Tags: 2020 Elections | Education | Hillary Clinton | Media Bias | warren | sanders | socialist

Can a Woman Win the Presidency? It's a Good Question

democratic presidential candidates sen elizabeth warren and sen bernie sanders

Democratic presidential hopeful Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, Vt., speak after the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa - on Jan. 14, 2020. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

By Wednesday, 15 January 2020 12:08 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., says that in a private meeting in 2018, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., told her that a woman couldn’t win the 2020 presidential election.

He has denied saying it. I’ve got six questions:

Who’s telling the truth? Warren’s story is plausible. But she now has a long track record of fibs and tall tales. She denied that her children went to private school when one of them did. She misrepresented her ancestry. She said, ludicrously, that Democrats had warned her that no Democrat could win a Senate race in . . . Massachusetts.

Between the two of them, I’d say Sanders is the more credible.

Can a woman win in 2020? But maybe Warren is telling the truth: Was what Sanders allegedly said correct? The claim can’t be true in the strong form Warren put it. Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes for president than Donald Trump in 2016, and if a mere 80,000 of them had been in the right places she would have won the Electoral College.

Trump’s approval ratings have never been high. So the real question is:

All else equal, would a female nominee have a lower likelihood of winning the general election? Nobody has in the past considered it shocking or unacceptable to say so. After the 2016 election, several disappointed Clinton supporters blamed sexism for the outcome. Clinton herself said "misogyny and sexism" contributed to her defeat. As Christine Rosen noted in Commentary last year, however, some studies have suggested that voters and journalists generally treat male and female candidates the same.

If a female nominee would have a lower chance of winning, is that a good reason for Democrats to avoid having one? The idea of giving in to ingrained sexism on the part of voters rubs a lot of Democrats the wrong way. But if it’s true that voters are more resistant to a female nominee, then it would seem that Democrats who are genuinely alarmed by Trump would have to take that fact into account. David Remnick, the editor of  The New Yorker, said a few weeks ago that Trump’s removal from office was needed for "the future of the Earth.” It would be rational for progressives who agree with him to pick a different election in which to make an honorable stand against sexism. It would, indeed, be irrational not to. This story almost certainly originated from someone in Warren’s camp who wanted to make Sanders look bad, and Sanders has sometimes raised hackles for prioritizing left-wing economics over social issues.

But if Sanders said what Warren claims, it shouldn’t be held against him.

Does Warren’s sex make her a weaker potential nominee than Sanders? Again, let’s stipulate that all else equal, the Democrats will be less likely to win in 2020 if they put up a woman. Since all else isn’t equal, they might still be better off with Warren. Sanders has proudly labeled himself a "socialist" for decades, and a majority of the public is against socialism. Warren agrees with Sanders on many policies but has rejected the controversial label. Then again, Democrats whose top priority is to replace Trump in the White House could opt for one of the candidates who is neither female nor a self-described socialist.

How’s the Warren-Sanders "truce" going? This one, I think we know the answer to.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is a senior editor of National Review and the author of "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., says that in a private meeting in 2018, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., told her that a woman couldn’t win the 2020 presidential election. He has denied saying it. I’ve got questions.
warren, sanders, socialist, new yorker
Wednesday, 15 January 2020 12:08 PM
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