Yes, A Woman Can Beat Trump In 2020. Here's How.
The latest numbers tell us that women can take down Trump. Now, we have to put our collective faith in them.
Welcome to Hindsight 2020, Refinery29's weekly column reflecting on the women running for president and the lessons learned (or not!) from 2016.
You’ve also probably heard some of your family members and friends agreeing with these sentiments; “I’d love a woman to be president, but I just don’t think now’s the time to risk it with one of these women” seems to be a favorite argument.
But the numbers say otherwise. Quinnipiac University’s latest poll, which matches up Democratic nomination contenders head-to-head with Trump, shows both Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren beating Donald Trump by margins of 8% and 7% nationwide respectively, putting them right in the mix with the top tier of Democratic candidates.
Other polls of key battleground states show that these latest numbers aren’t a fluke; a mid-May poll from Quinnipiac focusing on Pennsylvania has Harris tying Trump 45% to 45%, while Warren beats Trump 47% to 44%. Even in a place like Texas, long hailed a Republican mecca, both Harris and Warren have gained ground on Trump, with Quinnipiac now saying that Harris trails Trump by four points and Warren by only one.
While there’s plenty of time between now and the election, the latest numbers are telling us that there are women candidates who can take down Trump. Not to mention, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote against Trump in 2016, and lost by less than 80,000 votes total in the key battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
If we want a woman president, we can elect a woman president. The numbers are on our side.
So why are so many people — and I’m looking at you, too, media folks — acting like Joe Biden has this one in the bag? Actual political stances aside, why are we pretending that a man who’s already lost two presidential party nomination bids is the best choice? Same goes for Bernie Sanders, for that matter, who lost the Democratic presidential nomination last time around. Or take Beto O’Rourke, who lost his Texas Senate election to the least likable guy in politics. This is all striking, especially considering that the four main female contenders — Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar — have never lost an election.
It’s not electability, or likability, or an “inability to connect,” or whatever you want to call it keeping these women from the top of the Democratic ticket or the presidency. Here’s what we all don’t want to admit to ourselves: It’s our own ugly biases — and a desire not to rock the boat, even if the boat is already sinking at a breakneck pace.
The fact of the matter is, electability and likability are social constructs rooted in the way things were, and they’re designed to keep the current upper echelons in power and maintain the status quo. They’re also predicated on the idea that there’s a massive number of Americans out there whose minds will never change — when in reality, that’s just simply not true. These myths are additionally fueled by the notion that if our media says things are the way they are, it must be true — as if media narratives can’t be questioned, criticized, and altered.
And sure, there’s much to say about Hillary Clinton as a candidate in 2016 and the first woman to ever get a major party’s presidential nomination. She came to the race with what some called a controversial career and had a complicated relationship with the press that brought about a never-ending cycle of toxicity. Her campaign made some errors that definitely didn’t help her cause on Election Day. But Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only one with baggage; we were reminded on November 8, 2016, just how much of a sexism problem our country has.
At the end of the day, saying that a woman can’t win the election based on the singular time a woman came so close to the presidency ignores the fact that a whole different slew of female candidates — who don’t have the same history — are in the driver’s seat now. We can’t let our fears of what happened in 2016 keep us from voting for a woman in the primary and the general election. We can’t let a sample size of one determine the progress for women in this country in 2020 and beyond. We can’t ignore the mounting evidence that a woman can win this election in favor of faulty, cherry-picked, and sexist “proof” that the men in this race can.
In reality, our history — and particularly our recent history — is filled with us bucking convention to get women where we want them to be. Just look at the 2018 midterm elections, which far exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations. Everyone knows the story of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the little engine that could in New York’s 14th congressional district, where her stunning primary victory over Joe Crowley set off a firestorm. Kendra Horn in Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district became the first Democratic woman elected to her seat — and the district’s first Democrat in well over four decades. Lauren Underwood took on six white guys in her primary and eventually became the first Black woman to represent her Illinois district. Nevada became the first and only state to have a majority-female state legislature, while Colorado’s lower state chamber also boasted more women than men for the first time ever.
And even in the losses, there were wins. After all, Georgia's now-governor Brian Kemp had to create a pile of discriminatory voter suppression measures — while continuing to oversee his own gubernatorial election in the role of Secretary of State, a blatant conflict of interest — to keep Stacey Abrams from becoming elected governor. She lost because her opponent cheated, not because she was a woman.
If we want a woman president, we can elect a woman president. The numbers are on our side. We just need to be strong enough to say to hell with “electability,” “likability,” and any of these other buzzwords that a bunch of old rich white guys have been shoving down our throats for centuries. We need to be smart enough to tell our media to cut it out with pretending that only male candidates have interests and hobbies and fans and personalities. And we need to be brave enough to say that it's time for a woman to ascend to the highest office in the land.