I hesitate to open this can of worms again, but since we’re all already here, shall we? On Sunday, the New York Times published a piece about a group of voters that plan to support Joe Biden in next month’s election after rejecting Hillary Clinton in her race against Trump four years ago.
Where they found Clinton to be unlikeable, untrustworthy, and unappealing, they find Biden—another establishment Democrat—to embody the opposite qualities. They “identify” with the 2020 nominee; he’s a “regular guy.” They can’t put their finger on what, exactly, it is about Biden. They just like him.
“I have more faith in Joe Biden than Hillary because I like his background, where he grew up,” Dave Clawson, the Democratic treasurer of a United Steelworkers chapter in Ohio, told the Times. “He’s middle class, worked his way up. I saw her as not a very nice person. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Another Ohio voter, a retired steelworker named John Melody, put a finer point on it: “I thought the girl just wanted the job because she wanted to be the boss, that’s all,” he said.
Sexism was certainly not the sole reason Clinton lost to Trump; after all, she won the popular vote by some 2.9 million votes. But it is unreasonable to say gender bias played no role at all, considering the many sexist smears she was subject to during the race, and considering the less obviously gendered comments, like the ones quoted in Sunday’s Times story.
When people’s biases against women in politics are not overt, they’re often couched in words like “likable,” “relatable” or “electable,” which are almost always more readily applied to men than women. Most of us are savvier about this now, more able to recognize the prejudices that seemingly anodyne language can obfuscate.
Still, being able to identify a problem is a poor balm, especially because it often means seeing it everywhere. And when it comes to Hillary Clinton—who is nothing if not an overdetermined figure—it’s hard to know what to do with more evidence that some people were set against her for the wrong reasons.
I’m reminded of what Jezebel’s Emily Alford wrote in March after watching Hillary, Hulu’s attempt at a redemptive documentary of Clinton:
“Hillary’s target audience most likely already agrees that the real winner of the 2016 election was sexism—and a four-hour recap of those same, valid, griefs is just as infuriating and exhausting as these ideas have always been. But with no new questions, it’s also ultimately unproductive. The choir is assembled. Is there anything new to add to the sermon?