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Sexism and US Politics

It's important to remember that sexism plays a major role in American politics. Historically, the answer to the question, "Can a woman be elected president?" has been a resounding no. Female candidates are held to a much higher standard than male ones, and are punished much more severely for failing to live up to that standard.

We've already seen this during this primary. Harris started off strong, but gradually collapsed in the polls for reasons that are hard to articulate, but likeability and electability probably played a role. Gillibrand was expected to be a powerhouse, but never took off. Klobuchar is barely hanging in there, even as far less qualified male candidates like Buttigieg and Yang surpass her.

And then, of course, there's Warren, who is by far the strongest woman in the race, and the one with the most detailed policy positions. She came within striking distance of first place, and then came under a flurry of criticism from the moderates for supporting Bernie's healthcare plan, which banned private insurance and lacked a funding mechanism. When she addressed those concerns, she was dismissed as being a flip flopper. No matter what she did, it was wrong.

Different people have different ways of responding to this problem. Some people prefer to play it safe, and support a candidate who looks like previous presidents. I don't think it's controversial to say that Biden's biggest selling point is his perceived electability. Other people prefer to take this problem head on, by supporting female candidates and smashing through the glass ceiling. Obviously, people consider a number of different factors when deciding who to support, but this is one of them, even though it's often subconscious.

I know that it's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment during a campaign. But let's try to avoid losing sight of the very real problems that female candidates face.

Stereotypes may not stop women from winning elections -- but they probably make it harder.

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