In 2016, Hilary Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald Trump. Prior to his presidency, Trump had no political experience; this alone should have resulted in the suspension of his campaign, yet he managed to earn the Republican nomination and defeat Clinton. As a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, many believed Clinton’s experience would secure her the presidency.
Former President Barack Obama hailed Clinton as the most qualified presidential candidate ever at a campaign rally in 2016.
“I can say with confidence there has never been a man or woman… more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” said Obama.
Clinton’s loss raised an important question: If Clinton had the resume, why couldn’t she obtain the votes?
“Except for her gender, Hilary Clinton is a highly conventional presidential candidate,” said Peter Beinart in a 2016 article for The Atlantic.
According to Beinart, the constant backlash Clinton received in 2016 would have been nonexistent if she were a man. The sexist rhetoric that seemed to follow Clinton as she campaigned was only a sample of the prominent misogynistic culture that exists within American politics.
According to a 2017 Politico article, research conducted by Stanford University showed that women presidential candidates must provide more evidence than their male counterparts to prove their qualifications.
“This means that for a woman to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling, she is going to have to be eminently and unassailably qualified,” said lead researcher Marianne Cooper.
In addition to having to work harder than their male counterparts to prove their eligibility, women must also navigate the immediate dismissal of voters who will bypass their qualifications simply because they are a woman.
According to a 2018 Newsweek article, 59% of Republican voters do not want to see a woman become President. In 2019 FiveThirtyEight reported only 33% of Americans believed that their neighbors would be comfortable with a woman president.
The initial hesitancy some Americans feel at the thought of a woman president only intensifies once they discover a stain on a candidate’s record. When running for President, all candidates endure a certain level of scrutiny; however, women candidates are not given the same grace as their male counterparts.
In 2020 both Kamala Harris’ and Joe Biden’s histories regarding criminal justice were rightfully questioned. Harris was held to the fire frequently regarding her time as a prosecutor and while Biden was reprimanded, the admonishment was often followed with a mention of an accomplishment that served as a pivot away from his questionable record. Ultimately, one candidate was forgiven and was elected President, while the other female candidate bowed out of the race.
“In American politics, a woman’s gender acts as both an invisible adherent and a tight constraint: it’s harder to shake off mistakes… sexism is transparent,” wrote political correspondent Charlotte Alter in a 2020 article for TIME.
Women in politics are not calling for an end of appropriate critique from voters but instead a chance to benefit from the grace given to so many of their male peers. A chance to move beyond career mistakes. They are not asking for leniency but instead demanding equality.
As of now, there have been 46 U.S presidents, all-male. This male dominance is not a result of political activity from women. A record number of six women were a part of the Democratic nominee contest, and according to a 2022 AmericanProgress article, nearly 120 women hold high-ranking positions within the American government. One of these women could potentially break the highest glass ceiling and become the nation’s first woman president.
Like Hillary Clinton, they will have the resume, and hopefully, this time, they will have the support.