‘Women Candidates’ and ‘Hillary Clinton’ Are Not Interchangeable Terms

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Washington, D.C., November 2, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Over at The New York Times, columnist Farhard Manjoo urges Democrats to nominate a woman:

Democratic voters say that while they themselves may support Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and other women who are running for president, they worry that other people — their friends and neighbors, the news media, a lot of the men in their lives — won’t give a woman a fair shot against President Trump…

Overlooking a qualified woman because you expect misogynists to have a problem with her is the very definition of patriarchy. In doing so, you are abdicating the voting booth to the enemies of equality and are perpetuating the dynamic that has given us 45 male presidents in a row.

Manjoo glides over the fact that the mentality he describes is quite self-flattering: “I would be fine with a woman president, but those backwards hicks in those state we need to win won’t vote for one, so there’s no point in considering it.” It’s an argument that relies on a data point of one election, 2016 — and conflates the projected problems of “women candidates” with the established problems of “Hillary Clinton.”

If the Democrats nominate a woman in 2020, whoever she is, she will not have been in the public eye for a quarter century as Hillary Clinton had been in 2016. That woman probably won’t have an issue with lots of classified information in an insufficiently secure private email server. That woman probably won’t have a husband involved in a series of infamous and embarrassing sex scandals and harassment allegations. That woman probably won’t be facing accusations that the Democratic National Committee pulled out all the stops to ensure she won. A woman who wins the 2020 Democratic nomination will have other problems — as will any man who wins the nomination.

Nor is there a particularly strong case that a woman candidate would be particularly weak in all of those swing states that Democrats are worried about. The notion that women can’t win in Iowa will be news to Senator Joni Ernst and Governor Kim Reynolds. Senator Tammy Baldwin has won in Wisconsin several times, as has Senator Debbie Stabenow in Michigan; Michigan’s governor Gretchen Whitmer and Jennifer Granholm were elected to two terms. North Carolina elected Governor Bev Purdue and senators Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan a few cycles back. Democrats had a lousy year in Florida in 2018, but Nikki Fried won the statewide race for agriculture commissioner.

The notion that women are more likely to be elected in blue or traditionally Democratic states doesn’t really hold up, either. Alabama and South Dakota currently have women governors, South Carolina had one in Nikki Haley, Oklahoma had one in Mary Fallin, and you probably remember a particular governor from Alaska who made national news in 2008.

Arizona’s had four women governors, and Kansas has had three! The only state in the union that has never sent a woman to Congress is . . . Vermont.

“The electorate is too sexist to elect a woman” is an extremely reassuring explanation for people who don’t want to seriously contemplate the flaws of Hillary Clinton or the appeal of Donald Trump’s message in 2016.

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