When we go to vote in November, many of us will vote based on how much we agree with the principles of a particular candidate. Some of us may even decide to vote for a candidate because of a single issue a candidate has a particular stance on (something I strongly advise against because a president will have to deal with not one issue, but many issues). But my guess is that not as many of us will vote for a president based on how well or poorly someone has managed, or would manage, crises. And that should change.
One of the certainties of a sitting president is that the president will need to confront crises. If you’re not convinced of that, look at this list of recent presidents and the incomplete group of crises they each had to confront:
Donald Trump: COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Maria in 2017, and Hurricane Harvey in 2017
Barack Obama: Superstorm Sandy in 2012, numerous mass shootings (Pulse, Aurora, and Charleston, to name three), and the Great Recession
George W. Bush: The Great Recession, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and 9/11
Bill Clinton: Columbine shooting in 1999, Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and Northridge, California earthquake in 1994
George H.W. Bush: Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Savings and Loan crisis, and Bay Area Earthquake in 1989
Ronald Reagan: Challenger rocket disaster in 1986 and Hurricane Alicia in 1983
And these are only the recent presidents. Going further back in history, presidencies were viewed as among the greatest or among the worst, in large part because of how those presidents handled crises. For example, Abraham Lincoln is considered among the all-time great presidents in large part due to his successful handling of the Civil War, while his predecessor, James Buchannan, is widely regarded as the worst because of his inaction as states seceded from the Union. Herbert Hoover is consistently ranked among the worst presidents due to his relative inaction when the Great Depression started, while his successor Franklin D. Roosevelt is widely regarded as among the greatest because so many thought that he responded to the Depression and World War II in a way that America became arguably the world’s strongest economic power for decades to come. A president’s response to a crisis can define a presidency, and sometimes even the course of the country for decades.
I’m not saying that one has to completely ignore the principles and positions taken up by the candidates. To the contrary, looking at principles and positions is an important part of figuring out who you want in the White House. However, figuring out how well a candidate would handle a crisis if elected is vastly underrated.
Quite a few people were devastated when Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for President of the United States ended early with disappointing results on Super Tuesday. Following her departure from the race, there has been much talk of how sexism, not the substance of what she was advocating for, may have affected her campaign.
And, there seems to be truth to the belief that sexism hurt Warren’s candidacy, as well as the candidacies of Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Kamala Harris. However, it seems like that sexism is playing out through the veil of a word that has been used time and time again by many a progressive activist in 2020: electability.
There is much terror in progressive circles over what has happened during the Trump administration, particularly with regard to a number of civil rights issues. In response, most Democrats want to nominate someone who can beat President Trump in November…someone who is, well, electable. In fact, the top priority among Democratic voters is beating Trump—a solid majority of respondents in a poll from last November prioritized a candidate who could beat Trump over a candidate who they agreed with ideologically.
This electability argument seems fine and innocent for many progressives…until you consider how that argument likely undermined the female candidates such as Warren, Klobuchar, and Harris. According to an Ipsos poll done in mid-2019, the plurality of Democratic and Independent voters thought that a woman would have a harder time beating Trump than a man would, and only a third of Democratic and Independent voters thought that their neighbors would be comfortable with a female president.
In summary, even Democrats and Independents, who themselves, on average, are ready for a female president, think that female candidates have an electability problem. In an election where electability is by far the top priority of voters, the perceived lack of electability of female candidates put the likes of Warren, Klobuchar, and Harris at a disadvantage from the beginning.
But what should we do about this problem, as this may not be the last time that electability may come up as an issue in primaries at the national level?
It seems like two options tend to be suggested: we either need to stop making electability a priority, or else somehow convince ourselves and others that women are electable.
Suggesting that people should stop making electability a priority is probably the more unpopular of the two options among many progressives; after all, many progressives desperately want to defeat President Trump and would likely feel the same about many prominent Republicans if they were president. At the same time, if people want electability to be a priority, that’s a measurement that, as I have shown, puts all female candidates at the national level, even female candidates in a Democratic primary process, at a major disadvantage even if they had the best policies ever.
However, even if people stop making electability a priority, there’s still that nagging problem that women are often viewed as less electable than men (even if electability is a secondary or tertiary priority). Not making electability the priority doesn’t take away the problem that women are often viewed as inferior presidential candidates because they’re viewed as less electable than men; it only attempts to minimize the problem. Therefore, the better option might be to work towards the point that women are viewed as every bit as electable as men.
