People have loved Massachusetts' outspoken senator for years, but earlier this week when she was silenced by the Senate during the controversial confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions, the internet only started loving her more. Will Elizabeth Warren run for president in 2020? Many are hoping she's at least considering it.
During the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, Warren began to read a letter from Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. that was written in 1986 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The letter was written by King as a plea for the Senate to not appoint Sessions as a federal judge, saying "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge."
As Warren attempted to read the letter on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell forced her to stop, saying that she could not read King's words as they were debasing another Senator. McConnell explained that this was against Senate rules' and that Warren was in contempt of that rule. Warren attempted to continue, and Senate Republicans then formally voted to silence her. She then went live on Facebook outside the Senate chamber to read the letter to the public.
McConnell then said of Warren — and it has become something of a rally cry: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
#LetLizSpeak and #ShePersisted immediately began trending on Twitter, and tweets celebrating inspirational women throughout history who had persisted in the face of institutionalized misogyny, racism, and other avenues of oppression began cropping up in droves. Then came the calls for Warren to get ready for a 2020 presidential ticket.
Warren has been a Senator since 2012, and is known for her financial knowledge and acumen when it comes to the American middle class. Under President Obama, Warren set up task forces that were intended to hold Wall Street banks accountable and suss out any dirty tricks they may have been employing to the detriment of American consumers. Prior to becoming Massachusetts' Democratic Senator, she was a lawyer and law professor at Harvard. As a young woman, she also taught elementary school while attending law school and raising her two children.
Over the years, Warren has made plenty of enemies in Washington because she's tough, outspoken, and knows her stuff. These are qualities that one would praise in a male presidential candidate but as we saw during Hillary Clinton's campaign, a serious double standard exists.
In fact, the double standard against Warren was blatantly demonstrated on the Senate floor after she was silenced: several other senators who spoke after her — male senators, that is — read King's letter in its entirety and received no objection. They were not accused of violating any rules, or talking smack about a fellow senator, and they were not interrupted by McConnell or anyone else.
The internet took notice, and the call for Warren to keep fighting the good fight is stronger now than ever before. But some have pointed out that McConnell and Senate Republicans may have intentionally demoralized Warren, hoping that Democrats would rally around her and push her toward a presidential campaign in 2020 that they believe she would lose. An unnamed GOP strategist told BuzzFeed that McConnell "doesn't do anything without a plan," and his move to silence Warren and elevate her amongst Democrats was intentional, since the GOP believes she "isn’t the type of candidate who would do well in states that Democrats lost last cycle."
Don Stewart, a GOP spokesperson, told BuzzFeed he wasn't sure why "people are looking for some deeper meaning," in the silencing of Elizabeth Warren, but given that the current presidential administration and federal government have been near-constantly accused of violating constitutional law in the weeks since Donald Trump took office, it's not that surprising that people think the Republican Party might have an ulterior motive that goes beyond sexist tropes.