The race for the Democratic presidential nomination has barely commenced, but already Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist, is whining about “sexist” coverage of female candidates. As evidence she mentions the “mocking” of Kirsten Gillibrand’s uncertainty about how to eat fried chicken.
However, candidates of both genders are routinely mocked when they eat “down home” food in an uptown manner. It happened to Donald Trump and John Kasich in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Sullivan ignores this history.
Sullivan notes that Kamala Harris’ “long-ago love life has been parsed.” I assume she’s referring to the story of her affair with Willie Brown, the then-married California power broker who got Harris appointed to two commissions.
Sullivan offers no explanation as to why this story should be off-limits. Instead, she conceals the reason why it shouldn’t be — the fact that the “love life” in question involved the most powerful figure in Bay Area, and arguably California, politics.
Is there any reason to believe that, if a male politician’s rise had been aided by a powerful female lover, the media would ignore it? Certainly not if the male politician were a Republican.
Sullivan also ignores the scrutiny over trivial matters that male candidates receive. In 2014, the Washington Post scrutinized Chris Christie’s high school baseball career.
Sullivan’s Exhibit A is not Gillibrand or Harris, though. Inevitably, Exhibit A is Hillary Clinton.
Sullivan remains convinced that the sexist media cost Clinton the election. In support of this proposition she cites. . .Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton says so in her book “What Happened,” so it must be true.
Sullivan relies, in particular, on this claim by Clinton:
“If Trump ripped the shirt off someone at a rally and a button fell off my jacket on the same day,” [Clinton] wrote, the headlines would report: “Trump and Clinton Experience Wardrobe Malfunctions, Campaigns in Turmoil.”
When a bad joke is the best evidence Clinton/Sullivan can summon that the media favored Trump because of his gender, you can be pretty sure the claim is without merit.
Sullivan says that even minor flaws in female candidates are treated as “disqualifying.” Clinton has been in the middle of three serious scandals, each of which led to intensive investigations (two of them during Democratic administrations) — Whitewater/Castle Grande, Benghazi, and the email scandal for which she narrowly escaped prosecution. Yet far from being “disqualified,” Clinton won more votes than her Republican opponent.
Sullivan also accuses Kellyanne Conway of sexism for “belittling” Harris, Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar while praising Howard Schultz and Michael Bloomberg. Has it occurred to Sullivan that Conway and her boss would like to see Schultz or Bloomberg run as independents?
Harris, Gillibrand, and Klobuchar aren’t similarly situated to Schultz and Bloomberg, both of whom fall outside of the contemporary Democratic party in one way or another. Beto O”Rourke, a mainstream Democrat, provides an apt comparison to the three female candidates. Sullivan acknowledges that Conway belittled him too.
By this point in her article, Sullivan was 0 for 5. But the full extent of her derangement became clear in this passage:
[W]e’re a sexist society, and the media reflect and amplify this. In some cases, female voters aren’t immune — 39 percent of them preferred Trump to 54 percent for Clinton, according to Pew Research.
In other words, only internalized sexism can explain why Trump, the more conservative of the two candidates, won 39 percent of the female vote. Clinton’s liberalism, her history of scandals about which she dissembled, and her obvious lack of campaigning skill are inadmissible as reasons, or else somehow subsumed by Sullivan’s notion of “sexism.”
Even at the Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan stands out as a hack.