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Monday, January 20, 2020
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I recently had a “change of heart” about how much voter sexism is out there amidst the voters, especially those most likely to vote in a Presidential election. A long-time friend of mine who happens to be female concluded shortly after the 2016 election that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump mainly because of an anti-female bias amidst the voting populace (mainly in men, but also in women to some degree). I disagreed with my friend regarding the word “mainly” or “primarily”. While I did not deny that there is an anti-female bias in some voters (perhaps too many voters), there were a wide variety of other, more significant factors that combined behind Donald Trump’s surprise victory.

But based on recent trends in the 2020 Democratic primary race, I am ready to move a bit closer to my friend’s position. I am now ready to admit that voter sexism, at least in some groups, is stronger than I thought. And I am also willing to admit that the groups where an anti-female bias might be significant are positioned in areas that have a greater say in the outcome of a Presidential election, due to the quirks of our Constitutional system for electing a President, i.e. the Electoral College system. Looking back to 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote — so on that level, sexist bias is not an impossible hurdle. But in those key “swing states” that the Electoral College system was and still is biased towards (especially Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin), the fact that Hillary was a woman probably created just enough of a negative bias so as to tip the popular vote totals in those states narrowly against her, causing the Electoral College to give the Presidency to Trump.

As a footnote at this point, remember that in 2004, John Kerry didn’t do too well in those states either. But he did win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. Had Hillary repeated Kerry’s performance in those states, she would be President right now. Still, it is difficult to say based on that alone that sexism was the key cause for the difference. One would need to add in the fact that Hillary made mistakes with regard to those states, she should not have taken them for granted as Democratic strongholds that could be relied on; she should have given them more attention, as her husband allegedly suggested to her.

So, based on the 2016 results along, I could not conclude that sexism amidst certain groups of voters was the primary reason for Clinton’s defeat. The evidence seemed too fuzzy at that point to conclude that sexism was a big factor.

HOWEVER – what is now happening in the 2020 Democratic primary process seems to indicate that sexism IS a strong factor amidst the electorate; stronger than I had realized. I’m still not ready to conclude that Hillary Clinton lost primarily because of sexism; however, I admit that sexism amidst American voters is much stronger and much more important than I had previously realized.

What presently concerns me regards the candidacies of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Kloubuchar. I have previously noted here my feelings that Amy Klobuchar was the best potential Democratic Presidential candidate for 2020. I even sent a (very small) donation to her campaign back in November. If I knew for sure that she wasn’t going to drop out soon, I’d send another couple of bucks.

Over the past week or so, I have read a number of essays by political pundits who wonder, why didn’t Amy Klobuchar catch on? She is clearly in the “moderate lane” for the Democratic candidates. Her main rivals in that “lane” are Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buddigieg. Senator Klobuchar does not have Joe Biden’s level of experience, but she certainly has a lot more experience and success than Mayor Pete! And unlike Joe Biden, she is still middle-aged and her mind is in good shape. She is a good politician, well spoken, fast on her feet. She did well at the Senate hearings for Supreme Court Justice Kavenaugh, and she has done well at the Democratic debates.

Furthermore, Senator Kloubuchar doesn’t have Biden’s baggage regarding his son’s exploits in Ukraine. The worst dirt about Amy is that she sometimes gets rough and very demanding with her staff, not always a respectful boss. (Her father was an alcoholic, and I’ve read that children of alcoholics are often highly driven perfectionists and can thus be very demanding bosses). But she has won elections by big margins in Minnesota, a state that is turning more and more Republican everywhere outside of the Twin Cities. I personally would much rather see Klobuchar run against Trump than Joe Biden. I really wonder if Biden can hold up in a rough debate with Trump without being badly embarrassed. I really fear that a Biden run for Presidency is not going to turn out very well.

So why hasn’t Kloubuchar caught on? Why do her poll number stay around 3%, while Biden keeps his 30% and Buddegeig has shot up to around 8%? In a recent interview, Klobuchar told a reporter that had she been male, she would probably be doing much better. And I agree! Klobuchar decided to compete with Biden for moderate votes, and the Democratic moderates tend to be older and have fewer college and graduate degrees. I would say that this is pretty good evidence that there is some level of sexist bias amidst moderate Democrats. Kloubuchar isn’t all that charismatic, but neither is Biden. Buddegieg is much more charismatic than either of them, but he is way too young and has too little experience. And yet, he is seen by many as having an outside chance (a “dark horse” candidate), while Kloubuchar is mostly dismissed, not a serious contender.

