It has become a maddening refrain, every time she drops a new policy proposal, grounded in a compelling vision for a more just and compassionate country. Thoughtful about race, gender, and class. With the details worked out and the new spending paid for in a fair and progressive way.
Yes, Elizabeth Warren has the best policies, but…
I’m done with the “but.” I’m endorsing Elizabeth Warren for president of the United States.
We all know what’s behind the hesitation: a bias toward male leadership.
I know this well, because it’s something I have personally benefited from at every turn in my career. At age 23, as a straight, white, young man — bright-eyed but without any evident qualifications — I got a great job as the executive director of a not-for-profit affordable housing group. When I ran for the New York City Council, in one of the most progressive communities in the country, I faced eight other candidates. All men.
I’ve tried to put my privilege to good use, as an ally in feminist, anti-racist, and LGBTQ efforts. But I can’t honestly say I’ve grappled seriously with the many ways, subtle and unsubtle, that this bias has benefitted me at every step: in my education, my career, in meetings, in fundraising, in the different expectations for my wife and I, in our domestic life — and most certainly in politics.
Thanks to leadership from the black community, we’ve started — just barely — to reckon with the legacy of white supremacy in the United States. But even with the strength of the #MeToo movement, we aren’t really doing that with gender. There’s little honest reckoning of the cost, or of the ongoing legacy of patriarchy, which is around us in every element of our economy, our health, our homes, and our politics. (It’s worth noting that black women, the most loyal Democratic constituency, bear the brunt of both.)
If you want an example of that legacy, just look at the Democratic primary.
As best I can tell, the argument that we should go with Biden, Bernie, Buttigieg, or Beto (rather than Warren, Harris, or Gillibrand) is that we live in a sexist country where women will struggle to be elected — and since the stakes are so high in the Trump era, we can’t risk it.
I understand why it feels scary to let go of our addiction to male leadership. Why it feels to some that the men are somehow “more presidential.” Why some pundits believe “electability” means someone who appears the least threatening to some of the white male voters that Trump won.
But let’s be clear about the costs of yielding to those feelings — and the victory we would be handing the misogynist in chief whether we beat him or not — by giving in before we even take up the fight. The answer to repression cannot be to accommodate it. The answer is to push forward for a more expansive and inclusive vision of freedom and equality.
When Warren does her pinkie swear with young women on the campaign trail, and tells them she’s running for president “because that’s what girls do,” my daughter Rosa thrills to it. But what’s possible here is something much more than the idea that all of our daughters could believe they can grow up to be president.
What’s possible is a profound victory for the simple but so deeply powerful idea that women are fully and truly equal. That we would be lucky to have women bosses, governors, and presidents. That we will all be more fully whole, more fully equal, more fully human, when we scrub the rot of sexist abuse, assault, belittling, interrupting, grabbing, objectifying, and diminishing of women.
I know that it is possible for men to be exhilarated about the prospect of living in that world. My son Marek and I both would prefer to live in it.
This is not about tokenism. If I weren’t confident that Warren could beat Trump, and that she could do the best job, that victory for equality would not be reason enough in itself. But since I really believe she could — that she not only has the best plans, but would be the best president — it’s an awfully good additional one.
And if you’re like me, you'll love that she sweats the details: of universal child care, the boldest plan for affordable housing, universal free public college and canceling student loan debt, holding the largest US corporations accountable, and renewing serious antitrust enforcement for a fairer economy, taking concrete actions to protect reproductive freedom, debt relief for Puerto Rico, a smart Ultra-Millionaire Tax to pay for the investments she proposes, and much, much more. You can find all of them on her website.
I have enormous admiration for the movement that Bernie Sanders continues to build, boldly shifting what we believe is possible, and mobilizing the power needed for change. As a New York City Council member, I’ve worked enthusiastically with Mayor de Blasio on universal pre-K, affordable housing, and workers' rights, and with Sen. Gillibrand on work/family balance. And as sharply as I’ll criticize Joe Biden in the coming months, if he is the Democratic nominee, I will work hard and vote for him — or any of the other candidates, all of whom would of course be immeasurably better than the vile narcissist in chief, who is doing so much to erode almost every critical institution of our democracy.
But I’m wholeheartedly endorsing Warren. If we organize for her in the coming months, we can help her win. If she elevates with our support and wins the primary, I have no doubt she’ll have the momentum and the courage we need to beat Trump.
We’d not only strike a blow against our bias for male leadership. We’d have a little clearer picture of what a more equal world would look like. We’d also get to help her implement all those plans. And how great would that be, for our daughters and our sons alike?