According to a Tuesday segment on MSNBC Live, American voters do not trust female political candidates and are biased against them. You would think such an accusation would require evidence, but you would be wrong. The segment also provided host Craig Melvin, former Hillary Clinton aide Zerlina Maxwell and All in Together CEO Lauren Learner an opportunity to sing the praises of Elizabeth Warren.
Melvin began the segment by asking Maxwell to expand on a thought she made in a previous edition of MSNBC Live, "How does a female candidate overcome the obstacles you described?" After Maxwell praised Warren for having a campaign strategy and sticking with it, she declared, "I think the challenges that women face, they're in two buckets. I think of it as a cultural bucket and a structural bucket. So cultural is implicit biases that we may have ... because we are all raised in patriarchy, it's everywhere and so we have implicit biases against women and seeing them in positions of leadership. We associate women in positions of leadership with negative traits like aggressive or angry or bitchy."
Maxwell didn't cite any evidence to back up those claims. In fact, CNN, not exactly a conservative news organization, asked last year, "Is Nikki Haley the most popular politician in America?" Or does Haley not count, because she's a Republican?
Not to be outdone, Melvin then turned to Leader who tried to use data to back up the central argument, "56% of Democratic women said they were paying more attention to politics since 2016. In your same polling, women are more likely to expect a Democrat to beat Trump.
But if the Democratic nominee is a woman, voters give Trump the edge." Leader expanded on this point, "We saw a very similar dynamic in these gender questions that we saw when Obama was running the first time, that voters would say they, themselves, were comfortable voting for a black president but they feared their neighbors were not." In other words, it is not that voters are biased against female candidates, it is that they think other people are. Put yet another way, I believe in equality, but I believe my neighbor does not. This is not evidence of anything.
After the panel seemingly contradicted itself by citing a discrepancy in the confidence of minority women and white women in the ability of female candidates to win, Melvin then turned to the topic of Elizabeth Warren's candidacy and how the preceding conversation relates to her campaign. After playing a clip from the CNN town hall on LGBT issues, Melvin asked Maxwell, "How would a guy have answered that question?"
Maxwell said she doesn't know, but praised Warren's "authentic personality." Leader interjected to agree, "So authentic." So authentic indeed, that not just one, but two of her central life stories are false. As for the "authentic" response on CNN, the Free Beacon reported that CNN declined to disclose the fact that the questioner was a max donor to Warren's 2018 Senate campaign, a fact MSNBC also failed to disclose. As for the response itself, even the Washington Post conceded that it may feed into the narrative that Warren is an out of touch coastal Harvard elite professor who actively dislikes certain portions of the population in the same way Hillary Clinton described them as "deplorables."
Here is a transcript for the October 15 show:
MSNC Live with Craig Melvin
11:47 AM ET
CRAIG MELVIN: So, I wanted to bring her back to dig into that conversation. Here’s Zerlina Maxwell is the former director of progressive media for the Clinton campaign and also an MSNBC political analyst. We also invited Lauren Leader the co-founder and CEO of All in Together, it's an organization geared toward encouraging civic engagement by women. The point that you made here, it deserved a little more time, so I wanted to dig into it. How does a female candidate overcome the obstacles you described?
ZERLINA MAXWELL: I think you have to have a strategic plan and you have to stick to it. So, you see that in some of what Elizabeth Warren is doing. She's not listening to some of the media noise and speculation or even advice from outsiders. She's just sticking to her plan. I think the challenges that women face, they're in two buckets. I think of it as a cultural bucket and a structural bucket. So cultural is implicit biases that we may have --
MELVIN: That we all have
MAXWELL: They all have, because we are all raised in patriarchy, it's everywhere and so we have implicit biases against women and seeing them in positions of leadership. We associate women in positions of leadership with negative traits like aggressive or angry or bitchy, right, sorry.
MELVIN: I think you can say that.
MAXWELL: The second bucket is structural. So, that means it's harder for women candidates to raise money. It takes them longer. That's why you have organizations like Emily's List that get money into the hands of women candidates early in the race. So I think they have structural challenges to overcome in the area of finances, but it also takes them longer to gain the trust of voters because we're not used to seeing women in positions of leadership as often.
MELVIN: Lauren, polling by your organization, recent polling if I'm not mistaken was done back in August, just a few weeks ago. It saw heightened engagement by women. I think we got the numbers here, 56% of Democratic women said they were paying more attention to politics since 2016. In your same polling, women are more likely to expect a Democrat to beat Trump. But if the Democratic nominee is a woman, voters give Trump the edge. Walk us through that dynamic?
LAUREN LEADER: We saw a very similar dynamic in these gender questions that we saw when Obama was running the first time, that voters would say they, themselves, were comfortable voting for a black president but they feared their neighbors were not and that they wouldn’t and you saw very similar dynamics, we’ve never had a woman president and so there's this anxiety and it's particularly high among white women. So, when we dug into the data, women of color actually have a high degree of confidence that a woman could win in the presidential cycle against Trump. It's white women that particularly fear that same bias, which we all see and live and experience is going to sink a woman's chances, a generic woman running against Trump in 2020.
MELVIN: Why do white women fear that more than women of color?
LEADER: Well it’s interesting, part of it is correlated with the political activism of women of color versus white women. We saw this huge surge of political activism since ‘16, white suburban women for instance who were such a force in the 2018 midterms, the fact is women of color have outvoted every other group of Americans for the last 30 plus years and they're the most politically engaged. What we found is women of color are more likely to go out and work for a campaign, more likely to volunteer, more likely to give money to a campaign, more likely to do the ancillary civic leadership actions to it takes to get people elected. I think part of that optimism comes from being on the ground and working for it and that’s where the difference is. Overwhelmingly women want to see a woman president, they want to see women elected.
The question is how hard will they work to make it a reality. It can't be just about clicking on a page on Facebook. They have to go out and work, they got to raise the money, give the money, they got to volunteer.
MELVIN: Zerlina, I thought of you, I think it was last week, Elizabeth Warren at that town hall, was asked the question at the LGBT forum. I think we have it. I want to get your take.
MORGAN COX: If a supporter approaches you and says, “Senator, I'm old fashioned and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman, what is your response?”
ELIZABETH WARREN: Well, I'm going to assume it's a guy who said that. And I'm going to say, then just marry one woman. I'm cool with that. [ Cheers and applause ] Assuming you can find one.
MELVIN: How would a guy have answered that question?
MAXWELL: I don't know how a guy would have answered that question but I think one of the things that’s so great about that moment is her authentic personality—
LEADER: So authentic
MAXWELL: I use the word "authentic" because we don’t often associate that with women. We use it as code language, when we really mean, we don't want to say the sexist things we're thinking and so we say, I don't trust her or she's not authentic. I think that being yourself is the most empowering thing, is the most empowering thing Elizabeth Warren is doing now.
LEADER: That authenticity is, I think why she's doing incredibly well, a very deep contrast to Hillary Clinton, how she ran in ‘16. She tried to be perfect in a lot of ways and women today are embracing their imperfections, embracing their authenticity, are being human, because they know that’s actually how women break through a lot of the bias that gets held against them.