Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Then there were six -- women hit presidential trail -- June 20, 2019 column


It’s fitting, if long overdue, that in the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage, six women are running for a major party’s presidential nomination.

One hundred years after women got the right to vote, voters in 2020 conceivably could do what they did not in 2016 — deliver the United States its first woman president. 

So far, polls suggest two septuagenarian men — Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump — may duke it out in November 2020. But it’s still very early, and polls are just polls. 

President Trump, who never stopped campaigning, officially launched his re-election campaign Tuesday with a rally in Florida, and Democratic presidential hopefuls will take the stage next week in Florida for the first candidates’ debates. 

Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard will be among the 10 candidates onstage Wednesday night, and Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Marianne Williamson will be among 10 onstage Thursday night. Both events will last two hours.

Voters will begin making their choices known in a little more than seven months — at the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3 and the New Hampshire primary Feb. 11. Super Tuesday, when 13 states, including Virginia, will hold contests, will be March 3.

Even at this nascent moment, though, the 2020 campaign has accomplished something we’ve not seen before: It has made the idea of women running for president mainstream and almost unexceptional.

In 2008 and 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton was a trailblazer. She naturally played up her historic role last time as the first woman to become a major party’s presidential nominee.

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina made a brief run for her party’s nomination in 2016. After she left the race in March, Ted Cruz named her his running mate in April but then quit the race a week later. 

And perennial candidate Jill Stein was the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2012 and 2016. 

An all-time high of 84 percent of Americans say women are just as suited emotionally for politics as men — up 6 percent since 2016 and 14 points since Clinton lost to Barrack Obama in the 2008 primaries, the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago reported in March after their analysis of 2018 General Social Survey data.

Today’s pundits seem obsessed by how many Democrats are running for president — 23! 

Yes, it’s the most ever, but is it mind-blowing in a country of 327 million people, and after what happened in 2016, that a couple dozen people might have the guts to run for president? Or, if we’re being uncharitable, that some just want the publicity? Many people still believe publicity — not the White House — was Trump’s goal last time.

Come to think of it — only six women in a field of about two dozen candidates is a paltry showing. 

And if one of the qualified women does become the front-runner, she likely will have to endure thinly veiled — if veiled at all — sexist jibes about her looks, her clothes, her hormones and her background.

Until Trump’s pollsters told him Biden was beating him in key states, Trump liked to insult Elizabeth Warren. Then he switched to insulting Biden. 

The centennial of women’s suffrage gives the next election an historical reference point. 

Congress passed the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote on June 4, 1919, and sent it to the states for ratification. Tennessee put the measure over the top Aug. 24, 1920. 

All women then had the right to vote, but Virginia was among nine Southern states that dragged their feet on the amendment. The Virginia General Assembly finally ratified the 19th Amendment in 1952. That’s not a typo. 1952.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton made history by winning nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, before losing in the Electoral College. In Virginia, Clinton beat Trump 49.8 percent to 44.4 percent or by 212,030 votes.

Democrats may not nominate a woman for president this year, but it’s no longer just wishful thinking that they could. And it’s no longer just wishful thinking that a woman could win. 

(C)2019 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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