Never mind superheroes for a moment. Could the power of two raging grannies be harnessed to change the world?
Hillary Clinton, 68, is the Democrats' presumptive nominee for president, even if some Bernie Sanders supporters consider her victory to be a vast conspiracy perpetrated by our lizard overlords. This week it emerged that her most powerful ally is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, 66, the Wall Street-cudgelling, Main Street-defending firebrand.
If you think I'm being derogatory by calling them grannies, quite the opposite: It is time for the word to be reclaimed, and for the power and wisdom of age to be acknowledged as the beginning of life, not the end of it. Ms. Clinton and Ms. Warren's towering professional accomplishments and their domestic lives aren't mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing.
The third word in Ms. Clinton's Twitter bio is "grandma," and she has talked about how she is driven by wanting to make "the world a better place" for her granddaughter Charlotte. Ms. Warren told The Boston Globe last week that she was doing a puzzle with her grandchildren when she learned that Donald Trump had attacked her on Twitter as "Goofy Elizabeth Warren." I imagine her turning to the kids and saying, "Can you find the corner pieces while Grandma goes and rips this bad man a new one? Back in five!"
Even before announcing her endorsement of Ms. Clinton on Thursday night, Ms. Warren had an electrifying effect on the campaign. In the memorable words of The New York Times, "Elizabeth Warren is the Democrats' sledgehammer. Donald Trump is the nail." She has variously denounced the Republican presumptive nominee as a "thin-skinned, racist bully," "a fraud" and "a small, insecure money-grubber who doesn't care who gets hurt as long as he makes money off of it."
This is hardly the stereotypical behaviour of a granny, and thank God for it. Donald Trump has made a career of fetishizing the beauty of young, bikini-clad women. He has made misogynistic comments for years about women who were "fat" or "pigs" or couldn't perform their jobs because of their menstrual cycles. He's made enough gross observations about his own daughters' physical attributes to keep a fleet of psychiatrists in penthouse luxury for decades. If he is brought low by two stern, pant-suited grandmothers, we might have to acknowledge that there is a Creator, and she has an excellent sense of humour.
At one point, Ms. Warren was also a vocal critic of Ms. Clinton, over the proper regulation of Wall Street institutions. Some are arguing that siding with her now is a betrayal of principles, a horrible flip-flop. Equally, you could argue that with age comes perspective, the ability to be flexible, to compromise in order to achieve a greater good.
Time is a thief, as the writer Leigh Hunt once noted, but it brings certain gifts: The ability to stop giving a damn about what people think, for one thing. For women, this is such a wonderful gift that Tiffany's should put it in a blue box and sell it at Christmas. It's trickier for female politicians, who must walk a narrow path between forcefulness and likeability. As Ms. Warren noted in her best-selling memoir, A Fighting Chance, she was never going to win her senatorial race on the basis of likeability; she was never going to be the one the voters "wanted to have a beer with." But she could be the most competent, the most passionate, the most learned.
Time adds a few wrinkles to the skin, but also makes it much thicker. Both women, fortunately, have rhino's hide, which is useful when you consider the garbage they put up with. The former secretary of state is "Killary," "Shillary," "the witch" and worse. And here's a small sampling of the abuse that appeared on Ms. Warren's Facebook page after her endorsement: "Keep your comments to yourself you ugly skank;" "Don't hold your breath you old bag;" "How much campaign cash did you get from Shillary you horrid phoney" and, succinctly, "Benedict Warren." If you don't think this is indicative of the sexism that has dogged the campaign, in small ways and large, I'll buy you a ticket for the bus back to 1955.
When she endorsed Ms. Clinton on Rachel Maddow's show, Ms. Warren acknowledged that the years of fighting have actually made them stronger: "She's out there, she's a fighter, she's tough. I think this is what we need.… For 25 years she's been taking the incomings. The right wing has thrown everything they possibly can at her. A lot of people would hang up their spurs, they'd say, I have had enough. And she doesn't. She gets back up and she gets back in the fight."
Could there actually be a raging-granny ticket? Could Ms. Warren be the vice-presidential pick? It would fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which says that the vice-president should be a complementary presence, filling in gaps – geographic, political – on the ticket. But wouldn't it be wonderful? (Here, I must give a shoutout to the actual Raging Grannies, an activist group that subverts stereotypes about aging.)
When I phoned my mother, a fierce Clinton devotee and a grandmother of eight, to ask how she felt about this historic nomination, she said: "I'm dancing. And I can't even dance any more." This is worth remembering: It's never too late to keep dancing. Or winning elections.