Should Democrats Avoid Women Candidates?

 

Many Democratic voters are worried that a woman candidate cannot win the presidency in 2020. “I don’t think they’re strong enough to carry it for themselves,” an Iowa voter told the Washington Post. Amber Phillips reports that “female politicians are held by voters to a much higher standard than men,” and points to polls showing that today’s support for Elizabeth Warren (12 percent) and Kamala Harris (8 percent) drops to low single digits when voters are asked who is likely to defeat Trump.

Without denying that some people may harbor misogynistic feelings, and that many Democrats may indeed fear, as Phillips reported, that while they personally would happily vote for a woman for president, their neighbors might not, this doesn’t prove that women are held to a higher standard. The evidence is mixed. It’s never possible to know with certainty what motivates voters. Could Romney’s religion have decided the 2012 race? It’s possible.

Is there an anti-woman bias? Election analyst Karlyn Bowman has found that women are just as likely to be successful in political races as men. And most voters are past the identity politics phase of wanting to vote for a candidate (or oppose one) due to sex.

At the level of presidential politics, the data set is a bit skimpy — one election. Many Democrats seem to believe that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss can be chalked up to sex, or, in the words of New York Times op-ed writer Farhad Manjoo, the perception that “American society is wracked at every level by a pervasive and enduring misogyny.”

Or perhaps Hillary Clinton became unpopular for reasons all her own. It isn’t as if she was always unpopular. Twice in her career, Clinton was regarded favorably by a whopping 66 percent of Americans — in December, 1998 when the Monica Lewinsky scandal made her the most prominent wronged wife on the planet; and in November of 2009, while she served as Secretary of State. Even in the midst of the Benghazi hearings in December of 2012, her approval still held steady at 65 percent.

In 2015, Clinton’s approval dipped sharply, down to 49 percent. This drop tracked among all voters, including Democrats, whose support declined from 86 percent to 77 percent. What happened? Clinton didn’t change her sex. She ran into the private email server scandal, and it damaged her not just because of the underlying offense, but also due to her persistent deceit, and the fact that this revived earlier concerns about her dishonesty and “rules don’t apply to me” image from earlier in her career.

The share of voters who are women has been increasing steadily since 1980. The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers shows that in 2016, 63.3 percent of eligible women voted compared with only 59.3 percent of eligible men. It’s possible that women harbor self-hating feelings toward women candidates, but that seems unlikely. The data do show clearly that women, especially the unmarried ones, tend to prefer more liberal candidates without regard to sex. And there is one study showing that when Democratic women run against Republican men, some Republican women voters defect to the woman.

What about men voters? Are they the ones who hold retrograde views, thinking women candidates are too emotional or weak to do the job? There may be some of that, but think of Republican voters in 2008. They were lukewarm toward John McCain, the last man standing at the end of the primaries, but they were over the moon for Sarah Palin. A September 2008 CNN poll found that 62 percent of men approved of Palin compared with only 53 percent of women. Asked whether Palin was qualified to be president, 57 percent of male respondents said yes, 14 points higher than among women. In fact, 55 percent of women thought she wasn’t qualified.

You can mine the data in the belief that voters are not “ready” for a woman president. But the truth is probably closer to this: the right woman candidate hasn’t run yet. Qualifications aside (it’s so pre-2016 to fret about qualifications!) if Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama jumped into the race, they’d rocket to the top. Great Britain, Israel, Germany, and India for heaven’s sake, have elected female leaders. Is the U.S. more misogynist than those countries?

Not everything reduces to bias. May the best person win.

Published in Politics
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 21 comments.

  1. Member

    I’d love to see Nikki Haley test whether Americans would vote for a woman.

    • #1
    • May 9, 2019, at 1:51 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  2. Thatcher

    I don’t hate women. I love women. My mom is and both of my grandmothers were women.

    I object to the idea that I have to hate Hillary Clinton for being a woman when there are plenty of reasons to hate Hillary Clinton for being Hillary Clinton.

     

    • #2
    • May 9, 2019, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 19 likes
  3. Thatcher

    Mona Charen: Is there an anti-woman bias?

    For Democrat women, yes. Obama was an outlier, but he was a guy. Yes, I think there was a “man thing” even for the Dems, working in 2008 and 2012.

    But Hillary was so wrong in many ways. I think Rush summed it up best:

    “Hillary Clinton was every man’s ex-wife.”

    Having said that, I don’t think America is ready for a woman President just because she is a woman. I think America doesn’t care, as long as 1) it’s not Hillary Clinton, and 2) the woman isn’t insane. The second criterion eliminates all the female Democrat candidates. Trump will be re-elected in 2020 (sorry, Mona). But . . .

    Nikki’s children should be on their own in 2024. I look for her to make a run. In spite of my disdain for her removal of the Confederate Battle Flag in SC (yes, it matters), she stands head and shoulders above any candidate the Dems could field.

    • #3
    • May 9, 2019, at 2:33 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. Podcaster

    Mona Charen:Qualifications aside (it’s so pre-2016 to fret about qualifications!) if Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama jumped into the race, they’d rocket to the top. 

    There’s absolutely no evidence of those assertions. What’s the difference between those two women’s politics and any of the women already in the Democratic race? Again, the conventional wisdom rears its head that name recognition equals electability.

    Great Britain, Israel, Germany, and India for heaven’s sake, have elected female leaders. Is the U.S. more misogynist than those countries?

    Of all of these examples few equate to winning a US Presidential election. Indira Gandhi, Theresa May and Golda Meir all ascended into their premierships either by death or resignation. (Gandhi was helped because her father was India’s first PM.) Angela Merkel became chancellor through a hung parliament. 

    Only Margaret Thatcher sat in opposition, led her party to a majority and became Prime Minister primarily through a democratic election. 

