Yglesias makes a strong case that, at a minimum, there should be a strong presumption that the 2020 Democratic nominee be one of the several highly qualified women who are in the race:
Despite an unprecedented number of women running for president, Morning Consult’s latest national poll puts former Vice President Joe Biden at the front of the pack, with 35 percent, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in second place at 27 percent. Sanders, in turn, is way ahead of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Beto O’Rourke, who are in a tie for fourth at 8 percent. Between the two, O’Rourke seems to have momentum on his side with a record fundraising haul and saturation-level media coverage.
Name recognition is one plausible explanation for Biden and Sanders’s dominance. But Democrats are also uneasy about whether a woman has the elusive quality of electability, not so much because of sexism but because of fears that other people’s sexism will hold women back. This wasn’t, of course, the intended outcome when Hillary Clinton and members of her team opined that misogyny cost her the 2016 presidential election. But one can certainly see how voters might have come away from the post-2016 takes about the role of racism and sexism in powering Donald Trump’s victory with the assumption that the road to victory is to nominate a white man at all costs.
Women who run for office do face misogyny, but there’s no reason to believe this is an insurmountable barrier. Women ran and won in historic numbers in 2018. They have led the resistance to Trump from the beginning. It would make a lot of sense to give one the shot to knock him out in 2020.
The piece does a good job addressing the “pragmatic” case for picking from the Bernie/Beto/Biden troika: i.e. “hey, Hillary said she lost because of sexism, so we need a man to beat Trump!” Well, sexism certainly was a factor in 2016; no serious person could dispute that. But racism is — as 2016 also reminded us vividly! — a major factor in American life, and yet an African-American won the biggest victory of any Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. And of course Clinton’s loss was highly contingent on a variety of unique factors in a structural context that was favorable to Republicans, not an inevitability. Nobody knows how any of the strengths and weaknesses of any credible candidate will balance out compared to another, and in many elections marginal candidate strength isn’t important anyway.
A woman has never been president. The Dems should be trying to change that unless there are very compelling reasons otherwise, and “electability” ain’t that.