When Nicholas Kristof asked the question “Is Hillary Clinton Dishonest?” back in April, it was clear that voters thought she was. When they heard “Hillary Clinton,” the top reaction, according to a Gallup survey, was “dishonest/liar/don’t trust her/poor character.” This impression didn’t improve as the campaign went on: In general election exit polls, 61% of voters claimed Clinton was not honest or trustworthy.
The 2016 election cycle broke relatively little ground for women’s representation in Washington. Aside from Hillary Clinton’s failure to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling in the presidential election race, the number of women set to serve in the 115th Congress next January remains stagnant. Among the Republican majority, women actually lost seats in the House of Representatives. While the newly re-elected Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has stated that 2017 was going to be about “doing big things for our country, ” it is worth considering the role that Republican women officeholders will play as policy makers and messengers as the Party hopes to enact significant reforms now that Republicans also control the White House.
This was supposed to be the year we discussed ad nauseum whether the country was “ready” for a woman president. Far more said in a February CNN/ORC poll that America was ready (80%) than at any time over the last decade, with Gallup showing record numbers saying they’d be open to voting for a woman themselves.
How did gender influence candidate strategy, voter engagement and expectations, and electoral outcomes in the race for the nation’s highest executive office? Panelists unpacked these themes during “The Politics of Gender: Women, Men, and the 2016 Election,” a discussion among political strategists, scholars, and commentators convened by The Atlantic, and underwritten by Presidential Gender Watch 2016, on December 13 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
In April 2015, we launched Presidential Gender Watch 2016 with the mission to track, analyze, and illuminate gender dynamics in the presidential election. For nineteen months, we did that work with help from expert scholars and practitioners. We raised questions, provided answers, and sought to complicate any simplifications in popular discussions about gender’s role in the presidential race. We were not alone. Multiple media outlets, individual journalists, and political commentators – and even some candidates – grappled with gender in more complex and nuanced ways this year than in elections past. This is not only an intellectual win, but marks institutional progress.
On a Presidential Gender Watch call earlier this year (Women Voters: It’s Complicated), Republican pollster Christine Matthews noted that terrorism and national security are top issues for Republican women in the 2016 election. “Republican women are very unnerved in the current environment, and they are looking for candidates with tough rhetoric,” said Matthews. As the post-election analysis continues, it is clear that national security issues were a driving force at the ballot box.
To continue the discussion on the intersection of national security and gender, Presidential Gender Watch asked Juliette Kayyem for her thoughts. Kayyem is currently the Belfer Lecturer in International Security at Harvard Kennedy School and an on-air security analyst for CNN. She is also the founder of Kayyem Solutions LLC, which provides strategic advice in technology, risk management, mega-event planning and cybersecurity, and the author of Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home.