Our Fight Is Not OverWhat Will Elizabeth Warren Supporters Do Next?

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (Photo credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

On March 5, following Super Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race for the presidency, joining 24 other Democratic hopefuls. In a Medium post that day, titled “The Fight Goes On,” Warren publicly shared the statement she made to her campaign staff. “When I left one place, I took everything I’d learned before and all the good ideas that were tucked into my brain and all the good friends that were tucked in my heart, and I brought it all forward with me—and it became part of what I did next,” she wrote. “This campaign is no different. I may not be in the race for president in 2020, but this fight—our fight—is not over. And our place in this fight has not ended.”

There’s an increasing acknowledgment that both the primary process itself and the media coverage of it need to be upgraded to reflect the U.S. electorate as it is, rather than how it once was. As s.e. smith wrote for this site in March, “Eliminating caucuses, refusing to let candidates buy themselves into races, and ending the practice by which a handful of small, majority-white states have an outsized influence on deciding the nominee would be better for the party, better for nominees, and better for America.” Many would-be Warren voters are frustrated: Some are electing not to vote at all in the primary, or the general, and many who plan to vote wonder if their votes even count. Some who hoped to vote for Warren won’t get the chance, while many who did now feel as if they voted for a ghost. Warren herself has yet to endorse a presidential candidate, leading to animosity from people on both sides of the Democratic party who—fairly or unfairly—demand that she do so, and quickly.

Now, as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders (and okay, Tulsi Gabbard) remain the only candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, one question is buzzing through much of the political internet: What will Warren supporters do now? I spoke with 15 Warren supporters about how they plan to continue the fight: Who will they campaign for now? How are they engaging with the political process? Do they feel differently about the primary process than they did before? And, of course, the most urgent matter: Who will get their vote in November?

1. Khayla G., a 27-year-old based in Los Angeles

I voted for Warren in the California primary because I thought she was the best choice for president. She’s incredibly intelligent, well-spoken, experienced, had detailed strategies for just about every issue of concern for the country, and always showed a willingness to listen and learn from diverse groups of Americans. I will vote for whomever the Democratic nominee is, regardless [of whether] I agree with them wholeheartedly, because I believe anything would be better than the current occupant of the White House and his administration.

While I live and vote in California now, I’m originally from El Paso, Texas; all my family lives there, so I’ve paid close attention to what’s happening and have given to MJ Hegar’s campaign for Senate. Flipping the Senate is just as important right now [as the presidency], because of the cowardice and complicity of the Republican Party. I respect those who have very strong opinions one way or another, but I think we all have a common goal, so I don’t feel the urge to put my money or energy into campaigning for Sanders or Biden. Since my primary is over and I’ve made up my mind that I’ll vote for whomever gets the nomination, I’m not as invested in the race going forward.

2. Clarkisha Kent, 25, a Black woman and staff writer at Wear Your Voice

I picked Warren initially because she was wicked smart (like really smart) and super intentional about building plans and connections that centered Black female voices and disabled voices. I also felt like she would be able to enact a lot of the policies—if not all, because these are [career] politicians we’re talking about—she was actually proposing. She positioned herself as that detail-oriented.

I will be voting Sanders, universe-willing, as he is the only candidate remaining that shares Warren’s progressive platform and ideas. I didn’t like a lot of the snide shit I saw seconds after she dropped out (“Your candidate is gone, [so-and-so] is the only choice left, haha”), but I also think the…lamenting I’ve seen over Warren is odd and overblown. But my conclusion is that those who love Warren and what [her campaign] stood for should seek to continue to push her ideals. And there’s only one candidate left that fits.

3. Allison, 26, nonprofit administration, based in New Jersey

I wanted to vote for someone with big ideas and a plan to achieve them. Warren piqued my interest during the last election cycle, and I was excited to follow her [in] 2020. While I liked Sanders’s ideas, I had concerns about his ability to work with others—not just across party lines, but within his own party. Warren was more pragmatic and I felt like she could compromise a little if it meant putting us in a better situation than before, whereas Sanders feels all or nothing.

I’m still going to vote. [But] I’m not jumping on the Sanders bandwagon yet, because of Biden’s record with Black voters in the South. I really want to see what efforts Sanders makes to appeal to those voters and what the community has to say about it. I feel like the response right now from [my] friends and acquaintances is very “Bernie or bust,” and it’s alienating no matter how cute or quirky you spin it. If it’s alienating [or] frustrating [for] members of your own party, how do you think the swing voters will feel? If they really don’t like either candidate and go for a third party instead or abstain from voting altogether, then here we go again.

It [would be] an abuse of my privilege as a middle-class, employed, straight, white woman to opt not to vote at the top of the ticket when so many people experience voter suppression and those people are typically directly affected by the cruelty of this current administration.

