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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Warren's campaign may have tailed off, but it touched many lives along the way

What Warren's presidency would have meant to me

It's the afternoon after Super Tuesday (Regular Wednesday?) and the sun is shining determinedly in the sky. Days like today are usually welcome after the gray monotony that is February. But today, I feel less than sunny. 

If she hasn’t by the time this op-ed is published, Senator Elizabeth Warren is likely to drop out of the 2020 presidential election at any moment. I keep waiting for my phone to blow up with notifications one after another, and then I’ll know: it’s over. 

I have to confess something before I go any further. Way back when this race first started I supported Senator Kamala Harris, and I assumed I would do so until the end of the race. I did not foresee the issues that her campaign would face. You would think that I would then be more careful in choosing my second candidate, but I was not. But… Why should I have been?

Today, on the hellscape that is Twitter.com, people are calling Elizabeth Warren the best presidential candidate of our lifetime. And there is a damn good chance that they could be right. Warren seemed to have it all: a legacy of experience in the Senate, a plan whipped out of her back pocket for every situation,  a Republican party past that could appeal to moderates and maybe even Republicans themselves, the ability to connect with voters that Hillary Clinton seemed to lack. People were excited about this candidate in a way that I have not seen before, having been young during the Obama era. So excited  that they waited in lines thousands of people long just to take a selfie with her - to spend thirty seconds in the presence of this incredible woman. 

I did not “know” Elizabeth Warren until a few months ago, beyond the fact that she was one of the symbols of the “Resistance” to Trump and his cronies after having stood up to Mitch McConnell in the Senate. The impression I got from her was that of a kind of nerdy older lady who wore fleeces a lot and was fond of math. Okay, seems pretty average for a US Senator.

Then, as I am known to do, I started reading every piece of writing about the Senator that I could get my hands on. I read old articles from the Harvard Crimson, the Boston Globe, but most importantly, I started to read profiles. There, I “met” the woman that is Senator Elizabeth Warren, and my life — particularly my politics — began to change. 

One thing you’ll notice about Senator Warren is that she loves to tell stories. Particularly, she loves to tell the same stories over and over again. I get this — I’m a Midwesterner, we do that too. As I was doing all this research about her, I also started listening to her speeches. And what I got was certainly not what I expected. 

Without flinching, Warren often tells the story of her family’s place along the “ragged edge” of the middle class. About her father’s heart attack and her mother’s minimum wage job that saved their family from financial ruin. 

She also talks about how difficult it was to picture going to college while her family grappled with financial troubles. How selfish it felt to be considering her own dreams when struggle seemed to persist in every other area of her life. 

I know these stories already — they are also mine. 

I also come from a family that would — and has — struggled with emergency expenses, where $300 for a car repair is an immense burden. Without the vast financial support that UW-Madison has given me, it is very unlikely that I would have been able to go to school here. The chance that someone took on me has allowed me to sit here and write this op-ed. 

It is difficult for me to articulate what it means for a candidate for president of the United States to talk about the same struggles I have faced. Given our class-stratified society, it would have been impressive enough for Warren to earn her law degree. But to become a law professor at the most prestigious university in the world? Then to turn around and become a United States Senator? To be the first female president?  Unthinkable. 

As a first-generation college student, there are some days where I find it hard to picture myself at graduation, let alone behind a lectern or a debate podium someday, But as I listen to this woman I have come to admire, not only does that seem more possible, I start to breathe a little easier. I start to believe that the shared experiences between Senator Warren and me were not shameful but that our class system in the United States is a shame. I think about the fact that there is no amount of sheer grit and determination that can replace money and being in the right place at the right time. For her, it was a $50 commuter college. For me, it was fee waivers and a couple of generous scholarships. Where would both of us be without those supports? Makes you think.

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What’s my favorite thing about Liz Warren (can I call her Liz?) Her humanness. In between talk of plans and big structural change, she also talks about the first boy she ever loved asking her to get married at the age of 19. She says yes. She drops out of college. This ends up being a mistake that changes the course of her life. 

What kind of presidential candidate says that out loud? I mean, have we not all been there, young and making rash decisions because the world seems infinite and ours? 

Liz Warren was young once. Liz Warren was considered “poor,” once. I’m the beneficiary of a full Pell grant, so me too. Our stories have a similar beginning, who knows if they will have a similar end. All I know is that beyond policy or party, it has been a tremendous honor to support her over the past few months. And even though it is hard to imagine that her campaign is ending despite so much promise, nevertheless, we persist. 

Izzy is a Junior studying Political Science, with a certificate in Educational Policy Studies. How did Elizabeth Warren's campaign affect your life? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com

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