Democratic presidential candidates spent the weekend grappling with how to address questions surrounding sexism and gender bias as they sought to balance support for women against concerns of political blowback, The Associated Press reported.
After his wife went public with her own experience of sexual assault at the hands of her doctor, businessman Andrew Yang said that “our country is deeply misogynist.” Other White House hopefuls, however, didn’t go so far. Billionaire Tom Steyer said that while systemic sexism exists, he “hopes” half of America is not misogynistic.
Meanwhile, the tensions between Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont continued to unfold. Days after he and Warren engaged in a debate stage dispute over whether he once privately told her that a woman couldn’t be president, Sanders seemed to downplay the problem of sexism in politics on Sunday, suggesting the challenges women face are similar to those he faces running for president at the age of 78.
Democrats have spent years blasting President Donald Trump as a sexist for the way he talks about and treats women. But as the first votes of the Democratic contest approach in nearly two weeks, the candidates’ comments showed that questions about gender and sexism are also tricky for those seeking to defeat Trump. And for some, there’s no easy way to talk about it, AP adds.
For Warren, gender hasn’t been central to her candidacy, which has instead focused largely on massive proposals to reshape economics and politics. She confronted the question of whether women can be elected to high office during last week’s debate, noting that the two women on the stage, herself and Klobuchar, were the only candidates that hadn’t lost a single election they ran in over the past three decades.
Sanders, who was criticized in 2016 for not doing enough to condemn the sexist tactics of some of his supporters, stepped up his outreach to women over the weekend. He gave a brief speech on Saturday at the Seacoast Women’s March in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, telling the crowd that “we are in this together” and that men and women must work for equal pay and abortion rights.
However, questions about his views could linger after he spoke on New Hampshire Public Radio. Asked if he thinks female candidates have a different experience as presidential candidates than him and whether gender is still an obstacle for female politicians, Sanders answered yes.
“I think everybody has their own sets of problems,” the Vermont senator said. “I’m 78 years of age. That’s a problem.” He then went on to note that age concerns could also be a challenge for Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who turned 38 on Sunday. “If you’re looking at Buttigieg, he’s a young guy,” Sanders said.
“And people will say, well, he’s too young to be president. You look at this one, she’s a woman,” he continued. “So everybody brings some negatives if you’d like. I would just hope very much that the American people look at the totality of a candidate, not at their gender, not at their sexuality, not at their age, but at everything. Nobody is perfect. There ain’t no perfect candidate out there.”