One of the most irritating things a person hears when discussing contemporary politics is the acknowledgment that a given candidate is stellar, tempered by the caveat that the same candidate simply can’t win.
“I would vote for Elizabeth Warren, but she’ll just never win,” the man at the bar, or your friend’s mother, or your boss, says, with a rueful, shrugging smile. The smile says: “Don’t blame me, I’m a good, principled person. It’s everyone else who is out to saddle us with a less-good candidate.”
Of course, if all these people did vote for Elizabeth Warren, she would win. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, captured in a new public opinion survey conducted by Ipsos for The Daily Beast. On the face of it, the results seem positive: about three quarters of respondents say they’re ready for a woman president!
Except the inherent weakness of self-reported polls is that people are inclined to tell the pollster what they believe the pollster wants to hear, or what they think a good person would say, even if that’s not necessarily the truth about how they feel.
The Ipsos poll gets around this somewhat by also asking people if their neighbors, and separately their spouse or immediately family, are ready for a woman president.
Seventy-four percent of respondents claimed they’re comfortable with a woman president. But only 33 percent believe their neighbors are, and a middling 57 percent said their spouse or immediate family are.
Asking about neighbors beliefs, Ipsos Research Director Mallory Newall told the Beast, is “a classic method to get around people being reluctant to admit to less popular views.”
Is it possible that three quarters of the 567 Democrats and independents polled by Ipsos are truly ready for a woman president, but two thirds of them live next door to sexists and nearly half the respondents are married to them? Sure. But it seems far more likely that some of those 74 percent are allowing their spouses or neighbors to represent their own feelings.
The really sad thing is that 20 percent of Democrats and independents didn’t even need an alibi, and flat out said in 2019 that they didn’t feel comfortable with a woman being president.
There are moments when it feels like we have made more progress than most of us could’ve imagined even a few years ago. Joe Biden’s recent flip on the Hyde Amendment, for example—he and his team apparently realized that blocking public health funds from being used by people who need abortions is no longer a mainstream Democrat position. It’s no longer okay to curtail rights in insidious, shaming ways that disproportionately target service members and the poor.
So why can’t a woman be president? Certainly, abortion is not a women’s issue—it’s wholly unnecessary without the involvement of men. And relegating anything to the classification of “women’s issue” allows politicians to treat it as a fringe interest as opposed to one shared by more than half the population. But it’s fair to see the mainstreaming of abortion access as a step forward for gender equality, which makes this resistence to a woman president so frustratingly inexplicable. Perhaps it’s a sort of patriarchical feminism that has become mainstream—an acceptance of men granting women equality and freedom.
If you believe someone can’t be president because she is a woman, then you’re sexist. That’s a plain fact. You don’t get to hide behind “other people aren’t ready.”