Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, Ind.) speaks at a campaign rally at City Winery in Washington, D.C. on April 4, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
We are living in interesting times. We have a disgusting pig in the White House who constantly denigrates women as well as just about everyone else except white men. Then from all I am reading the press is currently swooning over a 37-year-old gay white mayor from South Bend, Ind., suggesting he could be elected president possibly before the many qualified women running. So you have to wonder: Do misogyny and sexism still rule the media and the Democratic political establishment? Are we mired in the past? It seems we just might be.
I want to be clear for the first time in decades I have no favorite candidate as we head into the Democratic primaries. I either was with the incumbent or in 1980 wanted Ted Kennedy to win. In 1984, Walter Mondale; in 1988, Gary Hart. In 1992, after Mario Cuomo decided not to run, and in 1996 it was Bill Clinton; in 2000, Al Gore and in 2004 Wesley Clark. Then in 2008, it was Hillary Clinton; in 2012 Barack Obama was the incumbent and in 2016 Hillary Clinton. Clearly my past choices show I am not always good at picking a winner.
Other women besides Hillary Clinton have run for the nomination including Shirley Chisholm and Pat Schroeder. None achieved what Hillary did becoming the candidate of the party and actually getting 66 million votes; nearly three million more than Trump but losing the Electoral College vote. One important question was answered — yes a woman can win the popular vote.
I grew up in a time when white men were running everything and it seems we have not moved all that far from those times. While polls at this time don’t mean much they show three white men leading for the Democratic nomination: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke. Two tired old men and one who is interesting but has a long way to go to show the nation he has what it takes to be president.
I worked for a leader in the women’s movement, Bella S. Abzug. I marched with her and fought for the ideas of feminism along with Gloria Steinem and Bella in the ‘70s. I fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and nearly 50 years later we still can’t pass this simple amendment to the Constitution that reads: Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Since we still can’t pass the ERA we are forced to look around and ask how far we have really come. The reaction to and the press coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was a prime example of the misogyny and sexism that still exists in our country. I write this as an acknowledged cisgender gay white male of privilege and can only wonder what women must be thinking. I am dumbstruck when some don’t seem to care. How can they not care we elected an African-American man as president and are now talking about a gay white man as president and still no woman. Women are the majority in our country. For years they made up the volunteer forces that elected all the men. Don’t get me wrong, I have the greatest respect for Barack Obama and think he made a really good president. As a gay man my respect for Pete Buttigieg and his intelligence and drive is boundless. He represents my community well. Yet I have to question why the women in the race who are smart, with longer, more impressive careers, aren’t gaining the fawning press he is.
I haven’t endorsed a candidate and my only criteria is no one over 70 should be on the ticket. We must take the time to look at all the candidates over the next year. We are 10 months out from the first primary in Iowa. Much can happen between now and then and it seems we don’t even have the full field announced yet. But there are women like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar who deserve real consideration.
Will misogyny and sexism rule like in 2016? Will we choose a candidate because in some people’s minds a woman has been ruled out as the head of the ticket? Will the comment, “I want a woman, just not this one” rule the day once again? We can only hope the answer to that is a resounding no.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.