Why Democrats Should Aim for 50-50 in 2020
In the early phases of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, something quite wonderful has organically arisen: the field of major candidates is at least 50% women.
There are many reasons why this ratio is valuable and worth preserving. It should give the large number of potential male candidates who have yet to make a decision a real, principled sense of hesitation about entering and throwing off this balance.
First, Trump’s embodiment of the dysfunctional qualities of an “extreme masculine” leadership style — all aggression, all the time — has helped to inspire a natural and responsive upsurge in female candidates.
It would be thus empowering and galvanizing for women to witness him facing a 50% female field throughout the primaries. His propensity towards aggressive (and often misogynistic) attacks distributed amongst multiple women will further increase the sense that he is outdated and out-of-touch. For that reasons, a heavily-female field is more likely to weaken him and even cripple his support leading into a general election.
Second, a half-female field serves to spread out the lingering biases towards women candidates sufficiently that each can stand on their platform, rather than being reduced to tokenistic representatives of their gender, as we’ve seen in some situations where glass ceilings are being broken
Third, it will send the signal to a whole new generation of women and girls that they can and should aspire to the highest office in our land… or whatever level of power they are called to. It’s not just one heroic candidate in a man’s game but a new culture where women have an equal right to participate – thus contributing to a new normal for how we do politics.
Fourth, it will set up a stronger contrast with the Republican party, which is increasingly becoming the party of older white men. A field of diverse Democratic women candidates publicly debating Trump (or a successor, if he is forced to step down before the election), will make the choice for voters far more obvious and skew the female vote even more heavily towards the Democrats.
I believe that the 2020 election season can, and should, be the biggest wave of women into office at all levels — not just in the United States, but on a global scale.
Together, we can make it the biggest shift towards gender equality the planet has ever seen — a fitting and redemptive end to Trump’s reign. As we’d have a “clear vision” of a new way of governance that includes gender equality, 2020 could be the ideal marker of the beginning of the end of the patriarchal era on the planet.
This starts with the Democratic primary. Having a field of major candidates that is half women – especially in the debates, which do a lot to shape the optics of a race – will do something remarkable by inspiring women in down-ballot races at every level.
Furthermore, this wouldn’t just have a domestic impact — as American elections are tracked worldwide, it serves to have a global impact on the status and power of women in leadership.
So, for all those potential male candidates who are still considering jumping in, I would encourage you to think hard not just about your own prospects for winning but also the greater good.
The Democratic electorate has shown, in 2018, a much greater excitement for candidates that break barriers of various kinds. It is thus likely to be a steeper climb than in the past for a white male candidate to win the nomination and a white male candidate could seriously undermine the passionate grassroots support that will be essential for victory.
Simply put, after Trump, the Democratic base is unlikely to want an older white male to replace him but someone who offers a stronger contrast and a redemptive storyline for America after four years of Trump.
Practically speaking, in the Democratic race, we currently have five women who are Democratic officeholders (Harris, Warren, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Gabbard) and one major non-officeholder with a strong national base (Marianne Williamson). The only other potential rumored female candidate is Stacey Abrams, who gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union.
As an aside, the gender equality factor is yet another argument to argue for the inclusion of Marianne Williamson as a major candidate, as some outlets such as the New York Times are now doing —I outline more of the case here.
Assuming we include Williamson, then, to maintain the 50-50 parity, that would only leave space for two more major male candidates to declare. Or if Stacey Abrams or some unforeseen woman jumps in, we’d have space for three.
Besides the gender parity argument, there’s also a strong argument to be made that an extra-large field could also work against the Democratic Party, leading to a more extreme candidate; we saw this in the ultra-large Republican primaries of 2016, which gave rise to Trump. In that race, Trump was able to attract a lot of the media attention through more extreme statements, overshadowing more seasoned and responsible Republican leaders.
For all these reasons, let’s all encourage many of the long-shot male candidates to consider not jumping in. By avoiding a breakdown of the 50-50 parity, we’d give more airtime to the female candidates, offer a gender-balanced array of candidates for the American people, and ultimately send the unequivocal signal that the Democratic Party is serious about ending discrimination against women at all levels.
The results, I believe, will be better not just for the Democratic Party but ultimately for America and the world as a new wave of women is inspired to run for office at all levels.
The ultimate result will be the ushering in of a more gender-balanced, compassionate, and collaborative era of politics — a prerequisite to fulfilling our nation’s promise and repairing what has been eroded.