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4. Anna, 34, a queer white cis woman and librarian based in Boston

I voted for Warren because she was the smartest and most qualified candidate, but also because her policies and her priorities best aligned with mine. Her plans for a wealth tax, universal childcare, and big tech oversight especially appealed to me. Additionally, I loved that she had detailed plans for all her big ideas, and, as a Massachusetts resident, I know that she is effective. I also think she would have been the best in a debate against Trump—just look at how she destroyed Michael Bloomberg.

My plan now is to support Sanders. His policies now most closely align with mine, but I do have reservations about him. I think he won’t fare well in a debate with Trump, and I worry that he won’t support moderate downballot candidates. Additionally, I don’t know how he will carry out any of his plans. That said, I will likely give to his campaign, and I plan to give to other races in key states, especially where a Democrat is challenging a Republican. I try to be involved in local politics, so I will continue to do that.

I think those trying to push Warren supporters need to relax for a few days. One of my friends was doxxed by a Sanders supporter, and it’s been irritating to me to see people say dismissive things like “Wow, sorry someone was mean; we just want healthcare.” A lot of people are feeling very frustrated and unheard. I don’t think Sanders thinks intersectionally; his answer is often to have the same solution for everyone. If that [gives potential voters] serious pause and they need more time to process it, then people need to be understanding of that. Campaigns aren’t all about policy or plans; whomever [becomes the] president won’t be able to pass everything they want. I think it’s okay for people to want to sit and reflect on their personal feelings. I’m focusing here on Sanders supporters because I’ve seen them be more persistent, which I get: Biden is ahead in the polls, and they want to shift the tide. I think the biggest thing is that supporters need to appeal to what we liked about Warren. Don’t be condescending. Don’t be aggressive. Talk to us about plans, policy, and big change.

5. Katie Dohman, 39, a freelance journalist based in West St. Paul, Minnesota

Warren was the most qualified, capable, smart, talented, and empathetic candidate. Her ability to break down complex topics into easy-to-understand soundbites is unparalleled. She is unapologetically a fighter with a variety of background experiences that makes her ideal to lead a progressive future. And yes, it matters [that] she’s a woman. It’s devastating to see this happen—again. I absolutely will vote Democrat for the president, even if I’m not aligned with the final choices in the general. I am very politically active in my city and state, and will continue to support lots of Senate and down-ballot races, as well as progressive initiatives. There are so many ways to make an impact that aren’t the presidential race, and tons of help is needed everywhere.

I think the toxicity of this primary has put Warren and her supporters in a no-win situation [for the general]. I can see legitimate arguments for and against either candidate. I feel no matter who Warren supporters choose—I suspect it will be split—they’ll be pilloried for it. It is playing out all over the place, and it’s a very depressing, disheartening place to be.

6. Crista Anne Carroll, 38, a progressive activist and writer based in Southeastern Virginia

I supported, volunteered, and voted for Warren. She was the smartest, most competent, determined, passionate person running, and would have made the best president. That she is unabashedly feminist and has a compelling biography was also incredibly important to me. It was important to me that a woman beat Trump, and I knew she would. My 7-year-old, who is nonbinary, and I voted for her together on Super Tuesday—an experience I will always treasure.

If I hadn’t had that chance, I would have unenthusiastically voted for Biden because I do not and will not support Sanders. In the general election, I will vote for the nominee and volunteer for get-out-the-vote efforts—I have every cycle since Al Gore—but I’ll be doing so more to get rid of Trump than because [I] personally support the nominee. [Other voters] need to step back and give us space to grieve because Warren dropping out is so much more than just losing a preferred candidate. Sanders people, in particular, need to take multiple steps back because targeted harassment and bullying is not an effective strategy for growing support.

I am a queer, mentally ill, disabled person who lives below the poverty line and doesn’t have the health insurance I desperately need. While Sanders’s platform is much closer to my politics than Biden’s, I do not trust Sanders. I do not believe he is capable of getting any of his platforms into law or making the sweeping changes he proposes into reality. I do not hate poor people, nor do I want the marginalized to suffer because people are mean online. [But] in five years, the toxic element in his supporters [has] only gotten more destructive—and if he can’t manage them, he can’t manage the country.

I need people to respect that I’m just tired of feeling like my only choice is an old white guy.

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7. Natalie, 37, a Master’s of Public Health student, Latina, and mom based in New Mexico

Our primary isn’t until June, but I made the decision to vote for Warren late last year. I supported Sanders in 2016, but felt he hadn’t come far enough on issues dealing with race and white supremacy. Warren is far from perfect, but I felt she was listening to Black women who called her out and met with her, and that went a long way for me. I felt she was trying to move the party and the country to the left with solid plans to get us there.

