Bernie Sanders Says Gender Still An Obstacle For Female Presidential Candidates

Every candidate faces voter bias, the senator said while addressing a conversation he allegedly had with Elizabeth Warren in 2018.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suggested Sunday that gender bias among American voters continues to be an obstacle for female candidates.

Sanders has faced an onslaught of media attention in recent days over a 2018 conversation with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in which he allegedly stated a woman couldn’t be elected president. Sanders has denied saying this; Warren has said he did. 

“It is hard for me to imagine how anybody in the year 2020 could not believe that a woman could become president of the United States,” Sanders said Sunday during an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio.

When asked whether he believes female candidates have a different experience running for president than he does and if gender is still an obstacle for them, Sanders said yes.

“But I think everybody has their own sets of problems,” he added. “I’m 78 years of age ― that’s a problem. There are a lot of people who say, ‘Well, I like Bernie. He’s a nice guy, but he’s 78 years of age.’ So we have to argue please look at the totality of who I am.”

Sanders added that some voters might look at 38-year-old Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and think he’s too young to be president in the same way some voters might not want a woman to be president.

“Everybody brings some negatives,” the senator said. “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 in everything.”

“Nobody is perfect,” he added. “Everybody has their advantages. Everybody has their disadvantages. All I would ask the voters is, take a look at the totality of the candidacy and the person.”

As reactions to Sanders’ comments Sunday began to bubble up on Twitter, his campaign’s communications director, Mike Casca, suggested the senator’s sentiments shouldn’t be surprising.

“Breaking: @BernieSanders observes that sexism, ageism and homophobia exist in america and will be weaponized by donald trump in the general election,” Casca wrote in a tongue-in-cheek post in response to a tweet about the interview.

Watch Sanders’ full interview with New Hampshire Public Radio below. His comments about women running for president begin around the 45-minute mark.

Sanders isn’t alone in his concern about gender bias. Polling suggests Americans are also worried that their fellow voters would hesitate to elect a woman, The Washington Post reported in May.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted nationally in April showed Warren earning 12% support from likely Democratic voters but only 3% support from voters when asked who has the best chance of beating President Donald Trump. The same poll showed Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) at 8% support from likely Democratic voters but only 2% of voters’ confidence on overcoming Trump.

New Hampshire Public Radio host Casey McDermott on Sunday referenced an Ipsos poll conducted for The Daily Beast in June showing that although 74% of respondents said they would be comfortable with a female president, only 33% believed their neighbors would feel the same.

“I think, look, as a country, we have come a long way,” Sanders told McDermott. “You have a candidate today, Mayor Buttigieg, who is openly gay. Twenty-five years ago, do you think anybody would have said we could have a serious candidate for president of the United States who’s openly gay, married? The world has changed.”

“To those people who think that a woman cannot be elected, you’re dead wrong,” he added. “If you think a gay American cannot be elected, you’re dead wrong. If you think an African-American can’t be elected, you’re dead wrong.”