Weeks before Elizabeth Warren launched her first senatorial campaign, she made a call to a woman she said was a longtime Democratic activist in Massachusetts. She recalls telling the woman she was going to run for Senate.
“Martha lost,” Warren says the woman responded, according to her new memoir. The woman was referencing Martha Coakley, who was the first female Senate nominee of a major party in Massachusetts, but lost two statewide campaigns.
“Oof,” Warren responded.
That’s just one of many anecdotes the Massachusetts senator recalls in her new memoir out this week where she reflects on gender and loss in the 2020 presidential campaign. She also details her countless plans that she says would help middle class Americans, something she became known for during the campaign.
In the memoir, “Persist,” a copy of which was obtained by CNN, Warren acknowledged publicly — now months later — that maybe she “wasn’t good enough” for American voters to win the 2020 presidential primary.
“I didn’t want to run for president to make a point,” Warren wrote. “I wasn’t carefully measuring how hard to hit a glass ceiling. I didn’t need to be heralded as the First Something. I just wanted a chance to fight for the things I cared about — economic opportunity, racial justice, halting climate change, combating Washington corruption, improving our education system. I had been talking about these issues for a long time.”
She goes on to write: “But there’s always another possibility, a much more painful one: in this moment, against this president, in this field of candidates, maybe I just wasn’t good enough to reassure the voters, to bring along the doubters, to embolden the hopeful.”
Throughout her memoir — the third book Warren has written as a politician — she reflects on the role her gender played in her presidential campaign. While she never directly blamed sexism for losing the nomination, it’s a theme that comes up again and again in anecdotes of her life that are intertwined with decisions she’s made or views she has on issues.
In one, she recounts thinking as she lay in bed after her first day fundraising for her presidential bid, “I wondered whether anyone said to Bernie Sanders when he asked for their support, ‘Gore lost, so how can you win?’ I wondered whether anyone said to Joe Biden, ‘Kerry lost, so clearly America just isn’t ready for a man to be president.'”
She added: “I tried to laugh, but the joke didn’t seem very funny.”
Warren sprinkles commentary about her then-2020 rivals throughout the memoir. She calls Sanders “fearless and determined” and Biden “a good leader and fundamentally decent man.”
With Sanders specifically, she referenced him telling her a woman couldn’t win the election. (Sanders denied the characterization of that conversation in a statement to CNN at the time.)
“The news caused a stir. But the question of whether a woman could win the presidency was clearly on voters’ minds, and it would come up in debates and town halls,” she said. “When asked, I always told an upbeat story about why I believed success was within our grasp, but I was under no illusion — I knew that winning would be an uphill battle.”
There is one presidential rival Warren does not compliment in her memoir — Michael Bloomberg. Warren recalls her first debate performance against the former New York City mayor and billionaire where she felt he was not listening to her attacks against him.
“Like so many women in so many settings, I found myself wondering if he had even heard me,” she wrote.
Many attributed Warren’s debate performance that night in Las Vegas as to why Bloomberg dropped out of the race. But Warren reflects on what critics said about what she told Bloomberg that night — about how she came off, according to one analyst, as “mean and angry.”
“And there it was, the same damn remark made about every woman who ever stood up for herself and threw a punch. Repeat after me: fighting hard is ‘not a good look,'” she wrote.
Warren also goes into detail about several parts of her past, including a story she often told on the campaign trail about being fired from her teaching job when she was pregnant.
A portion of her memoir is devoted to memorializing her brother Don Reed Herring, who died of coronavirus last year and whose death, she wrote, “didn’t need to happen,” blaming the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic.
Warren also acknowledges her claims to Native American heritage as a “bad mistake.”
“I should never have identified as Native American. I’ve never been a citizen of a tribal nation. Tribal nations — and only tribal nations — determine who their citizens are,” she wrote.
Still, Warren’s memoir is not just about her past, but about what she wants to continue to do in the future, she wrote.
“This book is not a campaign memoir. It is not a rehash of big public events. It’s a book about the fight that lies ahead,” she wrote.
“It’s about the plans we need — no surprise there! — but it’s about much more than plans. It’s about the passion and commitment that underlie those plans, and the human connection that will keep us in this fight until we see real change.”