Personally, I found her plans appealing, but they seemed very, you know, on brand. Intellectually, I was confident that she was the candidate I’d most like to vote for, but “the candidate I’d most like to vote for” was a bar set familiarly low.
What happened was, I started to root for her in the debates. At first, I considered the other female candidates. Watching the crowded initial debates was, in fact, a little like going to those half-empty bars to see a lineup of 12 different bands, most of whom were playing the same exact shit but then you’d hear a lyric or riff that shot you straight through the heart. I can tell you the line that turned me from a casual listener into a die-hard fan of that one particular band: “I think you just called me a liar on national television.”
Reader, I jumped off the couch. I may have danced.
Warren was responding to a quasi-tiff that was 90 percent media invention and 10 percent eye-rolling “Well, duh”: She had been asked about an anecdote sourced to people close to her campaign, in which Bernie Sanders had told Warren something along the lines of A woman wouldn’t be able to run for the presidency and win (it was never clear what the direct quote was). Asked on the debate stage if the anecdote was true, Sanders said no. Given a chance to respond to their earlier interaction, Warren said (with what I’d consider remarkable restraint), “I disagreed.”
This exchange felt very familiar to me, and, I’m sure, to every woman. The boss takes credit for your idea; you register your complaint. Everyone moves on. A colleague talks over you at a meeting; you point out that it happened. Everyone moves on. A stranger catcalls you; you straighten your shoulders and narrow your eyes. Everyone moves on. I got angry but what are you gonna do?
But Warren didn’t move on. She approached Sanders calmly; she spoke evenly; she didn’t make a demand or ask for anything; she didn’t give him the chance to make a denial. “I think you just called me a liar on national television.”
It would not make as snappy a bumper sticker as “Dream big, fight hard,” but it is the expression of the same idea.
Her masterful kneecapping of Michael Bloomberg was better television, and shortly after, her otherworldly patience with a flabbergasted Chris Matthews was too. She lopped off the career possibilities of both men with surgical precision.
But all I needed to see was Warren standing up for herself when she didn’t know that anyone was watching. Or, more precisely, when she didn’t care who was. She was caught being herself—as authentic and inspirational as any indie anthem. Something about the accidental way the moment was captured made it feel like a discovery too. The flurry of texts with my pals was full of “Did you see that? Did you?”
Then I donated. A couple of weeks later, I tagged along with a friend who was working at the Iowa caucus, and when Warren showed up at the high-school gym we were parked in, I shook off the last remaining vestiges of hesitation and got in that selfie line.