, but rather than making the right choice for themselves, voters appeared to be more afraid of making the wrong choice for America. In exit poll after exit poll, beating Trump was the key factor in their decision-making. Over the past months we’ve had internal conversations. “I really like Mayor Pete, but will America support a gay President? I feel the Bern, but is the S-word too scary? Is a billionaire the only one who can beat a billionaire?” And finally, the big question lurking in the minds of those still traumatized by the 2016 upset, “Can a woman beat Trump?”

Our answers to these questions reveal more about ourselves than our neighbors. In 2008, we heard concerns that America wasn’t ready to support a black President. Folks seemed to be saying, “I’m not racist, but America is.” Then America elected President Obama. And while that certainly did not curb racism in America, it laid to rest forever the contention that only a white man could win. When Hillary Clinton was projected to win the 2016 election, it appeared our country would take another step forward in our collective inclusiveness, but instead we retreated. We elected a miscreant who makes Hugh Hefner look like a feminist.

Scrabble tiles spelling out VoteLiving through three years of the Trump administration has made us fully cognizant of the consequences of elections and we are determined not to underestimate the “base,” as his supporters are so aptly described. Hope and change have been replaced by fear and loathing. I often hear the word “pragmatic” used to defend a willingness among Democratic voters to compromise their values in support of any strategy that promises victory. This atmosphere lends itself to a group-think mentality, and that concerns me. When voters are inclined to let someone else make up their mind for them, we move further away from democracy and closer to authoritarianism.

I called my dad last month to wish him a happy birthday (he turned 84 this year), and while we were on the phone, he asked me who I was voting for. When I told him I supported Senator Warren, he was surprised. He expressed concern about her ability to win in November, citing unfavorable polling data. That got me thinking, “Where did his notion come from?” Of course, she could win, if the people who support her just vote for her. Women won congressional seats across the country in 2018. What exactly was it that made voting for Warren seem risky to so many?

Photo of the White House from the lawnThere’s really only one good answer for that one. I am not sexist, but America is. Pundits have begun postulating why the Warren campaign failed. She has been described as “too intellectual.” Really? After eight years of W, I don’t recall anyone accusing Barack Obama of being too intelligent to be electable. I mean, we all watched The West Wing and fantasized about a President who was the smartest person in the room. Now, we would suddenly prefer someone more “folksy?” She has been described as “too mean” by Trump, a person whose behavior would get him expelled from any Kindergarten class in America. I wonder how many men felt a twinge of discomfort watching Warren expose and dispose of Mayor Bloomberg.

As a 58-year-old white male, I realize I am not the voice of authority when it comes to sexism. I understand that my gender, even in the field of expanded learning which has been pioneered and led by women, has afforded me opportunities of which I am scarcely aware. This is not my burden to bear. But when I heard a young black woman passionately call for more men to “be vocal about their desire to see women in positions of power,” I felt compelled to declare myself an ally of those whose burden it is.

A woman can’t be President of the United States until she can. My son will be old enough to vote in 2028. My sincere hope is that he will cast his first ballot to elect (or re-elect) that woman.

For breakfast, I had black coffee and scrambled eggs.

Author: @steveamick

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