Four Senate women running for the Democratic nomination for president have confronted some of the same biases that Hillary Clinton faced — plus the “electability” canard that posits a female nominee would be riskier than a man. Hillary lost; she’s a woman. So this syllogism makes no sense, but still it persists.
They’ve also gotten their share of blatantly sexist coverage. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) isn’t likable, the media tut-tutted. Well, she’s in third in most polls and closing in on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), so maybe the story should have been that Sanders is too grouchy, and all these white men, current and former congressmen, aren’t credentialed enough.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), we were told over and over again, was a tough and even mean boss. Beto O’Rourke, who had to apologize to his staff at the end of his campaign for being an ass****, hasn’t been asked, to my knowledge, a single question on air about his cruddy management skills. (Time management? Driving yourself gets an F. )
As the excuses for not nominating a woman pile up, it’s not hard to see that the four female senators are running circles around most of their male competitors when it comes to serious and detailed policy proposals. Warren (I’ve got a plan for that), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) (e.g., plans for teacher pay, tax credits, housing allowances, abortion rights), Klobuchar (e.g., plans for infrastructure, mental health, social media transparency — honest ads) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) (e.g., plans for abortion rights, a Family Bill of Rights, marijuana legalization) arguably are running the most substantive races we’ve seen in years.
To boot, unlike a number of the male candidates, all four of the Senate women have years and years in public life (Harris and Klobuchar have both executive and legislative branch experience). No woman entered the race with the attitude she was “born to do it.”
Think of it this way: If one of them is the nominee and beats President Trump, she would certainly want to consider the other three for top posts. You could easily imagine, for example, a President Klobuchar would have Harris as attorney general, Gillibrand at HHS and Warren at SEC (or chief of staff or education or . . . ). You might not like their policies, but you would be quite confident in their ethical standards, competency and management skills. As a group, their credentials and experience are head and shoulders above almost all of their male opponents.
I say all of this not to make the case that Democrats should choose their nominee among these four (although they’d do far better choosing one of their four names out of a hat than doing the same for male candidates ranging from socialist Sanders to a man despised by the city he runs, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio). Rather, I raise this to suggest that someone or some group take on the “electability” issue head on. With this group of uber-prepared and capable women, now is the time to take the weight off all their backs: the assumption about electability that may prevent any woman from winning this cycle or in the near future.
In fact, women aren’t just electable, they were elected in droves in 2018 — in state legislative, House, Senate and governor races. Now that message needs to be spread, either through an existing organization or a new one. Someone must collect the data, make the case to donors and insiders, run ads and inform Democrats the “safe” choice in winning in urban and suburban areas is very often the female candidate. It is time to bat down the surreptitious and insidious “not electable” meme once and for all.