Of course the U.S. will have a woman president

Lawless does believe that gender currently puts up one distinct hurdle for women: the widespread belief that America is not willing to elect a female president. Because of this assumption, some voters eager to get Trump out of office might see a male candidate as a safer choice. Other commentators have raised the same issue in recent months. “While most Americans claim they are ready for a woman president, far fewer see other people as quite so open to the possibility,” the New York Times columnist Michelle Cottle wrote in January, pointing to several polls in which this pattern emerged. Warren supporters have deplored the media’s flogging of the “electability” issue as a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” But no one seems to be asking whether the relentless focus on the misogyny allegedly thwarting female candidates—and, specifically, Clinton in 2016—played into this self-fulfilling prophecy as well.

A June 2019 poll found that 41 percent of Democrats (and 25 percent of all women) thought that “gender and sexism” played a “major role” in Clinton’s loss to Trump. This is certainly the view embraced by much feminist and progressive punditry: On November 9, 2016, well-known publications such as Slate, BuzzFeed, and Splinter all ran headlines asserting, based on Clinton’s loss, that “America hates women.”

Viewed differently, though, Clinton’s campaign was groundbreaking. She won her party’s nomination in a tough contest and got 3 million more votes than Trump in the general election. Her ultimate loss, one could argue, had far less to do with misogyny than with the peculiarities of the Electoral College. That Clinton lost to a man widely regarded as an unqualified buffoon was understandably galling to her supporters. But anyone tempted to see Trump’s ability to beat a far more competent and more fit female opponent as prima facie evidence of sexism should remember that first, he won the nomination by beating 16 other candidates—15 of whom were men, and nearly all of whom had more traditional political credentials than he did.