“Wow, I like this Mayor Pete fellow!” I caught myself thinking last week. I knew almost nothing about him, other than the fact that Pete Buttigieg is an openly gay veteran, publicly shames Vice President Mike Pence for his homophobia, and sounds like a super-chill, empathetic genius in all these interviews that have clogged my Twitter feed of late. Until this weekend, he hadn’t even formally entered the presidential race. After two weeks of nonstop Mayor Pete coverage, I couldn’t help it. The notion came, unbidden: “I bet this Pete Boody-something-Guy is the one who can beat Trump!”
For a hot second, when now-former Representative Beto O’Rourke first entered the race, I had the same thought about him. He’s a cool skater dude from a Republican-held state where he almost won against that Munster-looking man who ate that gross white thing on his lip. But you know what I keep forgetting about him and all the white men the media keeps getting bromance boners over?
Yes, these frontrunners, who just so happen to be white and male, are losers. Mayor Pete Buttigieg lost the 2017 election for DNC Chair and the race for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010, Senator Bernie Sanders lost the 2016 Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton, and O’Rourke lost the 2018 Texas Senate race to Senator Ted Cruz…which, oddly enough, also happens to be the election that made him famous. Of course a white man would be catapulted to fame after losing a super important race and then think, “I know! I’ll run for president now!” (He was born for this.) Perhaps the best known loser of all, who likes to unapologetically rub noses with women and hug them like his teddy bear and then joke about it when people ask him to knock it off, is former Vice President Joe Biden. This is the man who lost both the 1988 and 2008 presidential primaries.
But I haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet: These men? The losers? Recent polls show them ranked above qualified female candidates, all of whom won their elections, sometimes by historic margins.
Did you not know? You wouldn’t, based on how the media has covered them. As much as we’d like to think that we learned from 2016 and this time sexism won’t be as prevalent, it absolutely is. According to recent polls, men still question whether women are emotionally fit to be president. And women get far more bad press than their male peers, per a recent analysis from Northeastern University’s School of Journalism. As Li Zhou writes for Vox, the very idea of “electability” is now becoming a code word for male and white.
But the sexism isn’t just overt in how the press talks about these women. It’s implicit in their general disinterest in them as candidates. On regular basis, the men get more coverage than women. Even in the immediate aftermath of their presidential bid announcements, FiveThirtyEight reports that female candidates (and some of the non-white men in the race) received less press than the white male candidates, despite the fact Senator Kamala Harris, for example, attracted a huge turnout for her kickoff event, has gone viral for her fearless interrogations in the fall, and is running an historic campaign—our first black female candidate since Shirley Chisholm! Of course, if elected, Buttigieg would become the first openly gay (and youngest) president. And that deserves attention. But the prospect of the first woman president should attract just as much. So far, it hasn’t.