Presidential Campaign

An incredibly high bar for future female candidates

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If I gave you a presidential candidate who was the most qualified person in living memory to seek the office;
 
If I gave you a presidential candidate who was in the room when America fought back against its enemies;
 
If I gave you a presidential candidate who had a constructive, cohesive and considered plan for the future;
 
{mosads}I fear you would reject them.
 
That is what we can take away from that one day in November that has passed us by.
 
In the wake of defeat, Hillary Clinton will feel as if she has lost not just for herself or Democrats but for all women.
 
None of us should take anything for granted, but this woman, of all women, has worked for decades to get to this point.
 
In the coming months there will be a bevy of research and reporting examining the campaign. For women, however, one thing is clear: The electorate does not tolerate baggage.
 
On one hand, this is unsurprising. I’ve explained previously that female politicians with scandal are judged more harshly than their male peers, yet nobody would call Donald Trump a moral leader. 
 
Celinda Lake, a Democratic strategist, told The New York Times that female politicians are judged more harshly than their male peers. “When they find out it’s a woman, they say, ‘I thought she was better than that.’”
 
Perhaps the stereotypes of women in office are to blame too. Debbie Walsh of Rutgers University also told the Times that “women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make … and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path.”
 
Clinton’s scandals were distinct. Issues of power go to the heart of what many loathe about politics and power. Hers were on full show.
 
I shouldn’t have to remind anyone about Trump’s upcoming fraud case and the sexual harassment allegations. The difference in his numerous scandals compared to Clinton’s was that his were, primarily, personal and about his character. For Clinton, people began to view her as breaching the trust of public office.
 
Noise of indiscretions dogged her so much that it distracted voters from the conversation she wanted to have about her policies and plans.
 
As we all take stock of the campaign, let us note that the raw evidence of now tells us that the electorate is willing to accept some mistakes but if they smell systemic corruption they will punish a female politician.
 
But a man who rejects decency and dignity of convention and civility can still be elected.
 
The Clinton campaign is telling for aspirational women into the future.
 
She was, however, unable to talk to the people about her plans and positions because she was dogged by questions of scandal. It is likely that future analysis will show that this took up excessive time, was gendered and stridently critical.
 
While Clinton worked to mitigate the division in society, her scandals enraged groups like white voters who wanted their own special attention.
 
Clinton was a strong conventional candidate for her party and yet she still faced backlash. She tried to bridge the divide, but gaps will remain.
 
If scandals exist, especially if they are about power, they will dog you.
 
As that sinks in, take note about how low the bar remains for men seeking office.
 
It seems nothing can trump that.
 
Conrad Liveris is a workforce diversity specialist and an expert on women in leadership.


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