Lean In, They Said

Zandria Haines | Mar 19, 2020


We’ve leaned in. We’ve raised the money, hired brilliant staffers, and stuck it out until the end.

And despite that, we’ve watched the women drop out of the presidential primary like petals. They love us, they love us not. At least, not enough to vote for us.

For the 2020 Democratic primaries, we had six women run for the nomination, and as of this month, with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s withdrawals, we are seeing less progress than what we had in 2016 when Hillary Clinton rose to the general election.

I remember the enthusiasm when candidates began announcing viable women candidates. We had five, when in 2016, we were happy with just one. Progress was imminent and promising. Women across the country hoped that this would be the year we could elect a woman president.

Instead, we witnessed the historical pattern of regression.

This atavistic pattern, the anxiety when marginalized groups seem to make progress, is predictable. It appeared again in the 2020 primaries, just four years after Hillary Clinton showed the country that a woman could run for president, and win. After her loss, many of us were ready to try again and elect a woman.

The recent candidacies of women have shown us America’s anxieties about electing a woman president, not its hopes.

Voters, journalists, and pundits disguised this election’s sexism around “electability.” Kamala Harris’ past as a prosecutor in California disqualified her. Warren’s dubious Cherokee heritage painted her as sycophant. Amy Klobouchar was barely mentioned at all.

The candidates presented smart, popular plans while playing with the “electability” phrase by taking selfies with event  attendees or mentioning their history of listening to popular rap artists. They did everything they could to ensure voters could trust their policy ideas.

Let’s not forget that Republican women have been primaring too. While only one woman made it to primary both years, Michelle Bachman in 2012 and Carly Fiorina in 2016, we know that both parties have been actively recruiting women candidates, providing them with the resources needed to run.

Women candidates have done their part by leaning in. Much like John McCain did in 2008, Joe Biden committed to selecting a woman as his running mate if he is the Democratic nominee, but we are ready for a world where women won’t have to settle for second place.

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