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She the People | Can America elect a woman president in 2024?

America has never elected a female president in its 252 years as the world’s strongest democracy. Can it achieve this high-mark gender-equality political governance in the November 2024, presidential election? 162 million voters waiting with fingers crossed.
12:00 AM Apr 15, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
she the people   can america elect a woman president in 2024

AMERICAN women have waited far too long to win the U S and the world’s most powerful office, the Oval office. And this despite that they outnumber men: 168.3 million men to 171.7 million women; and gender ratio being: 98.016 males per 100 females- as of 2023 population statistics. In 2020, Kamala (Gopalan) Harris, the first ever woman of colour, the first Black woman of colour, the first South-Asian woman, the current vice-president, was the first woman elected to United States’s second highest office ever.


Though this moot question which has been asked at almost every presidential election many times over is: Why hasn’t a woman been elected to America’s this top office in over two-and-a-quarter-centuries? There’s unfortunately no cogent answer to this tricky, but a highly significant query. The only hazy and somewhat indistinct responses that have emerged from the academic researchers conducted by political science and women studies departments of some US universities.


To begin with, according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, ‘there are three main interrelated reasons’ besides others, why the United States, one of the world’s oldest and most established democracy, has never had a woman head of state during the last more than 250 years of its most stable run. These are: structural (administrative) reasons; such as the electoral campaigns are ‘more challenging for women than men; (inactive, unenthusiastic) media coverage of the female candidates; and public opinion and the stereotyped, cliché-ridden support that impact how voters evaluate candidates.


Yet another (debatable) reason often quoted is that women (and particularly the women voters) are more pessimistic than men about the prospects for a female presidential candidate. Fewer women than men think many Americans are ready to elect a woman to higher office even though more woman than men personally hope that a women will become president in the U S in their lifetime.  In fact, many Americans – men and women I have talked with -- are still skeptical that a woman can make a successful president, and nation’s ex-officio commander-in-chief –-the army title that many (women) abhor.


Incidentally, the US’s historical electoral records I have been able to access show that the first woman to run for the president was a Black African-American woman of the Guyanese origin: Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, was in Congress (the American Parliament consisting of two legislative houses, the Senate, and the House of Representatives) in1968, and was the first woman, an African-American, to seek nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties, the Democratic Party, in 1972.  She had served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.


In 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the last eminent woman to run for president (against GOP nominee) Donald J. Trump. Though Hillary Clinton had an eminently superb political career – a two-term first lady of the state of Arkansas, two-term first lady of the United States (when her husband Bill Clinton was the US President), and US secretary of state, 2009-2013 during the Obama presidency.


The question, why no woman has been president in the United States for so many years, keeps people’s mind vexed all along. I found these questions answered in a couple of political scientists’ research studies and political advocacy groups’ reports. A study titled “Women’s History Month,” for example, has pointed out that while in some countries women are elected / chosen presidents or head the state because these countries have a “gender quota.”


It said that “these quotas are intended to boost representation in political systems where women are historically underrepresented.”  This study was conducted by a political science professor, Nadia E. Brown, of Georgetown University, in Washington.

Speaking about the study, Brown had said that these quotas “allow women to be elected to national positions’’, adding, “the population just doesn’t think about women as being incapable to lead in the way that the United States does.”

Continuing, Nadia Brown noted that “some of these things are structural that the United States could put into place, and then others are cultural. Because we couldn’t have those structures in place, we fall back on cultural norms (and) gender socialization that really remove women from top leadership positions.’’ Elaborating, the study author pointed out that the lack of structural systems that propel women into public offices has created an American society where “we don’t imagine that (women) can do the job.”  Referring to other well-known allegedly as male ‘sinister’ barriers in following those systems is the “good old-fashioned sexism, where some people still believe that women have a specific place in public life, or they don’t have any place in public life.”

The other prominent factor that has worked against women in many “white” countries of the west is that men are said to have deep bias against Black, women of color. Many studies by political advocacy organizations, such as “She the People” argue this as a profound reason. This group is also said to have averred that ‘for a woman to ascend to the White House, (other) women have to continue the work of building power within political parties.’  “We exist as Black people in a system of ‘white supremacy, and as women in a system of patriarchy,” says Aimee Allison, the founder-president of the advocacy group,“She the People.’’

Allison continued: “That’s not just about personal feelings or personal interactions but is about the way that institutions are set up, and those institutions determine who’s in leadership.’’ …. “You can try to change the leaders’ beliefs and attitudes, or you can change the leaders themselves,” she explained, adding, “it means taking over leadership of political parties at the state and national level to literally change the system to enable women to get the seat.”

