In January 2019, more than a year before the first vote would be cast in the 2020 Democratic primaries, the humor site McSweeney’s published an essay that was narrated by an unnamed husband and father of daughters. The essay’s headline: “I Don’t Hate Women Candidates—I Just Hated Hillary and Coincidentally I’m Starting to Hate Elizabeth Warren.” Its conclusion:
I’d love to see a female President. Just not Hillary Clinton. Or Elizabeth Warren. I am totally open to all other women leaders, but I have to admit that Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar are beginning to make me angry and I’m not sure why yet, but I know the reason will become clear soon …
This was a joke that was also deeply unfunny, and the essay, written by Devorah Blachor, was widely circulated in the year that followed. I saw it pinging around Facebook and Twitter and my group chats, month after month, its URL often punctuated with a 😂 and/or 😭 and/or 😠 emoji—one of those pieces of writing that isn’t shared so much as it is invoked. It was McSweeney’s most-read article of 2019, and for good reason: It captured the despairing absurdity of a situation in which democracy itself is the feminist backlash.
The essay was also prophetic. Over the course of 2019, the slate of Democrats competing for the party’s nomination—the most diverse group of candidates in the nation’s history—steadily constricted toward whiteness and straightness and maleness. The women whose candidacies had once been heralded as new convergences of hope and change (“the new face of the Democratic Party,” went a 2017 assessment of Elizabeth Warren) failed to gain traction. Kirsten Gillibrand left the contest in August. Kamala Harris suspended her campaign in December. Marianne Williamson departed this January. Amy Klobuchar did so on Monday. Warren, after a Super Tuesday showing so unexpectedly poor that it found her placing third in her home state, announced her campaign’s suspension on Thursday. Only Tulsi Gabbard, who has no mathematical path forward, remains in the race.