The Left is trying to find a plausible excuse for Hillary Clinton's historic loss to Donald Trump. In addition to racism, one common excuse is sexism, the theory that Americans are too misogynistic to put a woman in the White House.
As with many popular myths, this one's already been scrutinized and the results aren't what progressives would prefer. Unhappily for the Left, Americans, at least in their voting habits, are about as even-handed as we could ask. That doesn't mean there wasn't a measure of sexism in the election — there may have been, but not the kind the Left imagines.
Back in 1997, three scholars, Richard Seltzer, Jody Newman and Melissa Voorhees Leighton examined every state legislative race from 1986 to 1994 and every governor's race, U.S. House race and U.S. Senate race from 1972 to 1994. Combined, they analyzed almost 62,000 candidates. They divided the races into three categories: Male incumbents vs. female challengers, female incumbents vs. male challengers and male non-incumbents vs. female non-incumbents.
The results were unambiguous: When women run, women win just as often as men do.
Our study found no difference between success rates for men and women in general elections. Based on the overwhelming weight of the data gathered, the conclusion is clear: A candidate's sex does not affect his or her chances of winning an election.
This was no complicated study using arcane methods and a small sample size. On the contrary, the authors looked at what actually happened when women squared off against men. As they said, "the real test ... is how women actually do at the polls."
Of course, Clinton won the popular vote. She likely lost the election as a result of Trump's superior strategy in battleground states. But, as in all those hundreds of races studied by the three scholars, sex did "not affect ... her chances of winning."
Or maybe it did. Perhaps there was a degree of sexism at work on Nov. 8. After all, the mere fact that female candidates win as often as do their male counterparts could be just a statistical mask for equal sexism on the parts of male and female voters. That's highly unlikely, but the possibility remains that some number of voters change their vote depending on the sex of the candidate.
So the same researchers asked "do women vote for women?" They noted that, prior to every election, one of the "big questions" pondered by the news media is who will garner "the women's vote." Does being a woman give a candidate a leg up on winning office? For a variety of reasons, more women vote than do men, so, if they tend to vote as a group, candidates would be well advised to curry favor with female voters.
It turns out that, generally speaking, female voters are more likely to vote for female candidates, particularly when those candidates are Democrats. The study said:
For almost every year and type of race, the average gender gap (the tendency of women to vote for women) grew by several points when the Democratic candidate was a woman and shrank by several points when the Republican candidate was a woman.
That gender gap ranged from 8.2 percent to 8.6 percent when the female candidate was a Democrat and from 1.2 percent to 1.4 percent when a woman ran on the Republican ticket. In other words, female voters tend to prefer female candidates, but much more so when the candidate runs as a Democrat.
Which brings us to Clinton. How did she do among female voters? Quite well indeed. CNN's exit poll gave her a 12 percent edge among female voters, i.e. almost four percentage points higher than the average for Democratic women running against Republican men. Had women voted for Clinton as they do for most female Democratic candidates, Trump would have eked out a popular vote victory and probably a wider margin in the Electoral College.
Therefore, rightly understood, the Left's complaint is that female voters were insufficiently sexist to put their candidate in the White House. Of course, we won't hear them admit it, but the data are persuasive.
Will the Left finally drop its sexism claims that have been proven false not only by Seltzer, et al., but by the 2016 presidential election itself? Current indications are that it will continue to justify its own failures with a variety of threadbare excuses. That, of course, suggests more such failures to come.
Robert Franklin has been an attorney in Texas since 1980. He is a journalist for the National Parents Organization. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.