Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has had a difficult time cracking 3% in early Democratic primary polls, and, despite a massive push for donations, may not make the cut for the first Democratic primary debate, essentially ending her presidential campaign within the next month.
But according to Gillibrand, the reason she’s suffering in the polls isn’t because she’s boring, because she hasn’t been clear on her platform, or because the field is simply overcrowded. It’s because America is sexist.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that Gillibrand, in a wide-ranging CNN profile, blamed Americans’ “bias against women” for her own failure to achieve the two key milestones necessary to be part of the 2020 Democratic primary debates: at least 5% in national polls or 65,000 individual donors.
“I think it’s just gender bias. I think people are generally biased against women. I think also biased against young women,” she said. “There’s just bias and it’s real and it exists, but you have to overcome it.”
Gillibrand does say that, despite the hardship, she’s been “living her best life” on the campaign trail, but even appearing in drag shows and blocking ranch dressing dispensers hasn’t dulled the sting of misogyny.
“They just have to get to know her,” Gillibrand said, oddly referring to herself in the third person. “They might make a judgment without knowing her, but once they meet her and know who she is and why she’s running, it will give her that opportunity.”
In the wake of her 2016 loss, Hillary Clinton tried to make the same argument: that America simply wasn’t ready for a president who wasn’t old, rich, white, and male (even though she was competing to succeed a young, middle-class, black man who had just served eight years in the Oval Office). Like Gillibrand, she tried to blame her loss on misogyny, on double standards applied to female candidates, and on the concept of “likeability,” which she claimed was only applied to female candidates.
But in Gillibrand’s case, the excuse makes even less sense than in Clinton’s. For starters, she’s one of several women competing in a heavily diverse field of candidates, and almost all those women are polling better than her. Both Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) are consistently within the top five candidates — even if both are polling far behind two white males, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Vice President Joe Biden — and both will likely make the debate stage.
Media coverage also seems skewed in favor of female candidates. As Five-Thirty-Eight’s Nate Silver pointed out on Twitter Monday, Warren, Harris, and fellow candidates, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, are all polling “similarly,” but the female candidates have completely dominated airtime, commanding at least 50% more media coverage than their male competitors.
Warren, Harris, Buttigieg and Beto are all polling similary-ish, but Warren and Harris are getting 50% more cable news coverage than Buttigieg and 200% more coverage than Beto. https://t.co/yRuoPL7je1 pic.twitter.com/OlFsV5n991
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) May 13, 2019
Maybe it’s not that women as a whole are “unlikeable” or undesirable as candidates, but that Gillibrand herself is.
At least, Gillibrand says, her presidential campaign has been an entertaining experience: “I probably am having more fun than the other candidates.”