Are You Voting For Joe Biden Because You Think Your Sexist Neighbors Will Vote For Biden? Let’s Talk!
John McCain died last year without ever being president.
He was supposed to be president. He was beloved by the media, hailed as a statesman-like old white guy who could appeal to most people, especially all those people "in the middle" who we all assume just don't really think too hard about things. He lost the presidency to a black man named Barack Obama, who half the country thought was a socialist.
Bob Dole. Al Gore. John Kerry. John McCain. Mitt Romney. America has left a bloody trail of boring-ass, "statesman-like" white guys who were "supposed" to be president. They were supported, in a milquetoast fashion, by people who assumed that they were generally unobjectionable enough for all those "other" people to vote for. And they all lost to the kind of candidates they were never supposed to lose to.
Over the last few weeks, Elizabeth Warren has been rising in the polls, even coming in second in several state polls. Every time she releases a new plan, a new policy, people go bonkers. Why? Because they are very good plans and policies that solve real problems that real people have. At the same time, I see supporters of Kamala Harris rallying to her side as fiercely as Bernie Sanders supporters rally to his, perhaps even more so. The people who love these candidates are genuinely and sincerely jazzed as hell to have an opportunity to vote for them. Gone are the days of Democrats running as the "less bad" option, promising to simply prevent the terrible things Republicans want to do and be reasonably pleasant while doing so — today's candidates, the female candidates in particular, are out there giving people something to vote for. And that is awesome! More of that, please!
A poll conducted by Ipsos for The Daily Beast of Democratic and independent men showed that while 74 percent of respondents said they were comfortable with voting for a female president, most of them did not believe that other people were.
A full 20 percent of Democratic and independent men who responded to the survey said they agreed with the sentiment that women are "less effective in politics than men." And while 74 percent of respondents claimed they were personally comfortable with a female president, only 33 percent believed their neighbors would be comfortable with a woman in the Oval Office.
I would love to know who the hell these men are. These men who are voting for Democrats and who, in the year 2019, actually think that women are "less effective in politics than men." How the hell does that work? What is it that they are seeing in the platform that appeals to them? Because I would have to assume that anyone that backwards would be lost to Trump anyway, and also that anyone that stupid is unlikely to be able to find their polling place to begin with.
Now, right away, we can be reasonably sure that a chunk of these "non-sexist men with sexist neighbors" are totally full of shit and are, in fact, themselves "not comfortable" with a female president, but don't want to sound like an asshole to the person conducting the poll. People are weird like that.
Yet, I actually do think a lot of them are sincere. I absolutely do think a lot of them are thinking "Well, I'd vote for Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris, but I genuinely do not trust that other people would be willing to vote for a woman." I have spoken to people who think this exact thing. To a person, when I have pointed out that "a woman" actually won the popular vote by three million votes last time, they immediately say "Ohhhhhh. I hadn't thought of that!"
It is worth considering that women do not yet have the losing record of "statesman-like" white guys who are supposed to have a wide-ranging appeal.
If there is anything "reasonable" people love, it is phrases that sound "true," which they can easily repeat to make it sound like they totally know what they are talking about even if they do not. Phrases like "There are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth!" and "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," that are sometimes applicable, but which cannot possibly be true in every situation always. It has become "common wisdom" to believe that people in America will not vote for a woman, that the last election definitively proved this and people feel wise and smart and rational for saying so, and will stick to that story whether or not it is actually true, until it is definitively proven to not be true.
Then they will pretend they never said it.
Maybe I give people too much credit, but I actually do not think the "You know, I hate Trump, but I'd hate having a female president even more, so I guess I'll just have to go and vote for that orange asshole or not vote at all!" demographic is quite as large as some people are assuming it is. I happen to think it is small enough that those are the people we can reasonably tell to suck it up, hold their nose and vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is. I think it is a mistake to craft our entire 2020 campaign on what those hypothetical people might, hypothetically, do.
As far as I can tell, "what hypothetical people might hypothetically do" is the basis for most of Joe Biden's support right now. I'm seeing a whole lot of this crap:
"I'm voting for him because he is the candidate other people will vote for. He'll beat Trump and I don't want to lose this election!"
"It's fine if you want to support Warren or Harris now, but just promise me you'll vote for Biden when he's the nominee!"
"I'm just scared all the purity ponies are going to ruin it by needing to feel 'excited' about the candidate and we're going to get stuck with Trump for the next four years!"
"I have heard that there are disgruntled Trump voters who say they'd vote for Biden!"
"We don't want to scare people off with a nominee who is too liberal! Or a woman!"
"I'm just being practical!"
"What you people don't get is that there are a lot of white middle class voters out there who would get out there and vote for Biden, but would stay home or vote for Trump if anyone else was the nominee. Biden doesn't scare them!"
I "get" this. I get all of it (and for the love of God, yes, I will vote for Biden if he is the nominee, calm your faces). But it scares me.
It doesn't scare me just because I don't want to go back to the "lesser of two evils" days. It doesn't just scare me because I don't think that people who are clearly holding their nose make the best sales representatives. I am scared because I truly think that people who consider themselves "the reasonable, practical, realistic people" are absolute rubbish at predicting human behavior —precisely because they assume that other people are reasonable, practical and predictable, which they are not. They think people are most likely to be drawn to the "safe" option, when that theory has almost never borne out in the whole entire history of American politics. They are, after all, the same bet-hedgers who were wrong as hell when they said Trump would never get elected.
They are also the same people who said, over and over again, "Well, we'd like universal health care too, but 'the people' will never go for it, not in a million years!" (Seventy percent of Americans now support universal healthcare, so I guess that's out the window!)
Why in hell should we trust them now when they say "Oh, 'people' will never vote for a woman"?
If I felt these very reasonable people had any kind of track record of accurately predicting human behavior, I'd be on board. I just do not see where this has occurred. Rather, I think the only predictable thing about American voters might be that they tend to elect the least predictable candidates.
If the candidate that gets you jazzed is Joe Biden, then, by all means, vote for Joe Biden in the primary! But if the candidate that gets you really jazzed is a woman, and you don't vote for her because you're scared that other, hypothetical, sexist neighbors won't? And you do the "responsible" thing and vote for who you think they will vote for, because you think you can psychically predict what those people will do? Take a moment and consider that the person who best reaches you is best capable of reaching others, and that you are not actually doing anyone any favors.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse