Senator Elizabeth Warren’s exit from the Democratic Party's nomination race Thursday has left many in the United States disappointed that the presidency remains out of reach for a woman.
“Voters have spoken, and we’re marching backwards,” wrote Kera Bolonik, editor-in-chief of DAME Magazine, in an opinion article for NBC News.
“Elizabeth Warren is out and I’m heartbroken once again,” posted Molly Jong-Fast, an editor with The Daily Beast news organization on Twitter.
“It’s a day for many people of mourning, just true mourning and grieving,” said Jill Warren, a Michigan supporter who is no relation to the senator, in an AP news report.
The progressive senator from Massachusetts was the last viable female candidate in a diverse Democratic field of contenders that once included six women. While Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii remains in the race, she has failed to win more than 1% of the vote in the nearly 20 primary elections held to date.
The 2020 U.S. presidential race now comes down to three white men in their 70s, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders vying for the Democratic nomination to face off against Republican President Donald Trump.
The upset loss of Hillary Clinton, the first American woman to run for president as a major party nominee, to Trump in the 2016 election could be impacting voting in the 2020 cycle. Polls consistently show that Democratic primary voters' overriding concern is picking a nominee who can beat Trump in November.
“There is this, I think fear that is existing within Democratic voters that if they pick a another woman nominee, then that woman nominee will lose to President Trump," said Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University.
Some political observers blamed Clinton's loss — including in traditional Democratic stronghold states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — on an ingrained sexism in the American electorate. But Brown points out that women made historic gains in the 2018 mid-term elections in which 117 women won or were appointed to Congress and Democratic candidate Gretchen Esther Whitmer won the race for governor of Michigan.
In this year's presidential race, an AP public opinion poll in four states that held primary contests Tuesday showed at least half of Democratic primary voters believe a woman would have a harder time than a man beating Trump.
Clinton said this week that “a lot of weird things” happened in the 2016 election, including the fact that she won the overall popular vote but lost in the U.S. Electoral College that counts state-by-state outcomes. She also said women continue to face a double standard in politics.
“There are still a lot of biases about women becoming president. But I made a lot of progress and I was thrilled that so many women ran this time," Clinton said at a New York screening of "Hillary," a new documentary series about her life.
Like Clinton, female candidates in this election have faced criticisms that many consider sexist, over whether they are too emotional or not likable, critiques that are rarely used against male candidates.
In addition, women candidates for president still encounter the long-held view that the presidency is a man’s job, says Christina Reynolds with Emily’s List, an advocacy group for women in politics.
“We think of leadership and particularly presidential leadership in a certain way. And women don't fit into that yet,” said Reynolds.
While Warren and the other female candidates did not break through the proverbial electoral glass ceiling this year, advocates for women hope the campaigns may help change the public's perceptions.
After announcing that she was ending her campaign for president, Warren was asked about the role sexism and bias may have played to undermine her candidacy.
"Gender in this race, you know, that is the trap question for every woman. If you say yeah, 'there was sexism in this race, everyone says whiner,'” said Warren. “And if you say no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think 'what planet do you live on?'”
Once the Democratic front-runner in the race, Warren distinguished herself by proposing sweeping and detailed progressive polices to break up big banks and powerful high-tech companies, overhaul America's immigration system, and implement free health care and college education.
But on the campaign trail, Warren would also make a point to engage with young girls who came to her events, to shake “pinky fingers” with them and say, “I’m running for president, because that’s what girls do.”
In ending her bid to become the first American woman president, Warren said, “One of the hardest parts of this, is all those promises and all those little girls, who are going to have to wait four more years.”