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 WarrenHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men 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 ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE, was out of the race within weeks, I am confident a real evaluation of the primary and caucus system will be undertaken. 

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That, however, doesn’t change the fact that the mainstream media never liked Joe BidenJoe BidenWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner 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 KlobucharWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging 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. 

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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 ClintonWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillary Clinton on US leading in coronavirus cases: Trump 'did promise "America First"' Democratic fears rise again as coronavirus pushes Biden to sidelines 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 SandersWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Poll: Trump, Biden in dead heat in 2020 matchup Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on MORE that he is irascible and unlikable. 

It was, too, an issue that affected Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Hillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Democratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging 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 TrumpWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Coronavirus hits defense contractor jobs Wake up America, your country doesn't value your life 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.