Can the US actually elect a woman president?
With the academic Elizabeth Warren announcing her candidacy for the presidency last month, the United States will have a chance to ask itself whether it is capable of voting a woman to its highest office. One key difference in the political landscape of the world’s oldest democracy is the sheer number of female names who are being scrutinised for their presidential potential. The roster today includes but is not limited to Kristin Gillibrand, Kelly Ayotte, Joni Ernst, Tulsi Gabbard, and, remarkably, includes two women politicians of Indian-origin: Kamala Harris and Nikki Haley.
In theory, over 40 women have run for the US presidency in the country’s history. Hillary Clinton, however, was the first female candidate for one of the major political parties and thus the only one who had a credible chance of becoming president. The fact that she lost, and lost to a man who was among the worst qualified to lead the world’s most powerful nation, has been held up as evidence that the US voter continues to have a gender block. While Ms Clinton’s gender played a role, it is also true that a majority of the ballots were cast in her favour, she made some key campaign mistakes and the electoral mood, to put it mildly, was unusual. That she was a female, by most analyses, was only a minor factor in her defeat. After all, the US voter had already shown the maturity to elect, twice, a black American president which had long been seen as a far more difficult barrier to cross.
There are four reasons why the chances of a female US president has become far more likely in the past two years. One, the sheer number of woman politicians at all levels in the US has increased exponentially. The present US Congress, for example, is a quarter female — the highest percentage in US history. Two, women are more likely to actually vote than men in presidential elections and they are much more politically aware and active. This gap has only grown over the past several years. Three, the consecutive elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump, neither mainstream candidates, is evidence of a degree of restlessness among the US electorate. If voters are increasingly open to candidates who are not white males, then breaking the gender barrier should be more than possible.