Last night marked the last Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses next month, and the six leading candidates—including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Vice President Joe Biden—took the stage in Des Moines hoping for a final boost in the polls. The night included several discussions about foreign affairs and health care, but one of the focal points of the conversation surrounded the electability of the people onstage—and, in particular, the electability of women in general.
Tensions rose after the debate turned to a recent CNN report that claims Sanders told Warren during a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the White House, a claim he vehemently denied both in that report and again last night. (A 1988 video of him maintaining a woman could be president has also surfaced). CNN moderator Abby Phillip didn’t ask Warren directly if Sanders had made the comment, but instead asked how it made her feel.
“I disagreed,” Warren replied, but she moved on fast from the particulars of their conversation, pivoting to a larger point about the fact that some still do think women can’t win the Oval Office. She noted that of the candidates in attendance, she and Senator Amy Klobuchar are the two whose records prove there’s no question that a woman can beat Donald Trump. “Look at the men on this stage,” Warren said. “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 [Klobuchar] and me.”
Warren continued, “And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me.”
Klobuchar later used the moment to highlight her own record. “When you look at what I have done, I have won every race, every place, every time,” she said.
Both of their comments reflect the sexism that’s surrounded the political conversation since former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost the election in 2016. There have been constant questions about the electability of women, but people should look to actual studies, as well as performances of politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Particularly in 2018, when women campaigned in droves, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University found that non-incumbent women did better than non-incumbent men in primary and general elections. Apart from that, as the New York Times has observed, studies have shown that when women do run for office, they win at the same rates as men. Warren’s answer makes it clear that it’s time to put the entire question of the electability of women to bed.
“The real danger we face as Democrats is picking a candidate who can’t pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency,” Warren said. “We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party, bring everyone in, and give every Democrat a place to believe in. That’s my plan, and that is why I’m going to win.”