The 2020 presidential race has barely just begun, and female candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, are already facing an undue disadvantage: being women. For female politicians, it’s not just about getting the message out, unveiling policies, campaigning, and being incredibly qualified for the Oval Office. They’re expected to be “likable,” too. MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle discussed this disturbing phenomenon that we saw happen very visibly to Hillary Clinton during her 2008 and 2016 campaigns, when she dropped by the HollywoodLife podcast (listen here) for an EXCLUSIVE interview.
“The amazing thing is people said, ‘I don’t like [Hillary Clinton] so I can’t vote for her,’ but at the same time people said, ‘I can’t stand the president, who he is as a person, but I’ll vote for him anyway.’ How come you don’t give a woman that grace?” When she ran for president in 2008, Barack Obama even said, “you’re likable enough, Hillary” as a “joke” during a primary debate. And in 2016, that sexism reared its ugly head again, with countless headlines referring to her supposedly low likability, her “shrillness,” and her “abrasiveness.” There is a record number of Democratic women running for president this time around, and they are already experiencing this unapologetic sexism, and the primary debates haven’t even begun.
As Stephanie sees it, “we are still struggling with where to put powerful women, so we have to approach it in a different way. I’m going to give an example of, I think, someone who’s doing it in a different way. Elizabeth Warren, for many people, has a likability issue.” Despite being one of the most qualified candidates to enter the 2020 race, the Massachusetts senator is already facing comparisons to Clinton and the issue of being “likable,” whatever that means. “How does Elizabeth Warren avoid a Clinton – written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground?” Politico tweeted the day after she announced she was running for president, including a photo of Warren campaigning with Clinton in 2016. The Velshi & Ruhle host praised Warren for how she’s handling the backlash and criticism so far, as she heads toward the primaries.
“Guys might not say it out loud, but they vote [with] their gut… they could love a woman like their mother or they could love a woman they kind of want to sleep with,” Stephanie said. “I came from finance, so a lot of Wall Street guys don’t feel great about Elizabeth Warren [as a member of the Senate Banking Committee she oversaw the implementation of Dodd–Frank Act]. I happen to think she’s brilliant, but they could look at Elizabeth Warren and think, ‘she’s like my high school principal who was constantly giving me detention.”
“Elizabeth Warren, I think, is approaching it in a great way,” Stephanie said. “She’s just leading full-on with policy. She’s got a plan for that, she’s got a plan for this. She’s not trying to cuddle up and be your best friend. She’s saying, ‘I’m going to be a great leader.'” You’re seeing her as a sleeper kind of quietly creep up in the polls because she does have a plan.”
Watch MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle at 9:00am and Velshi & Ruhle at 1:00pm, weekdays on MSNBC.