Feeling the burn, and the pressure

Supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren cheer as they listen to her speak at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit in July 2014.
David Coates/AP/File
Supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren cheer as they listen to her speak at the Netroots Nation conference in Detroit in July 2014.


If she’s listening to Madeleine Albright — the first female secretary of state — Senator Elizabeth Warren could be feeling a burn.

And not the kind associated with Bernie Sanders. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” Albright said at a rally for Hillary Clinton on Saturday. She repeated the sentiment on Sunday in Nashua, at a pre-canvassing rally that included a large delegation of Massachusetts volunteers.

Pressed to say whether that means there will be “a special place” for Warren “in hell,” Albright diplomatically backed down: “No,” she replied. “…. I wish everyone would weigh in for Hillary … because I think she is the best candidate.”


But the pressure on Warren is growing from those who see Clinton as their last, best chance to elect a female president in their lifetime. Yet instead of putting pressure on women like Warren, they should be putting pressure on Clinton to tell her story in a way that gives all voters a reason to support her.

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That’s what the guys believe. “The best candidate, the most experienced, the most competent by far, is Secretary Clinton,” said US Representative Joe Kennedy, who led the Massachusetts canvassing delegation in Nashua. “That’s the narrative that should be pushed out.”

For Democrats, Campaign 2016 is breaking down by gender and age. In Iowa, Sanders won 70 percent of the votes cast by men and women aged 17 to 29. Polling in New Hampshire shows a similar gender gap, with young women “feeling the Bern” and supporting Sanders over Clinton.

Asked by Bill Maher why younger women are rallying for Sanders, Gloria Steinem said, “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” If that’s the best a feminist icon can offer — ugh.

When Albright was asked to explain the Sanders support, she said, “The bottom line is: I don’t know.” She urged voters to look more deeply into the issues, versus falling for excitement: “It can’t be something that is appealing for the moment.’’ Support for a candidate, she said, should be based on “how do you get from here to there?”


If they attended a Sanders rally, these women would better understand his appeal. Then again, they already know. He speaks forcefully, without hedging, about issues of concern to young men and women. There’s lots of passionate rhetoric on behalf of women’s reproductive rights. Sanders also asks young men in the audience to stand up in support of equal pay. Explaining the pay gap between men and women, he said in Keene last week, “It is nothing more than old-fashioned sexism.” Easy to make that declaration. Harder to fight for it over the years, and be labeled a shrew for doing so.

Sanders’ appeal is disappointing to women who look at Clinton and see their own struggles to succeed. “For me, it’s emotional,” said state Rep. Ruth Balser of Newton, who was part of the Massachusetts canvassing contingent. “When I see her, I get teary-eyed. She represents me. She represents my friends. She represents my mother.”

Balser, who is also a Warren backer, said she understands Warren’s decision to so far stay out of the presidential contest: “She’s a Senate rock star. She’s raising money from other Democrats. She has followers with both candidates. She decided to focus on the Senate reelection campaigns.”

In the end, keeping Warren out of the presidential primary race might be the best scenario for Clinton.

Warren and Sanders speak the same language. The movement she started — and he now embodies — threatens to undermine Clinton’s road to the White House.


That’s hell right now — for Clinton.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.