What if Bernie is right?

First thought: Oh, Bernie.

Second thought: What if he’s right?

Third thought: Actually no thinking, just stomach-clenching anxiety that, in 2020, despite three years of countless lies and an almost endless list of reasons why he should be voted out of office, this country will re-elect President Trump. And that will mean another four years under the leadership of a man who only listens to himself and maybe, sometimes, other white men.

This week’s “news” of Sanders’ closed-door comment, in which he allegedly told U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency, seemed to create a bit of a rallying cry from liberals who insist that yes, a woman can be elected president of the United States.

I really do like U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but it’s unfortunate that the popular vote doesn’t matter when it comes to being elected president. I don’t want to chalk up this very important issue to a slogan that could work at the end of a Dove commercial. Because it is an important question. More than a handful of times since Nov. 8, 2016, I’ve asked myself, “Is that it? Is that the closest this country will ever come, in my lifetime, to see a woman elected president?”

Two points on that question:

1. Some might say, “No! A woman will totally be elected ... in the next 10-15 years …”

2. Others might say, “It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman who is the president of this country.”

Two points on those points:

1. Iiiiiiiii don’t know, you guys. I think this country’s bullshit likeability meter, when it comes to electing female candidates, may just be too broke to be woke.

While the limitations of “likeability” continue to trap some really solid candidates, including Gillibrand and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, we -- as a country -- may finally be realizing that it is possible to have a man * GASP * in this country’s highest office who acts rashly and reacts emotionally.

2. Yes, electing a woman president does matter. Especially to those of us who can remember the significance of seeing, and hearing about, Geraldine Ferraro run as Walter Mondale’s vice president in 1984. Back then, they told those of us who were little girls at the time, “A woman could even be PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.” They just didn’t vote for the ticket that included a woman.

About this week’s news: Do I think Bernie said it? Yes. Upon seeing the headlines and hearing the commentary about this week’s revelation, my mind went to the news that came out around this time last year when women who had worked on his campaign in 2016 said they were harassed by their male colleagues, reported it and were ignored.

Do I think the timing of this “news” is suspicious? Of course. Especially as news outlets began to note that Senator Elizabeth Warren is increasingly leaning into the messaging that she could be the first female president. Warren also appears to be slipping in some polls.

Suspicious timing aside, I think the “A Woman in the White House” issue is one we should be discussing because we’ve got to learn something from 2016. I think we are better than a country who elects (and then re-elects?) someone who is cool with grabbing pussies (and no, I’m not going to get over that one and, really, you shouldn’t either).

Was Hillary Clinton’s campaign the only problem? No. But I also don’t know how much has changed among the Trump voters since 2016, if anything at all, in states like Michigan and Wisconsin and Ohio and Pennsylvania. And change -- the big structural kind -- is what we need, but too many in those states are too afraid to vote for it.


Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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