White Male Candidates (Of Course) Take Over 2020 Democratic Conversation

We still have more than enough time to cut the crap and learn from our 2016 mistakes, America. 

There’s a glut of 2020 American presidential election punditry to pick apart in this early April month of 2019. While many would like to put a little more cognitive distance between us and the painful results of the 2016 contest, before we’re asked to consider the bleak possibility of a second Donald Trump term, we will not be afforded such luxury.

There’s not much to say about the Republican field. Former Massachusetts Governor and Gary’s Johnson’s 2016 Libertarian ticket running mate, Bill Weld, has thrown his hat into the ring to challenge the sitting President. Truly a maverick, Weld announced his support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy just six days before voters went to the polls in 2016. It seems that country before self-interest is still a weird personality quirk for some self-described conservatives.

Weld has also said that if he fails in his bid to dethrone the incumbent through the primary process, he won’t commit to supporting the Republican nominee for President in 2020. Suck it, RNC pledges. For the 73 year-old, #NeverTrump is more than a hashtag. That alone is enough to recommend a serious look at Weld’s platform. But the Governor himself is aware that rational hope for his success is limited to a once-common belief that in America, “anything is possible.” No other serious challengers to Trumpism have yet presented themselves on the Republican side.

The situation is quite different with the Democrats. There are currently 17 candidates officially in the running for the 2020 nomination. The New York Times identifies three more as “Likely to Run:” former Vice-President Joe Biden, Governor of Montana Steve Bullock, and California Congressman Eric Swalwell. While several members of this giant field are women (New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand), persons of color (San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro) or both (California Senator Kamala Harris), many of the recent comers offer the same white male faces and privilege to which the electorate is accustomed.

On Friday, writer Charles P. Pierce of Esquire observed:

“The I Am A White Dude Who Can Speak To White Dudes And Got My Ass Kicked By Nancy Pelosi lane in the upcoming Democratic primary race is beginning to look like the Tobin Bridge at rush hour on those mornings when taking a Charles Stuart off the side and swimming to downtown looks no only plausible but preferable.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan is back in town. Put that together with Biden Fever and the apparently endless self-regard of our own Congressman Seth Moulton, along with the white-dude-adjacent stylings of Mayor Pete, and every diner in Ohio is going to be jammed with White Dudes Who Understand.”

Until yesterday, this offered a fairly accurate summary of my electoral disenchantment. Take for example, the candidacy of Elizabeth Warren, populist policy warrior and Massachusetts Senator. Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine speaks truth in writing:

“Even though she is by all accounts a brilliant woman with a unique capacity to understand and articulate the plight of the middle class in an era of great corporate power and official corruption, and may be ideally positioned to unite her party, her standing has been deteriorating.”

But why? We don’t really have to ask. Because woman. That’s all it takes to torpedo an otherwise overqualified candidacy, right Hillary? I commend all of the liberal women sticking their necks out there in the face of overwhelming national evidence of its futility. As for me, I keep my patriarchal subversion hyper-local. Last week while cat sitting for a longtime white, male friend, I changed his screen saver from a naked blonde woman to an image of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Objectify that lady’s beautiful brain, Gordo!

But I digress. I mentioned that yesterday, another (female) writer spoke my disaffected Democratic anger at the shaping of the 2020 field yet more clearly. Jill Filipovic of The New York Times published a column entitled How Old Is 37? Depends on Your Gender. I pretty much nodded my head through passages like this:

“’Promise’ itself is gendered. Research consistently shows that in American workplaces, women tend to be promoted once their managers see them perform well; men are promoted if managers believe in their potential to do well. We’re running the same experiment in politics: Voters, donors and journalists are all excited by the great leadership potential of young men who leapfrog up the political ladder. They expect women to prove themselves before they move forward.”

When experienced female candidates like Warren, Harris and Gillibrand offer themselves to voters as credible national leaders, almost immediately comes the “likeability” crisis. Women, as they do in most other areas of public and civil life, fare better in the abstract – and maddeningly the gender of the judge seems to make little difference. Our nation’s political misogyny is so entrenched, it can make one incongruously resentful.

I like Mayor Pete and Beto O’Rourke. Not however, when their zeitgeist presence serves to marginalize female candidates more than worthy of public and private attention. We still have more than enough time to cut the crap and learn from our 2016 mistakes, America.

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Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at BeckySarwate.com, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.

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