The Gender Advantage For Biden
September 1, 2015

Rebecca Traister takes a close look at the way the press treats the news of a possible Biden run with how it treats Hillary Clinton. Via New York magazine:

Watching the press’s reactions to Clinton and Biden in real time makes for a surreal side-by-side comparison:

Take the casting of Elizabeth Warren, with whom Joe Biden met last week. Neither Biden nor Clinton has enjoyed an easy history with the Massachusetts senator and economic reformer, who has not yet bestowed her endorsement on any Democrat. Warren has often recalled Clinton’s perfidy with regard to the bankruptcy bill, writing that “as First Lady, [Clinton] was willing to fight for her beliefs … [But as senator,] it seems that [she] could not afford such a principled position.” Recently, though, Clinton has assiduously expressed admiration for Warren, writing an adoring squib about her for Time, and in 2013 Warren was among the 16 female senators to sign a letter of support for a future Clinton presidential bid.

But when Clinton met with Warren privately last December, reports depicted her as a beggar at Warren’s populist banquet, coming to the senator practically on bended knee. “Hillary Clinton, Privately, Seeks the Favor of Elizabeth Warren” was the web headline on the New York Times piece by Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, who wrote that Clinton “solicited policy ideas and suggestions” from Warren. The meeting, according to the Times, offered no sign of two politicians’ affinity but rather “highlighted an early challenge for Mrs. Clinton,” that she is “seen by some on the left as insufficiently tough on Wall Street.”

Yet when Warren had lunch with Biden last week, in a meeting that sounded, in its contours, a lot like the one with Clinton months earlier, there was little about Biden currying Warren’s favor or advice. Rather, they were described as “huddling,” as if already-allied conspirators. The meeting was evidence, once again, of Clinton’s perceived vulnerability on economic issues and of Biden’s seriousness as a candidate, “signal[ing] that if he does run, he will be in it to win it.” It even provoked speculation that Biden might announce Warren as a running mate, so easy was the assumption that Warren — admired for her unyielding commitment to economic progressivism — might be so bowled over by affable Uncle Joe, that she’d sign up as his subsidiary, even as she has so far declined to become Clinton’s formidable challenger on her own.

The absurdity here is that Biden has perhaps traveled an even rockier road with Warren than Clinton has. Warren singled him out in a furious 2002 letter to the Times for voting with Republicans for the “unconscionable” bankruptcy bill, and argued that the message sent by “politicians like Mr. Biden” was that when so much money is at stake, “women have no real political importance.” In 2005, when Warren testified on consumer debt before the Senate Judiciary Committee he headed, Biden cut her off rudely and accused her of making a “mildly demagogic” argument.

No matter. The New York Times’ Haberman predicted that “if Mr. Biden does decide to run, the meeting will be remembered as a turning point. If he does not, it will be seen by some as a hostile act toward Mrs. Clinton as she hits choppy waters.” Either way, the story is Biden’s strength and Clinton’s fallibility.

None of this is an argument against the candidacy of Joe Biden, a sitting vice-president who has every right to run for the top spot. Robust primary competition is usually a good thing, more so when the current top contender is battling a coronation narrative. The point is not to tally up flaws, but to recognize how those flaws are absorbed, understood, and overlooked in one candidate but not in another

What is clear is that while most long-serving, high-level presidential contenders are compromised, are given the benefit of endless doubts, their errors and obfuscations easily forgotten in the face of their evident trustworthiness, their undeniable likability, the fact that they are easily recognized as leaders, that we can comfortably picture them as presidents.

So far, those people are not women.

Earlier in the piece, Traister points out an August Fox poll showed Clinton ahead of Bernie Sanders, by only six points with men but 44 points with women.

The last polling I remember seeing a stark gender difference like that was when George W. Bush ran.

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