As the weekly polling cycles grind on, mostly producing the same results, we’ve had some admittedly uncharitable fun pointing out that either two or three white men remain in the lead in the primary race for the “party of youth and diversity.” We also frequently note that at least two of those three white men are septuagenarians. This has not escaped the notice of woke activists, but this time they can’t really blame conservatives or the GOP for this disappointing state of affairs. It’s the Democrats’ own voters that are delivering these results.
But what to do about it? We’ve found at least one person with a possible answer and that’s Suzanna Danuta Walters, director of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Northeastern University. Writing in an op-ed for the Washington Post, Ms. Walters vents her frustration with the various factors that she believes are keeping female candidates down in single digits and unfairly promoting white men to the front of the pack. Her solution is a novel one. Have all the men drop out of the race and let the nation pick between the available female candidates.
More women are seeking the party’s presidential nomination than ever before. And yet a few white men sit at the top of the polls and rake in big fundraising hauls. As candidates such as Sens. Kamala D. Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar lean in, maybe it’s time for some of their male competitors to find ways to lean out.
Early media coverage of the campaign demonstrates why merely leaning in can’t dismantle the double standards and deep structural misogyny women face. Studies by FiveThirtyEight and my colleagues at Northeastern University found both fewer “media mentions” of female candidates and also more negative coverage than of their male counterparts. Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke apparently merits multiple profiles, an HBO documentary about his failed Senate run and an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot in Vanity Fair — while Pete Buttigieg got a literally glowing New York magazine cover profile.
In terms of possible party platforms, that’s one of the more extreme ones we’ve seen to date. If the Democratic primary voters won’t support one of the female candidates, pressure the men to simply drop out. It’s sort of the participation trophy theory taken to the extreme. But would that improve the party’s chances next November?
Walters identifies a couple of statistics that might be responsible for the poor showing of most of the female candidates. At the top of the list is the media, who allegedly offer fewer mentions of the women in the race and, when they do bring them up, offer “more negative coverage” than the gentlemen receive. But the fact is that the press tends to spend more time discussing the candidates at the top of the polls because (I know you’ll find this shocking) they are the ones who are of the greatest interest to the voters and are most likely to wind up reaching the finish line. They could spend all day covering Jay Inslee, but that’s not going to make him magically surge into first place. (Or even rise above one percent, based on most surveys.)
Just as a side note, I wonder if Ms. Walters is equally upset about the way that conservative candidates and policy positions are almost universally described in more negative tones than liberal politicians or policies? Or how the mainstream press routinely bashes women with an R after their names far more so than Democrats? I see no mention of such inequities in this article.
The author suggests that male candidates have a duty to drop out if they truly value gender equality. She describes how “real gender equity is achieved only when men actively refuse the benefits they receive simply for being born male.” But the question I would put to Walters is why she is ignoring the actual source of the disparity she is pointing out. Unlike applying for a job or a promotion, where the established power structure at a company may indeed favor men over women, we’re talking about polling the people most likely to vote in the primary. It’s about the fairest and most open forum imaginable.
The voters have been given at least twenty choices, including many women. In poll after poll, significant numbers of them are picking Biden and Sanders. And in case Ms. Walters hasn’t noticed, large numbers of women are lining up behind those same two men. Who precisely is slamming the glass ceiling down on the collective faces of the female candidates? If you want someone to poll better than Biden and Sanders, you probably need to convince some better candidates to get into the race.