A simple Q & A left more questions than answers.
Elizabeth Warren was put on the spot this week during an event with Angela Rye, who asked hypothetically which three African Americans the presidential candidate feels like she must have in her cabinet. The question was, of course, predicated on the theory that Warren would hypothetically beat Donald Trump in the general election next year.
In fact, the entire basis of Rye’s question was firmly rooted in one big, fat hypothesis. That was established with the question posed under the hypothetical presumption that Warren would be the Democratic nominee.
So why then couldn’t Elizabeth Warren just answer the hypothetical question?
Instead, Warren, the person widely credited for having a plan for everything, seemed unsure of what to say next.
“There’s a little danger in this answer,” Warren said almost knowingly while stalling and stuttering.
“Dang, there are some good people,” she continued as an audience member encouraged the Senator to name names. Warren then broke into a vague spiel about “having people who are fighters.”
And while Warren didn’t necessarily give the wrong answer — “it’s about people who share the same vision” — she certainly didn’t give the right answer, either. That’s why, after Warren got done evading the question, Rye asked again: “Three names?”
Warren, seemingly exasperated, rattled off the names of former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, “presidents of HBCUs” and said she was trying to stay away from people in Washington. That was even though she said when first asked that some of the people she would consider are were running for president, a clear nod to her fellow Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, both of whom are obviously entrenched in mainstream politics.
Throughout the exchange, Rye’s silent body language spoke volumes. The entire 2 minutes and 20 seconds of pure awkwardness can be seen below.
There’s some precious context that can’t be ignored here.
Earlier in the day before Warren gave her decidedly non answer in front of a decidedly Black crowd on the campus of a historically Black college, the senator from Massachusetts received a rousing endorsement from a group of 100 influential Black women who represent the most devoted and dedicated Democratic voting base.
As Bakari Sellers pointed out, Warren was more sure in her answer about who was a better rapper than she was with being able to randomly point to three Black people who she would name to her cabinet. (If anybody thinks for a minute that Warren is at all familiar with DaBaby, let alone believes he’s being a better rapper than living legend Snoop Dogg, I’ve got a Native American reservation to sell you in downtown Cambridge.)
Other folks on social media seemed to be comfortable with Warren’s reported pledges of “accountability” and to “change the face of the federal government” that she gave to the Black Womxn For group that endorsed her this week.
To be sure, others found Rye’s questions to be problematic.
One day after Warren’s major letdown of an answer, she and other candidates were provided with a playbook for Rye’s question should they, too, be asked about Black members in their hypothetical cabinets. Kamala Harris had no problem explaining to XM radio host Clay Cane that her answers were hypothetical and of course she would never reveal her official cabinet choices until the right time. However, in the spirit of playing along to possibly provide some insight into a hypothetical Harris administration, she named people like Stacey Abrams, a rising star among Democrats and no-brainer of an answer about someone who has been courted by the top and most prominent members of her party.
So before Warren was even asked that question at her planned event at North Carolina A&T University, where the likely overarching theme and objective for her campaign was outreach to Black voters, the larger African American narrative was unavoidable. The fact that Warren clearly was either uncomfortable or unprepared — or both — for that question struck a chord on Black Twitter, in particular, which arguably captures a snapshot of a portion of the overall Black discourse in the country.
Every candidate is fighting for the Black vote. That includes the president, who held his “Blacks for Trump” rally in Atlanta on Friday. And even though a new report shows former Vice President Joe Biden enjoying a lion share of support from Black Democratic voters, there was still a good number who are undecided, showing that the coveted Black vote is still up for grabs.
With the latest national poll showing Warren trailing frontrunner Biden by 11 percentage points, the senator from Massachusetts could have potentially narrowed that gap, or at least further endeared herself to Black voters with a more substantive answer to what sure seemed like a softball question sandwiched between even softer questions.
Considering Sanders’ controversial advice to an HBCU student at a recent event at Benedict College in South Carolina – where candidates are openly vying for the Black vote — it seems that Warren should have been prepared for any question. That instance, as well as Warren at A&T, are sure to be topics of discussion at the next debate (to be held later this month, coincidentally, at Tyler Perry‘s new, Black-owned studio in Atlanta), lending further credence to the opinion that Angela Rye’s question deserved to be better answered.