    • #4
    • May 9, 2019, at 2:49 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. Member

    Mona Charen:

    Should Democrats Avoid Women Candidates?

     

    Only if they’re Republicans.

    • #5
    • May 9, 2019, at 3:37 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Podcaster

    Let’s plaaaay…. Jeopardy!

    This pathetic choice for a female PM was left off of Mona’s list.

    • #6
    • May 9, 2019, at 5:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Let’s plaaaay…. Jeopardy!

    This pathetic choice for a female PM was left off of Mona’s list.

    Benazir Bhutto. Assassinated, as was Indira Gandhi. Hmmm….being a female head of state is a pretty high risk job.

    • #7
    • May 9, 2019, at 6:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Listener

    Stad (View Comment):
    I think America doesn’t care, as long as 1) it’s not Hillary Clinton, and 2) the woman isn’t insane.

    You repeat yourself.

    • #8
    • May 9, 2019, at 9:55 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  9. Thatcher
    She

    Caryn (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Let’s plaaaay…. Jeopardy!

    This pathetic choice for a female PM was left off of Mona’s list.

    Benazir Bhutto

    Who is the only other elected Prime Minister, besides Benazir Bhutto, to give birth while in office?

    • #9
    • May 10, 2019, at 1:52 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Member

    She (View Comment):

    Caryn (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Let’s plaaaay…. Jeopardy!

    This pathetic choice for a female PM was left off of Mona’s list.

    Benazir Bhutto

    Who is the only other elected Prime Minister, besides Benazir Bhutto, to give birth while in office?

    Jacinda Ardern 

    • #10
    • May 10, 2019, at 3:30 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Let’s plaaaay…. Jeopardy!

    This pathetic choice for a female PM was left off of Mona’s list.

    Helen Clark

    • #11
    • May 10, 2019, at 3:31 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Let’s plaaaay…. Jeopardy!

    This pathetic choice for a female PM was left off of Mona’s list.

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (President, but…)

    Park Geun-he (S Korea)

    Khalida Zia (Bangladesh)

    Sheikh Hasina (also Bangladesh)

    Tansu Çiller (Türkiye)

    Isabel Peron

    • #12
    • May 10, 2019, at 3:31 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Member

    “the right woman candidate hasn’t run yet.” Yes not even close, but Hillary could have won if she’d run a sound campaign and she was as corrupt and inept as we’ve ever seen. “if Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama jumped into the race,” god forbid. Isn’t there a Margaret Thatcher out there someplace? Of course she wouldn’t be a Democrat. Come to think of it, the first female president will likely be a conservative Republican.

    • #13
    • May 10, 2019, at 4:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Let’s plaaaay…. Jeopardy!

    This pathetic choice for a female PM was left off of Mona’s list.

    Who is Theresa Merkel?

    • #14
    • May 10, 2019, at 5:17 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Thatcher
    She

    Mona Charen: the right woman candidate hasn’t run yet.

    Well, I understand Marianne Williamson (Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual advisor) has reached the DNC’s donor threshold and qualified for the primary debates, so perhaps we’re inching closer . . .

    • #15
    • May 10, 2019, at 5:36 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Podcaster

    The correct question the judges had in mind is, “Who was Kim Campbell?”

    She was PM of Canada for a whole 132 days after succeeding Brian Mulroney. Jean Chrétien and the Grits mopped the floor with her in the 1993 elections.

    • #16
    • May 10, 2019, at 7:26 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Member

    I Walton (View Comment):

    “the right woman candidate hasn’t run yet.” Yes not even close, but Hillary could have won if she’d run a sound campaign and she was as corrupt and inept as we’ve ever seen. “if Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama jumped into the race,” god forbid. Isn’t there a Margaret Thatcher out there someplace? Of course she wouldn’t be a Democrat. Come to think of it, the first female president will likely be a conservative Republican.

    Well, 20 years ago many of us felt the same about the first black president.

    • #17
    • May 10, 2019, at 8:11 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Member

    If a woman candidate doesn’t remind you of your ex-wife at the beginning of the campaign and your ex-wife’s lawyer at the end of the campaign, she has a chance of winning. 

    • #18
    • May 10, 2019, at 8:29 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Member

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):

    I’d love to see Nikki Haley test whether Americans would vote for a woman.

    The thing is, a R woman is not likely to win. Look at those numbers on Palin.

    Mona Charen: Asked whether Palin was qualified to be president, 57 percent of male respondents said yes, 14 points higher than among women. In fact, 55 percent of women thought she wasn’t qualified.

    Women seem to be a stronger voting bloc than men and (we) are overwhelmingly pro-nanny state, especially among single women. Married women lean more to the Right, but they aren’t strong there.

    Women are far harsher critics of women than men are and they are particularly cruel to R women. A right leaning woman will not win a general election.

    • #19
    • May 10, 2019, at 1:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Member

    StIna

    Women are far harsher critics of women than men are . . . 

    Yes. And they are pretty good at detecting crazy, which eliminates most of the female Dems in the news. That leaves Harris (maybe–I think she is a little too cool and calculating for most people of either sex to trust) and Michele Obama. And Oprah.

    • #20
    • May 10, 2019, at 5:51 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. Member

    The Great Adventure! (View Comment):

    I Walton (View Comment):

    “the right woman candidate hasn’t run yet.” Yes not even close, but Hillary could have won if she’d run a sound campaign and she was as corrupt and inept as we’ve ever seen. “if Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama jumped into the race,” god forbid. Isn’t there a Margaret Thatcher out there someplace? Of course she wouldn’t be a Democrat. Come to think of it, the first female president will likely be a conservative Republican.

    Well, 20 years ago many of us felt the same about the first black president.

    Yep. I did. Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.

    • #21
    • May 12, 2019, at 8:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes