Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for President is reportedly running out of money, and the other woman in the race for the Democratic nomination is counting on prevailing as the “none of the above” candidate, a long-shot at best. Meanwhile, the party that pronounced itself “the party of women” in 2012—with Bill Clinton as its star convention speaker!—now seems to be looking at a battle among three white men in their late seventies. This is not where progressives thought they would be at this point in the giddy summer of 2016.
Naturally, feminists and the news media are determined to explain this as the result of plain old, typical, anti-female bigotry. The explanation is simpleminded, hypocritical and incoherent. From the Times:
[I]n dozens of interviews with Democrats over the past several months, at events for Ms. Warren, debate watch parties and polling places, many professional, college-educated women say they have been enraged by the obsession with electability in the 2020 race. These are women who see themselves in Ms. Warren and argue that simply by asking whether a woman can be elected, pundits and voters who fancy themselves as such, are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. For mothers, this moment includes the difficulty of speaking about gender to school-age girls who do not care about the finer points of policy details, but are happy to declare, “I want a woman president.”
Let’s look at the components of that statement, from a piece about how women allegedly feel that her gender has kept Elizabeth Warren from being a strong contender for the nomination.
- It is the Democrats and progressives, specifically the “resistance,” who have made “electability” the primary factor in choosing the blue party’s nominee in 2020. Such minor items as policy, experience and character have been thrown aside by constant repetition of the myth that anyone, literally anyone, would be preferable to having President Voldemort in the White House. The members of the Facebook Borg constantly say that they will vote for whoever the Democratic Party nominates, which means that they have surrendered any discretion regarding qualifications for leadership. All they care about is winning. In that context, of course electability is essential.
Saying so isn’t sexist.
- Of course a woman is electable. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose because she was a woman; indeed, someone with the Clinton’s baggage and dubious qualifications who wasn’t a woman wouldn’t have come within furlongs of the nomination. Clinton lost because she ran a terrible campaign, indeed a sexist campaign. If she had been able to admit in 2015 that her use of a secret private email server was wrong and resulted in her breaching the law in handling classified documents, saying accurately that she was a techno-boob and confused, the issue would have faded away by early 2016. Instead she lied, and sent surrogates out to lie for her, and the entire episode reinforced the perception that Hillary Clinton, like her husband, has an adversary relationship with the truth.
Even with all that, Clinton won the popular vote, as she terrible a candidate as she was. 2016 proved a woman could be elected President.
- A woman saying “I want a woman president.” means “I don’t care about who would be the best President, all I care about is gender.” That’s bigotry, without more. Women who say that are arguing that men who “want a male President” are prejudiced, but women who want a woman President aren’t, or that their bigotry is good bigotry.
It’s not a persuasive or ethical argument.
- The real question regarding Elizabeth Warren is whether she can be and should be elected President.
Deflecting that question onto the general rather than the specific is how Warren avoids accountability for her own flaws as a candidate. A comparable male politician who exploited a false claim of minority status to get the benefit of diversity faculty hiring by two universities and who then denied what she had done by insisting that she was what she had claimed to be against all emerging evidence would have never dared to run for President. Despite that scandal, Warren still looked like a contender in the polls until more examples of her mendacity surfaced. Add to that the fact that she has no relevant executive experience at all (neither does Senator Klobuchar) and the complaint that sexism is why her candidacy has recently sunk like a mob hit in Lake Tahoe reveals itself as pure misdirection.
- Warren told reporters the night she bombed in the Nevada caucuses, “I get asked this question over and over, about, you know, do you think you face sexism in running for president? And, you know, there are only two answers and they’re both bad. The first one is, ‘Uh, yeah,’ in which case everybody says, ‘Oh, whiner.’” “The second is to say, ‘Oh, no,’ in which case, at least every other woman looks at you and thinks, ‘What planet is she living on?’”
She’s right that voters don’t like whining, especially whining about how one is losing because of bias rather than genuine problems with her candidacy. Whining is unattractive no matter who the politician is: President Trump whines more than most, and it is hardly a plus for him. In the history of whining, nobody has topped Hillary Clinton’s astounding “Why aren’t I 50 points ahead?” campaign ad. Leaders don’t talk like that. Losers talk like that. Whining is for losers, whether it is called whining or not.
- Women have an anthropological and historical disadvantage in seeking executive leadership positions. Leaders are seen as individuals who are more powerful, stronger, larger, and more aggressive than their followers. None of those are qualities are usually associated with women, and when a woman does have those qualities, she is usually judged less attractive and likable as a result. That’s reality. Society advances women who display other characteristics deemed compatible with female stereotypes, which, like most stereotypes, are rooted in fact. The women with characteristics that would advance a male are handicapped, so they are either impeded in their success, or they succeed by altering their evident characteristics and style to versions more acceptable to the public’s views of what women should be like. Ironically, the most promising female leaders are sidelined early in life, while those who advance do so specifically because they don’t rely on qualities that make men effective leaders.
It’s a trap, societally reinforced.
- The best route to the White House for a woman would be what has historically been the best route for a man: become a state governor, ideally of a big state, and show you can handle the job. Congress—legislating— requires skills that are more frequently identified with women: advocacy, organization, empathy, building consensus, compromise, civility. The U.S. has only had 44 female governors in its entire history. It has nine right now, with six Democrats, not one of whom decided to run for for President.
That’s not bigotry; that’s self-selection.
Until there is a female President, there will be a bias, unconscious or not, against against electing one. The image of a U.S. President is male because every President has been male since the 18th century. Great Britain was psychologically conditioned to accept a woman as its leader when Mrs. Thatcher was ascendant because the nation’s three longest reigning monarchs had all been female, and, though one of them was a murderous despot like her father, the nation had thrived under them.
Thus it is important for the United States to elect a female President as soon as possible, if only to weaken a powerful bias rooted in our RNA that no longer makes sense. It is equally important, however, for that female President to be qualified and trustworthy, something neither Hillary Clinton nor Elizabeth Warren are.