There is another reason for Abrams — or any other woman — to not take the spot at this stage in the race. And there should be reason to call out male candidates such as former representative Beto O’Rourke (Tex.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who say they’d pick a woman as a running mate: It’s not good enough.
With multiple women in the race for the Democratic nomination, no male candidate should be able to make the implicit argument that it is acceptable to bypass a woman for the top of the ticket — or that it’s less unacceptable because, hey, he’d give the second spot to a woman. If one thinks it’s time for a woman to serve, then vote for one. If these men think it’s an outrage that a misogynist is in the White House, that we’ve never had a woman president and that there is something of value at this time in our history in having a woman in a visible place of power, then endorse one.
While they may think they are ingratiating themselves with female voters by promising to put a woman in the second spot, they are in effect saying, “You don’t have to feel bad about voting for yet another male president because I will give a woman the runnerup’s prize.” It’s using a hypothetical woman (as a running mate) to deflect the arguments being made by actual female presidential contenders that it’s time to break the all-male monopoly on the Oval Office.
I am not saying that, down the road, when the eventual nominee is considering a running mate, he shouldn’t consider a woman. (If the nominee is a woman, you can bet the coverage will be, “Well there cannot be two women on the ticket!”) He should certainly consider women, along with other candidates who respond to a felt need for diversity and who can ably serve. At that point, it’s not a way of deflecting votes for female presidential candidates. It would not be seen as an effort to mollify women (and men) inclined to vote for a female candidate.
I’m not sure the male presidential contenders in the race “get it.” Women don’t have to suggest they’d pick a man because no one would dream of proposing an all-female ticket. Women don’t suggest they’ll pick a male so that male voters won’t feel so bad voting for her. They are unintentionally underscoring a perception that one woman, somewhere on the ticket, is sufficient.
These male candidates’ promise to pick a female running mate is not intended to be condescending or dismissive or to hobble female contenders. It’s simply a clueless way of trying to convince voters they can in good conscience avoid voting for a female president. That’s a bizarre way of showing your feminist bona fides.