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What Prevents the United States from Electing a Female President? 

Written by Eliza Dorton

Edited by Annika Lilja

In 2016, the United States was extremely close to having its first female president, so close that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. CNN stated, "More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than any other losing presidential candidate in US history.” However, garnering nearly 2.9 million more votes than her opponent was not enough for a key to the Oval Office. Donald Trump won the Electoral College by receiving 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227 electoral votes. During the 2016 election season, all eyes were on Clinton, as she was expected, by many Americans, to win due to the polling numbers in the weeks leading up to the election. Clinton was the first female nominee of a major US political party, but since then, it feels as though America has moved backward. So, is the country close to electing a female president? 

In the current presidential election cycle, Nikki Haley came somewhat close to defeating Trump in the Republican Primaries. Eventually, it became clear that she had no chance of attaining the Republican nomination, which also would have happened with any other candidate going up against Trump because running against a former president in one’s own political party and then winning the primary is a rare circumstance. Aside from that fact, Trump has a loyal fan base, as well as support from other Republicans in office. However, Haley faced the inevitable challenge that every female faces when running for office: the “woman problem,” as Lauren Leader from Politico put it. Women running for office almost always are overcome with sexism and double standards, Politico also stated that the six women who ran for office in the 2020 presidential election “received more negative coverage than their male counterparts.” Having to combat excess discrimination and inequality from the media, because their gender overrides the rest of their campaign, makes running for office that much more difficult. They also face sexism from the male candidates, which isn’t always apparent enough to call out. 

On the contrary, the results of the 2020 election confirmed that Kamala Harris would become the first female vice president in history, making her the highest-ranked woman ever in the US government. Before the primaries, Harris attained a group of supporters who believed in her campaign, and when she dropped out of the primaries, many thought she was a strong candidate for vice president. Initially, this step towards having a woman in the Oval Office seemed natural and inevitable. However, the US and the media are especially hard on Harris. It is well known that she has a “public perception problem” (The New York Times), which started to develop after her inauguration in 2021. Although the vice president in the US can often be a punchline, Harris has faced her share of the jokes, often more than other male vice presidents, such as Biden, who had a lot of support while in office. Even with an improved presence in the media, Harris will still face challenges as they pertain to gender. 

If someone had looked at the US in early 2016, they would say the US was about to have its first female president. If they had looked before the 2020 election, they would say that it virtually does not matter because gender does not seem to be the issue at hand. If they looked directly after the 2020 election, they might say that Biden’s vice presidential pick was promising and the US could have a female president in the near future. Now, politicians such as Haley and Harris don’t have as promising of chances as they did before the 2020 and 2024 elections. 



Herndon, Stead W. "In Search of Kamala Harris." The New York Times, Accessed 29 May 2024.

Krieg, Gregory. "It's Official: Clinton Swamps Trump in Popular Vote." CNN, Accessed 29 May 2024.

Leader, Lauren. "Nikki Haley's Woman Problem." Politico, Accessed 29 May 2024.

Zurcher, Anthony. "Kamala Harris One Year: Where Did It Go Wrong for Her?" BBC, Accessed 29 May 2024.


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