Senator Elizabeth Warren walked onto the Democratic debate stage in Nevada on Wednesday night angry. The third-place candidate was left out of a national NBC and Wall Street Journal poll a day prior, and was ignored when she tried to weigh in on the first question of the evening, which went to Senator Bernie Sanders. When it was finally her turn to speak, she seemed propelled by a kind of righteous indignation that can motivate voters as effectively as it can cripple political rivals.
“So I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” Warren began. “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”
The reaction from the crowd was near-deafening, and before too long Twitter users were comparing Warren to Game of Throne’s Khaleesi. But, predictably, the “women should smile more” crowd also voiced their displeasure with Warren’s demeanor. Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion writer for The Washington Post, said via Twitter: “Mean and angry Warren is not a good look.” And in a since-deleted tweet, Ken Olin called Warren “too nasty.” (He later clarified that “too nasty” was a “very poor choice of words.”)
But angry Warren is exactly who we need in the White House. Unlike the current president, who uses his anger to excuse his verbal attacks on women, black athletes, impeachment testifiers, and anyone else who disagrees with him, Warren uses hers to fight for the people she represents as a Senator — and the people she hopes to represent as president.
If she seemed indignant when she pushed back on former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg’s non-apology for the allegations of sexual harassment in his business, it’s because 81 per cent of women have been sexually harassed in the United States. After Bloomberg hid behind the number of women he has hired, Warren’s response was eviscerating. “I hope you heard what his defense was,” she said. “‘I’ve been nice to some women.’”
When Warren forcefully implored Bloomberg to, on national television, release women from the non-disclosure agreements they’ve signed, it’s because NDAs silence victims of sexual assault and protect men who use their power to abuse others. That includes people like Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, and the current president of the United States of America. “Mr Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those non-disclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?” she asked. Bloomberg said he would not, because they were made “consensually.”
Warren was incensed when she said the Democratic Party wouldn’t beat Donald Trump with “the drip-drip-drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against” because she knows what a man accused of sexual assault, harassment, and rape by over 20 women ascending to the Oval Office has done to survivors. Calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline increased 33 per cent during the 2016 presidential debate after the now-infamous Hollywood Access tape, in which then-candidate Donald Trump was heard bragging about grabbing women by their genitals without their permission. Calls increased 201 per cent during the Kavanaugh hearings, jumped 42 per cent when Trump questioned why Christine Blasey Ford didn’t report sooner, and spiked 53 per cent after E Jean Carroll came forward and accused Trump of raping her in a changing room in the mid-90s.
Warren even used her outrage to stand up for fellow nominee and Senator, Amy Klobuchar. When former Mayor Pete Buttigieg attacked Klobuchar for failing to remember the name of Mexico’s president, Warren asked if she could defend her. “This is not right,” Warren interjected. “I understand that she forgot the name. It happens. It happens to everybody on this stage.”
Unlike her male counterparts — who are too busy engaging in toddler-like Twitter beefs — Warren is using her anger to champion real, systemic change. She is angry because women are angry, Black and brown people are angry, trans people are angry, immigrants are angry — the people are angry. She is angry because she has seen the political upside of women’s anger — in 2018, more women were voted into office than ever before, many of whom cited the outcome of the 2016 presidential election as the reason they ran for office.
And Warren’s unapologetic rage worked. At the end of arguably her most impassioned debate to date, she had raised $2.8 million — a fundraising record for her presidential campaign.
Warren has apologized for her anger in the past. At the end of a debate last December, she said, “I know that, sometimes, um, I get really worked up, and sometimes I get a little hot. I don’t really mean to.” But at a time when women are still told to suppress their anger — to “smile more” and work hard to appear “likeable” and “electable” — we need someone in the White House who knows the power of noble indignation and intends use it; who is capable of knowing when and how to use it, who it should be directed towards, and how it can both protect people and hold those in positions of power accountable.
And we need that anger wielded by a woman who represents and fights for those of us who’re tired of being overlooked, dismissed, ignored, and left out.
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