By: L. Renee’ Chubb
From my view on the sofa, of the She The People Presidential Candidate Forum. The town hall style event was the first of its kind, a Presidential candidate forum completely hosted by and held for the benefit of women of color.
The entire vibe of the event, as described by POLITICO’s Laura Barrón-López, was “The time for a woman President, is now.” The women of color who packed into a university auditorium delighted in the discourse of candidates who vowed to make Donald Trump a one-term president. Their frustration was just as evident over polling they contended is feeding a misleading narrative that only a white man can defeat Trump.
“With all due respect to the vice president, he hasn’t even announced yet but he’s the front-runner?” Leah Daughtry, a political operative and former Democratic National Committee official who helped organize the “She the People” event, said of Joe Biden. “Racism and sexism are part of the fabric and the fiber and the founding of our country,” she added, “and the way that the [Democratic] candidates are being treated, it just reminds you of that. We’re not past it.”
And then Warren stole the spotlight. After formally answering several questions from members of the audience, on topics ranging from maternal mortality and affordable housing to criminal justice and bank reform as well as a question on Native American tribal sovereignty, Warren was asked a specific question by Joy Reid, the co-moderator, about whether or not the country is ready to let a woman lead as commander in chief.
There were a total of 8 candidates in attendance, there to answer questions and roll out policy in front of an audience of at least 1,000 people. The line up included Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Representative Tulsi Gabbard, former Representative Beto O’Rourke and former housing secretary Julián Castro.
I sat on the edge of my seat, holding my breath as I watched women who looked like me, asking questions that matter to pretty much all of us, of these candidates. Let’s be honest, women of color have been extremely frustrated by the media’s nauseating fawning over the white, male candidates in the early days of the primary-and it’s only likely to get worse with Biden formally declaring.
“We are at She the People, this wonderful organization that is empowering women and women of color, but when I talk with women of color in my own life they’ll say, ‘Wow, that Elizabeth Warren has great plans. She’s got specific plans. She’s got great ideas.’ But there’s a fear a lot of people of color and a lot of women of color that say, after the experience of 2016, they don’t have the confidence in the electorate of this country to elect a woman president,” Reid said. “They want to vote one way, but their fear says that they may need to flee to the safety of a white male candidate. How do you address—?”
Warren gazed out skeptically at the audience.
“I think that’s called side-eye,” She the People founder Aimee Allison stated. “That’s side-eye.”
“So, let me just say this about confidence,” Warren established without confirming or denying the side-eye. Her voice got quieter, drawing her audience in, “This is the heart of it. It’s, how are we going to fight? Not just individually, but how are we going to fight together? Are we going to fight because we’re afraid? Are we going to show up for people that we didn’t actually believe in, but because we were too afraid to do anything else? That’s not who we are. That’s not how we’re going to do this.”
The Political Director of Emerge America, A’shanti Gholar, which recruits and prepares women to run for office, bemoaned that when Warren released her aggressive public lands policy early in April, “the media was focusing on Pete Buttigieg expressing his sadness about Notre Dame in French.” And largely ignored Warren’s policy rollout.
The women present at the event- from vendors, political operatives, democratic voters, activists, and organizers, as well as life-long party leaders- starkly contradicted early polling data showing that Biden and Sanders lead the pack. When reporters like Laura Barrón-López interviewed women after the event, they clearly favored Warren as the stand-out. Why? Because she was the only one who truly showed plans to organize and educate women of color prior, during and after the 2020 election.
Latosha Brown said this of Warren, “When you got a media that’s constantly saying Biden and Beto and Bernie and literally elevating the male candidates, I think that’s going to be reflected in the polls.” Brown co-founded Black Voters Matter, a group that works on mobilizing the black community.
“You have to really point out Elizabeth Warren’s performance here today,” declared Maria Urbina, political director for the group Indivisible, who labels themselves as progressives. “She was specific, she didn’t just rely on her record.”
At one point during her time on the stage, Warren, who has made significant progress among black voters lately, was questioned about how she plans to address people who after 2016 feel they may need to “flee to the safety of a white male candidate.”
“Are we gonna show up for people we [don’t] actually believe in but because we are too afraid to do anything else? That’s not who we are,” Warren said to boom applause. “We got a room full of people here who weren’t given anything. We got a room full of people in here who had to fight for what they believe in.”
So the question is now yours. Are we too afraid to do anything than what we’ve always done? I can’t speak for the men, but I can tell you the majority of women are ready for that change.