I will vote for Sanders. Biden is the absolute wrong direction. Elections bring out the passion in those who are deeply involved in political discourse, as well as those who are deeply online. I feel pushing people to support Sanders makes sense because [he and Warren] are aligned politically. But there are facets of the left that engage in harassing and sometimes abusive and sexist behavior—that is intolerable and unfortunate. So that gets very frustrating because they are only pushing people toward Biden.

8. Lauren Harbury, 28, founder of Feminist Goods Co., based in North Carolina

I voted for Warren because she is/was the most qualified candidate. Her experience, intelligence, platform, and plans speak for themselves—and her vision for shaping America is one I would like to see come true. I’m deeply disappointed and saddened that we won’t see her become the candidate. [Now], it’s rally time. Sanders is my next choice. As disappointed as I am, we all need to be out here focused on getting Toupee Fiasco out of the White House. At the end of the day, I will vote for whomever our candidate is. I’m also refocusing on local elections. This is a high-tension time; I wish we could all relax, but that isn’t realistic. That said, everyone needs to respect that it will take Warren supporters a minute to regain our breath. I find it highly unlikely that her supporters will become inactive in the election.

9. Kyle Whitaker, 27, a queer D.C.-based registered Democrat who works in higher education

I supported Warren because she was the perfect combination of realistic and idealistic. Not only did she have big-picture, lofty ideas about ways our country could be better, but she also had detailed, well-thought-out plans to make them happen. More important, she’s the only candidate I saw who seemed to have a real grasp on a lot of systemic issues (e.g., racism) and who was willing to be held accountable by the groups she was advocating for.

I haven’t figured out my plan yet, to be honest. I think I’m going to wait a bit and see if [Warren] offers any sort of endorsement. But I also care deeply about the progressive ideas she put forward, so I’m leaning toward supporting Sanders. I don’t love the idea of him as a leader, but his platform resonates with me so much more than Biden’s. I’m really quite torn at the moment. I’m really frustrated by the ways some people are trying to push Warren supporters one way or another. This isn’t a simple issue, and a lot of nuance is getting lost in what feels like an aggressive, “You’re either with us or against us” narrative. I don’t think it’s particularly effective (especially coming from some Sanders folks who were tweeting snake emojis at Warren supporters just a few weeks ago).

10. Jen Oleniczak Brown, 37, an entrepreneur based in Winston Salem, North Carolina

I voted for Warren for a number of reasons; but above all, [because] she was the best choice. Her policies and plans aside, she is an inspiring, powerful woman who would be an excellent president. After four years of what can be kindly described as embarrassing and truly dangerous, I’m exhausted worrying that the [current] president will kill us all.

As soon as [Warren] dropped out, I signed up to help Sanders. In 2016 I was furious. I still remember being so angry at my husband for the sheer fact he was a man, and [I felt] a sense of paralysis post-election. This time, I’m throwing myself into something else, because I’m not going to sit back and watch the United States put status-quo and “not Trump” Biden up against the racist-in-chief. In the end, I’m going to vote blue—but we deserve better, our friends deserve better, and we need to think about people [who] are more vulnerable than ourselves. I’m a white woman [who] lives in a community full of Trump Democrats and women who think of Warren the same [way they thought of] Hillary [Clinton]: too much, too accomplished, not the ’right’ woman. I’m hoping there are more of us who think otherwise, and I hope they make the choice to change this reality.

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons)

11. Khadija Djellouli, a Middle Eastern/North African woman based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Warren has been on my radar since 2016, when I first started to pay attention to politics, and I supported her ideology and tenacity to fight for the things that matter and fight for people who are most disenfranchised. One of the reasons I supported her [in the primary] is that she had a plan for exactly how she would accomplish her goals to make this country a more equitable place. Additionally, she addressed issues in an intersectional manner, acknowledging that different groups of people [are] affected by each issue in different [ways], and that spoke volumes to me. She truly seemed like she cared about these issues, unlike some politicians who will just say whatever polls well to get elected.

I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do in regard to the presidential election, because I have concerns [about] both candidates. I’m not voting for Biden in the Pennsylvania primary. I have until the end of April to decide what exactly I’ll do, though. For now, I’m going to focus on candidates in down-ballot elections and do everything in my power to help them get elected. This is a really hard time for Warren’s supporters. We believed in our candidate as much as they believe in whomever they’re currently supporting, and they would need some time if the roles were reversed. I guess the only other thing I can say is if they really want to bring people to their movement, be open to criticism, because the backlash about legitimate concerns that undecided voters have make them less likely to join your cause.

