We should have seen the challenges of Elizabeth Warren's campaign

We should have seen the challenges of Elizabeth Warren's campaign
© Greg Nash

In the sea of post-mortems on Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Warren, Brown voice support for controversial Biden budget office pick Biden's economic team gets mixed reviews from Senate Republicans MORE’s campaign, I have yet to see the central truth of her candidacy mentioned: the media loved her more than Democrats did. 

In the midst of Warren’s surge to the top tier of the Democratic field nationally, becoming the leader in Iowa last summer, I wrote about the implicit racism of the primary system that favors white, liberal constituencies over minorities. We hear what a few hundred thousand progressives think in Iowa and New Hampshire before we scrape the surface of what Latino and black Democrats have to say. 

After the Iowa app debacle and the fact that Iowa’s winner, Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJuan Williams: Clyburn is my choice as politician of the year 'Biff is president': Michael J. Fox says Trump has played on 'every worst instinct in mankind' Buttigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' MORE, was out of the race within weeks, I am confident a real evaluation of the primary and caucus system will be undertaken. 


That, however, doesn’t change the fact that the mainstream media never liked Joe BidenJoe BidenGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Senate approves two energy regulators, completing panel Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race MORE’s candidacy and was always enamored with Warren. With her dismal performance on Super Tuesday, unable to even come in second in her home state, the pundit class has the proverbial egg all over their faces.

Indeed, it comes as no surprise that jaws were left agape when the most reliable voting bloc in Democratic politics — African Americans — turned out in droves for Biden in South Carolina. While black voters have been consistent in their support for the former vice president, the refusal to acknowledge the depth and breadth of his support in those communities of color has been glaring. African Americans have been screaming “Biden” from the rooftops and only a few reporters and commentators have heard their shouts. 

I personally liked Warren’s campaign. It was, admittedly, tailor made for someone like me and I fit squarely in her white, college-educated, female base. I loved that she had a plan for everything, though her health care plan shouldn’t have abolished private insurance. I bought into her “I’m a fighter” rhetoric and I deeply admired her energy and enthusiasm. 

I turn 36 today and couldn’t make it through one day as Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail.

But while all those things are true, they should not have been the dominant storyline surrounding Warren’s candidacy. Her story — similarly to Buttigieg’s and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE’s — should’ve been dominated by their lack of minority support. Not for reasons of neglect or lack of effort. Warren showed up in all the right places and had plans to address racial inequities that were widely praised. 

But she never connected with black voters themselves. In turn, media representation of her campaign was all too often colored by the preferences of the commentator class, not Democratic voters. If coverage were to get negative, it was more often than not shock about why she wasn’t resonating, especially with all her plans and campaign infrastructure. 


A big part of the problem is that the media needs to better mirror the population. Representation matters in all arenas from politics to media to business and beyond. 

This is not to diminish the very real challenges that affected the trajectory of Warren’s campaign. I have been ringing the alarm consistently over the impact of sexism and misogyny on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Katko fends off Democratic opponent in New York race Harris County GOP chairman who made racist Facebook post resigns MORE’s 2016 campaign and it was undoubtedly a problem for Warren as well. Questions of “likability” and “electability” had very different impacts on female candidates than male ones. Look no further than the fact that it is seen as a positive for Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Overnight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Biden faces new Iran challenges after nuclear scientist killed MORE that he is irascible and unlikable. 

It was, too, an issue that affected Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWho will replace Harris in Senate? 'Rising' discusses Wisconsin formally declares Biden won election following recount Moderate Democrats: Everyone's older siblings MORE and I do think it relevant that there has been far less ink spilled on analyzing the impact on her campaign as a woman of color running for the presidency. 

Women are held to a different standard than men. That is indisputable. Two-thirds of Democratic voters believe a man has the best chance at beating Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGeraldo Rivera on Trump sowing election result doubts: 'Enough is enough now' Murkowski: Trump should concede White House race Scott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump MORE in November.

There are also explanations of Warren’s fall from top. Analysts centered on her “riskiness” as a candidate, the “curse of the frontrunner,” her inability to “pick a lane” and how “‘Medicare for all’ wrecked” her campaign, but not Sanders’s.

All these things can be true, and I happen to think they are. But nowhere in those analyses do you see anyone saying, “My bad, we got it wrong.” And by wrong I don’t mean predicting a Warren win but, rather, the breathless fawning over a candidacy that never had the core components to go all the way even when she was on top in Iowa. 

As a member of the media, I’ve certainly thought a lot about how 2016 was covered and how we can learn from our mistakes. I can’t handle another 2016-like shock and, to avoid it, the media and voters have got to get on the same page.

Just like we, by and large, couldn’t see the possibility of a Trump win in 2016, the coverage has relentlessly diminished Biden’s candidacy when all the trappings of a successful run have been in plain view. 

We’re all human and bound to have personal preferences. The key is to make sure that we can still see what’s really going on, despite those preferences, and honestly reflect upon our biases when the outcome isn’t what “makes sense” to us.

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.