Meanwhile, history has it that in the United States in 1964, Margret Chase Smith, who served in both houses of Congress, representing the state of Maine, also sought the Republican Party nomination for the 1964 presidential race, but lost in the primary contests.

During the recent times, women like Shirley Chisholm in 1972, and Hillary Clinton in 2016, tried to explore the invisible path to the White House, but to no avail. However, in the process, Hillary Clinton’s White House bid as the Democratic Party nominee for the 2020 presidential nomination, has now ‘opened a realm of possibility for many young people, which is a lot different than the Generation X or Gen Z who did not have to muster profound courage, collect huge mass of money and unstinted popular support to envision reaching the White House.

Meanwhile, even for the 2024 presidential nomination race, a record number of women candidates jumped in the field. Not one has won the nomination so far. And remember, in 2020, the California Democratic Party Senator Kamala Harris has been the only woman who had made it to the vice-presidential nomination position and ran with President Joe Biden as his mate. Kamala Harris became the first time ever a Black, woman of color, African-American, South-Asian, Vice-President of the United States. The Bidden-Harris duo won the 2020 presidential race, and is now girding up its lions for  2024 contest.

It now looks almost certain that the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris pair will return victorious in the 2024 presidential race and begin their second term. With this possible victory, Kamala Harris will be all set when her vice-presidential term ends in 2028 for the White House run.  Ami Allison is, therefore, right who she says that the US is probably closer, than we had perhaps ever imagined, well-positioned and get ready for a female presidency in the near future.

Incidentally, some of the Hollywood movies reflecting US president’s life action make interesting recalling: Here are a few as listed by historian Alexis Coe:  President George Washington never predicted a vice-president like Kamala Harris, but it’s a scenario Hollywood has long explored. In The Last Man on Earth (1924), a woman is president because men have been wiped out by disease, and in Mars Attacks!, an extraterrestrial invasion promotes Natalie Portman from first daughter to president. Prison Break, Scandal, House of Cards and Quantico easily imagine a woman in the highest office—for a limited time only. In Kisses for My President (1963), the leader of the free world resigns because she is pregnant and wants to  devote herself to her family. In 24, the president spends her retirement in prison, and on Homeland an exonerated woman president still resigns. I haven’t seen anything like Nikki Haley’s recent announcement, but she’s being dismissed on merit, not gender; as The Wall Street Journal wrote, there is “no clear rationale for her candidacy.”

But American women need not be disappointed, disheartened, as the late President Gerald Ford, who was never chosen vice-president and never elected president, had a (funny) advice for a young lady wanting to become president of the United States. Ford had said -- in a seemingly light style mollifying the female voter, that abundantly fits the women’s struggle to the W H even on the 2024 Super Tuesday, March 5, where Haley faced a huge defeat against her sole GOP rival and colleague Donald Trump. Trump won hands down. So, this is what Ford had then told the young lady: “I will tell you how I think it will happen, because it won’t happen in the normal course of events.”

Ford was an unpopular, unelected one-term president…the first woman to ascend to the presidency, he said, would be promoted, just as he had been when Richard Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal was unveiled. The fact is that Nixon appointed Ford to the vice-presidency after Spiro Agnew resigned…a woman president would have to be elected with the president in a general election, like Selena Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, in the HBO show Veep.

Finally, the 2024 run to the White House seems to be set between the current president, Joe R. Biden, and the former president, Donald J. Trump. Meanwhile, one of the most recent opinion polls by The New York Times-Sierra shows no woman again on the presidential November 2024 ballot; but Trump 58%: Biden 54%. The tally seems to be favouring Trump. Therefore, be that as it may, Americans sit with fingers crossed who will make it to the 2024 WH victory.

However, majority of the voters feel Joe Biden will definitely be a better choice, despite the advancing age factor among both the contestants.  For the American nation. And so also for the world at large.

  1. PS. “Super Tuesday:” It is traditionally one of the most important dates on the U. S. political calendar events, according to The New York Times reporter, Maggie Astor. It is the day in the presidential primary cycle, when the most states (among the 50 states) of the union vote. The exact number varies by year, but it is common for a third of all delegates to the Republican or Democratic conventions to be awarded on super Tuesday. This year, it will account for 874 of 2,429 Republican delegates, or 36%. By the time super Tuesday is over, 1,151 of the total will have been allocated this primary session. This year, it is Tuesday, March 5, though usually it is in February.

BY M.R. Dua