Is Elizabeth Warren Running a Hostile Workplace?

Democratic 2020 U.S. Elizabeth Warren speaks at a campaign town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, January 26, 2020. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

A (reluctant) word in defense of Elizabeth Warren.

A story in Politico details the departure of a “half-dozen women of color” from Elizabeth Warren’s campaign apparatus in Nevada. The article’s implication seems to be that Warren’s campaign, at least in its Nevada outpost, is inhospitable to minority staffers.

I’m willing to believe that Elizabeth Warren is running a subversive racist operation, but the allegations contained in the piece do little to substantiate the claim. In fact, nothing in the piece gives any indication that the departed staffers’ “frustrations” had to do with anything more than the workaday miseries of spending a great deal of time with Elizabeth Warren supporters.

Of the six former staffers who departed, three were interviewed by Politico. None named a specific, falsifiable instance of the campaign’s hostility toward minorities. One woman cryptically said that she “filed a complaint with HR” about the “culture” at the campaign. (She does not reveal the substance of the complaint.) When HR responded, the staffer said it left her “feeling as though I needed to make myself smaller or change who I was to fit into the office culture.” One might lament the interviewee’s inability to adapt to the “office culture,” or her unwillingness to “make herself smaller.” Both, in any case, sound like the interviewee’s problem, not Warren’s or the campaign’s.

Another woman said that she “felt like a problem — like I was there to literally bring color into the space but not the knowledge and voice that comes with it.” What this means is unclear. What “space” is she referring to? The office? How does she know she was “there to literally bring color” into said space and was not hired for, say, her credentials? In lieu of a specific, falsifiable claim of abuse, this again seems more like banal campus-speak (“space,” “voice,” etc.) than a serious accusation of racial bigotry.

Elizabeth Warren is running for president. She is running a campaign with hundreds of employees in an operation that runs across municipal and state lines. A significant number of her employees — if their decision to work on the good senator’s presidential campaign is any indication — are probably difficult to work with. That doesn’t (necessarily!) make them, or the campaign, racist.

If you want to claim Elizabeth Warren is a racist for peddling fake-Indian ancestry for much of her professional career, you ought to do so; you’d be on firm foundation. To use the departure of these six women as evidence to that effect, however, is to do a disservice to that argument.

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