But even with the progressive Democrats, who claim to be oh so “woke” and so open-minded, the experience of Elizabeth Warren also seems to indicate some sexist bias. Warren has made a lot of political mistakes, such as the Native American heritage fiasco, which was entirely her fault. She did not handle that well; she should have just said yes, I stretched the truth about that in order to get a professorship at Harvard, I’m sorry, and let’s get beyond it. She hurt herself worse by trying to defend what she did. And she does have an “irritating” style of talking (which Amy Klobuchar doesn’t, IMHO). Warren sometimes sounds like an old school teacher yelling at the stupid boys in the back of the classroom. But she still has a very impressive resume, very impressive experience, and she is very bright and spells out in detail what she would do were were she President. Bernie Sanders can’t do that, has little idea about the practicalities of governance.

Warren’s chief rival is Bernie Sanders, of course. They both endorse similar policies, policies that are very leftist, big government, anti-business. And yet, Bernie’s support has strengthened in the last 2 months while Warren’s strength has gone down. When you compare Bernie with Warren on paper, Warren clearly has the advantage. Before she was Senator, Warren was a Harvard law school professor and the head of a financial regulatory agency. Before Bernie was a Senator, he was the mayor of a small city in Vermont. Bernie is old and has recently had a heart attack. Warren is getting up there in age but is still in good shape, physically and mentally. Bernie keeps harping on what’s wrong with the country, while Warren talks about how to fix those things. By all rights, Warren’s star should be rising and Bernie’s star should be setting. But just the opposite is happening among the progressives. What is wrong with this picture??

Well, this situation is pretty complex; Bernie is more charismatic than Warren, and he has been in the spotlight longer, given his 2016 run against Hillary. But still, I suspect that sexism has something to do with this situation, even though the progressives claim to be beyond sexism. As the progressives themselves say, racism and sexism can still exist in the deep subconscious, even though a person is not aware of any personal bias against women or minorities; such people generally deny being racist or sexist, quite vigorously!

So, by adding up what has has been happening (or NOT happening) with Klobuchar and also with Warren, it now makes more sense to me that sexism was an important (but largely denied) factor with the key voters who tipped the 2016 election against Hillary. I didn’t want to believe this, I had hoped that America had mostly put its sexism and racism behind it. And I still think that America is much farther ahead on those issues than it was in 1960 or even 1980. But now I am ready to agree that there is still a problem remaining.

Thus, I am coming to agree that sexism sank Hillary, although I would not say that sexism was the ONLY factor in her defeat. Had she not made some of the political mistakes that she did, she possibly could have beaten Trump. But then again, no politician is perfect. And a man probably does has more margin for error and forgiveness than a woman politician does. Bottom line, what is now happening with Amy Klobuchar and also Elizabeth Warren is disappointing to me; sexism obviously is still a problem, even though very few men openly assert themselves as sexist in this day and age. (Although there are some; you can easily find nuts of all sorts on social media).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:07 pm      

  1. I thought this was an objectively good post.

    If we were truly a sexist-free society, we would have an equal number of men and women in Congress. Yet there have only been 50 women senators in history!

    I liked Amy Klobuchar too. Unlike you though, I don’t think she stood out in the debates, and really underperformed in her last debate when Pete Buttigieg repeatedly attacked her and got her very flustered. “Do you think I’m stupid?” was one of the worst lines in all of the debates.

    I like Elizabeth Warren a lot too and think she probably would have been the best president of all of the candidates. I think the reason she failed was a lack of clear message that Bernie delivered. She was always so crisp in what she said; the problem was that she had to many messages. So she did great among educated voters, but failed miserably with uneducated voters. And we probably will disagree on this, but during a debate I expect the candidate to express a vision – not lay out tons of details. That is something Bernie understood better than Warren.

    When one candidate loses by only tens of thousands of votes like Hillary did, then lots if things would have made the difference, certainly including sexism. Hillary was Trump-like in some respects (albeit you a much lesser extent) in that she appeared to crave power and money: Whitewater, Clinton Foundation, lining her personal pockets by giving speeches to Goldman Sachs behind closed doors even though she knew she was running for President. She had earned a reputation as a vengeful politician who took no responsibility for her own actions, and she showed it by attacking Gabbard (who had endorsed Sanders) and attacking Sanders for not helping her enough – even though he had roughly three times as many campaign events for her than she had for Obama. Hillary was Unlikeable – and that had little to do with her gender.

    Comment by Zreebs — March 18, 2020 @ 3:37 am

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