Democrats suffering from 2016 PESD (Post-Election Stress Disorder) are already in a panic about 2020, wringing their hands over the lack of a suitable leader. A popular talking point is that we must nominate a male candidate, or Donald Trump is sure to win a second term.
In a well-stocked lake of misguided opinions, this one is multiplying the fastest, and quickly overtaking the social media ecosystem. Check out any post about the Democrats’ prospects for 2020, and you’ll see an impassioned pool of comments with this specific talking point, even from liberals who consider themselves feminists. They insist that nominating a man is the only position a pragmatist can take.
But they’re wrong. This terror-laced belief is like a fever dream that magnifies a small percentage of voters into a monstrous mass of knuckle-dragging, women-eating zombies that will devour the 2020 election. It overlooks the fact that, despite the most massive, hate-fueled, misogyny-laden propaganda campaign in modern history, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and, arguably, would have won the election if not for the 11th hour nuclear bomb dropped upon the national discourse by FBI Director James Comey, when he announced he was reopening the investigation into her emails.
And since that election, women voters have become turbo-charged, Millennials have exceeded expectations, and people of color continue to champion the Democratic Party. These folks stormed the polls for the 2018 midterms, electing a record-shattering number of women candidates. Indeed, women will now occupy 100 of the 435 seats in congress. It’s still far from parity, but a historic move forward. You couldn’t ask for a clearer bellwether about the opportunity for a woman presidential nominee, especially since this momentum continues to grow.
Nervous Democrats will argue that we ignore the white male working class voter at our peril, and can only win this demographic with a folksy white man like the affable Joe Biden. I like Joe, too, and agree that the Democrats need a big tent and a clear message that ours is the working people’s party. But the notion of the white working class voter as a brutish, racist misogynist is condescending and misguided. This stereotype represents only a small knot of Americans, so tightly tied they’re not likely to vote for any Democrat, female or male. Yes, it would be lovely to convince them that they are voting against their own best interests when they cast a ballot for Trump, but we cannot. Their fervor is religious and impenetrable.
The good news is that we can win without them. Further, by doubling down on his tactics of fear and divisiveness, Trump has proven himself incapable of casting a wider net.
It’s also worth considering this scenario: If neither Donald Trump nor Mike Pence receives the Republican nomination (an unlikely but plausible prospect if the Mueller investigation is allowed to continue), that would leave the door open for a viable female Republican such as Nikki Haley. If the Democrats run a male candidate against her, we could well bleed out the suburban women and independents who put us over the finish line in so many of the midterm elections. And without these groups, we cannot win the presidency.
That aside, Democrats are also worried about another ugly propaganda campaign, fearing that any woman we nominate would be subject to the same rage-driven vitriol as Hillary Clinton. This is true, but any man we nominate would also be subject to this treatment. Such ugly, virulent and carefully launched attacks are the GOP’s war room strategy, and they do it effectively enough to infect even our own ranks. Sadly, Democrats make this all too easy for them, because our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. As a passionate and opinionated bunch, we are easily manipulated to moral outrage. If we are to take any lesson from the 2016 election it should be this, and not the idea that only a man can win the presidency.
About the author: Ellen Meister is the author of five published novels, and currently under contract for a three-book series with HarperCollins.