12. Angelica Florio, 26, a writer based in Brooklyn

I was planning to vote for Warren because she was the practical answer to Sanders’s idealism, and that spoke to me. I appreciated her detailed plans and platforms, and I thought she had a great campaign. I could imagine her among other world leaders, and she just seemed [like] the perfect person to lead our rehab from Trumpism.

My plan [following Warren dropping out] was to vote for Sanders, but now it seems like he might not have a chance. I will probably still vote for him, but either way I care less now in general, considering that I dislike both of the candidates we’re left with. Sanders aligns with my values more closely than Biden, and I would feel like a traitor to my generation if I voted for the latter. In general, focusing on local politics can be much more fruitful and fulfilling, and [I’m] already part of a few groups that do that.

I’m not surprised by any of the behavior I’ve seen since Warren dropped out. What crushes me the most is seeing the pressure and vitriol she’s receiving to endorse one of the candidates. She really doesn’t need to do that, yet even [New York City] Mayor Bill de Blasio is acting as if she’s ruining the election. If her voice and opinion mattered so much, why isn’t she in the race?

13. Eva Roethler, 32, a creative director based in Sacramento, California

Early on in the primary, Warren was my frontrunner, even though I was a Sanders supporter in 2016. Warren felt like a fresh candidate who still espoused a lot of the progressive values that I care about—most importantly Medicare For All (M4A), since I have a serious muscle condition. However, as the race progressed, Warren seemed to lose steam on M4A while Sanders kept it front and center with urgency. When it came down to it at the polling station, I couldn’t vote for Warren—not only because I need M4A now, but due to the legitimate critiques of her from the Indigenous community.

I would like to see Sanders win the nomination, but I will vote for whomever ends up with the Democratic nomination for whatever small degree of harm reduction it provides [to] marginalized groups. Ultimately, I think a local [electoral] focus goes a lot further. I think it’s important to hold space for the grief Warren supporters are feeling and not be insensitive about the loss they have experienced. However, I hope that Warren supporters can look beyond the cacophonous vocal minority of “Bernie Bros” in the Sanders coalition and realize that Medicare For All is a life-or-death issue. The current privatized healthcare system is a disastrous failure and people’s lives are truly at stake.

I will vote for Bernie. Biden is the absolute wrong direction.

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14. Michelle Blau, a Virginia voter based in New Zealand

We moved back to New Zealand in 2018 to raise our family in a country with good public healthcare and no school shootings. Warren understood and had a vision for the big structural changes that could actually redistribute wealth in America; she has also always been a friend to union members and listens and learns from the smart people around her. I am strongly hoping that Sanders gets the nomination; Biden does not inspire me, and his sexism on the campaign trail is embarrassing. But I’ll vote for whomever gets the nomination because defeating Trump is priority [number] one. The point of [primaries] is to showcase and set priorities, and that process is still underway. I understand why people are trying to influence voters and respect it as part of the process. However, listening to what was important to us about Warren will be much more effective than trying to convince us with pure polling strategy. And I need people to respect that I’m just tired of feeling like my only choice is an old white guy.

15. Claudia W., a 30-year-old based in Phoenix, Arizona

I voted for Warren because she represented the opportunity to build a real coalition across the country through pragmatic, decisive, and clear solutions to problems affecting every American. She saw people [in] totality, not simply as one thing, be it their class status or their race/ethnicity or [their] sexual orientation. She understood that those things are part of us but are not the only things that define our experiences. She built policies around that idea and was not afraid to confront her biases, hear what she didn’t know, and change her understanding of progress in response to criticism. I believed, and still believe, that she could be the remedy to what ails our current politics.

Ultimately, I am inclined to vote for whomever the Democratic nominee is. It [would be] an abuse of my privilege as a middle-class, employed, straight, white woman to opt not to vote at the top of the ticket when so many people experience voter suppression and those people are typically directly affected by the cruelty of this current administration. However, my activism [during] the remainder of this election cycle will transition to local politics, competitive House seats, and taking back the Senate.

It’s amazing to me that so many people are suddenly willing to give credit to Warren and accolades to her supporters now that they need something from her and from us. I find it irritating and, frankly, patronizing. We love women the most when they get out of the way, it would seem, and when they can do something for us. Thankfully, I know that [Warren] won’t get out of the way and won’t be quiet; she’ll push whoever the nominee is and eventually whoever the next president-elect is, and for that I’m grateful.

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by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis is the Senior Editor at Bitch. She has written about culture, identity, and the internet for publications including i-D, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Glamour, Autostraddle, Ravishly, SELF, StyleCaster, The Frisky (RIP), The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. Her literary work, reviews, and interviews have been published in Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, The Offing, and in several other magazines. She is on Twitter and Instagram, always.