Hillary Clinton officially accepted the Democratic nomination in Philadelphia Tuesday night, but her journey there was anything but smooth. Much like the Republican nominee, Clinton has had her share of gaffes to contend with — the investigation into her private email server, for instance — but even the coverage of Emailgate has been colored by something else, and on Wednesday, CNN commentator Peter Beinart took a stab at pinpointing what that might be.
“You’re not going to like this,” Beinart told host Don Lemon. “But I don’t think you can explain Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable ratings without understanding the way that men, and some women, who are traditionally minded, respond to women when they start to take traditionally male roles.”
“If you think 70 percent of the nation doesn’t trust her because she’s a female …” his fellow commentator Kayleigh McEnany, who’s a Trump supporter said, but Angela Rye cut McEnany off with, “That’s not what he said.”
“That’s not what I said,” Beinart affirmed. “This is a massive cultural change that is threatened because women are not playing the traditional role that some Americans, including some women, would like them to continue to play.” He went on to say that the many voters (68 percent, according to a recent CNN poll) who find Clinton to be untrustworthy might be uncomfortable with a woman seeking the presidency.
It’s been pretty easy to spot the occasional blatantly sexist attack thrown at Clinton by opponents and media outlets, but Beinart’s point has more to do with implicit biases, which operate outside of conscious awareness and are informed by our life experiences. Indeed, in a recent test, one researcher found that the average voter — even if they didn’t think of themselves as sexist — was less likely to pair words associated with leadership with female names, especially if they lacked accurate and detailed information about a candidate.
In other words, even though conservatives have written off the “sexist” argument as liberal abuse of identity politics, Beinart probably has a point.