But how do we get to a point that women are electable, too? I propose a few ideas, but am open to others:
We need to convince ourselves (and others) that people are, in general, more ready for a female president than many of us realize. That Ipsos poll I cited earlier says that 74% of Democrats and Independents are comfortable with a female president. Yet, only 33% of Democrats and Independents say that they think their neighbors are comfortable with a female president. Some of the other polling I cited earlier notes that 53% of Americans (encompassing all political affiliations) are either “very ready” or “extremely ready” for a female president, yet only 16% of Americans believed that most fellow Americans were ready for a female president. Let these statistics show that most Americans really are ready for a female president.
We need to understand why those who feel “moderately ready” for a woman to be president feel that way. 53% of Americans either feel “very ready” or “extremely ready” for a woman to be president, but there’s another 25% of Americans who feel “moderately ready” (leaving only 22% of Americans who feel only “slightly ready” or “not ready at all”). Namely, we need to understand what makes that 25% feel hesitant about having a woman president, because if those hesitations can be addressed, you then have an overwhelming majority of Americans feeling ready for a woman president.
We need to examine our own biases about women in power. I could probably dedicate a whole post to the topic of biases against women in power, but criticisms such as “bossy,” “strident,” and “abrasive” are levied against powerful, successful women much more than against powerful, successful men. We need to be honest with ourselves and see whether we tend to levy such biases disproportionately on successful women, because if we do, we are making it less likely that we will vote for women (and potentially less likely that we would view women as electable). I say this from experience, because I used to think that Warren was abrasive, and I did not consider voting for her until I realized that this belief came from my own biases about women in power.
“Electability” arguments probably did hurt female candidates this year. However, moving forward, if we want to have the first Madame President of the United States, we need to do all we can to make sure that pro-electability does not result in anti-female attitudes towards candidates.
Since my previous “blog news” post in late 2019, I’ve had some further developments related to the blog and blogging in general, as well as some new ideas for the blog. So, with that being said, here are a few pieces of blog news and ideas:
I’ve had readers ask me how (if at all) I will address the 2020 United States presidential election. The answer to that question is that I will look to address major issues relevant to the election that are either misunderstood or not talked about as much as they should be.
In a way, my recent post talking about the 1994 crime bill in some detail offers a sneak peek of what I plan to do on here this year for the election. By focusing on issues that are either misunderstood or “under the radar,” I hope that this little space on the internet can offer a fresh and constructive take on issues that will be discussed this year.
I will start a new blog series very soon.
As to what the series will be on, I have a couple of ideas I want to pursue at some point, and one in particular I’m leaning towards starting. You will find out soon, though!
I had a guest post published on another blog! My post, which was on why I think the United States is more into football/soccer than many people realize, was published on Renard’s World.
Obviously I’m biased because I wrote the post, but I hope some of you check out my post (which you can find here), especially if you want to see the side of me that is a soccer/football fan. I also highly recommend that readers check out the blog that I got this post published on, Renard’s World. While the blog really is on anything that tickles the fancy of the blogger (to use the words of the blog’s main author, Renard), his blog is a must-follow for anyone who wants to learn more about blogging.
Speaking of guest posts, people can feel free to reach out to me if they’d like me to do a guest post on their blog!
I’m happy to have a guest post on another blog about any of the types of topics I blog on at Blind Injustice (ableism, ageism, economic justice, immigrants, LGBTQ+ issues, mental health, etc.), faith/Christianity, as well as select sports topics (especially if it’s about soccer/football, NASCAR, or baseball). All you need to do is reach out to me on my blog or at email@example.com. I offer only three conditions: that you’re okay with my sharing your blog (like I’m sharing Renard’s blog above), that you’re patient with me if I end up with a backlog of people who want me to write guest posts for them, and that if you want me to blog for you more than a couple times a year, you pay me (not that I need the money, but it’s just that I will only spend significant time on a blog that’s not mine if I get some sort of financial compensation for it). If you’re worried about remembering all of this, fear not—I will add a “collaborate with me” page on the blog in the coming days.
For now, that’s pretty much it. I’ll only have a few weeks within the next several months (the weeks of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) when I won’t publish a new post on a Monday, so you will read more from me in the coming months!
 If you want me to post on your blog multiple times a year and pay me for it, my rate will be 10 cents an hour to start. So, while I’m not free, I’m also not that expensive.