Statement on the End of the Presidential Primary for Women Candidates

 

The 2020 presidential campaign began with six women candidates running in the Democratic primary, a record level of participation, including four U.S. Senators, a four-term U.S. Representative, and a successful entrepreneur.

Now there are none.

From the beginning, the 2016 campaign loomed over 2020 and one question was repeated continuously throughout the primary: Can a woman win? It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Women can win. Hillary Clinton showed this in 2016 when she won an overwhelming popular vote victory. Women at all levels, in all kinds of districts, showed this in 2018 when they set records for political representation in the Congress and around the country.

As we’ve discussed throughout this election cycle, women are forced to run dual campaigns: a traditional campaign to show that they are the best person for the job and an additional campaign appealing to political analysts, donors, and the media, as well as voters, to prove that they are “electable” at all.

Someday a woman will be President of the United States. But it won’t happen in an environment where women are hobbled by different, and greater, expectations than their male counterparts.

It’s time to change the way we talk about women candidates.

-Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women and Politics

Debbie Walsh is the Director of the Center for American Women and Politics. She joined the Center staff in 1981 and became the director in 2001, overseeing CAWP's multi-faceted programs that include: leadership and campaign training programs that empower women of all ages to participate fully in politics and public life; research illuminating women's distinctive contributions, roles and experiences in politics and government, including the impact of women officeholders and women's routes to elective office; and up-to-the-minute information and historical perspectives about women as candidates, public officials and voters.