In 2020, a record six Democratic women ran for President of the United States and, while none won the nomination, one – U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) – became just the third woman, and first woman of color, vice-presidential nominee. She was sworn in as the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian person to ever be vice president of the United States on January 20, 2021. But the presence and success of women candidates is not the only indicator of how gender shaped the 2020 presidential campaign. The digital timeline presented in Tracking Gender in the 2020 Presidential Election applies a gender and intersectional lens to key events during the 2020 presidential campaign. It provides clear examples of how presidential politics remain influenced by gender and race, specifically in: how candidates navigate campaigns; how candidates are perceived, evaluated, and treated by voters, media, and opponents; and how voters make electoral decisions. The 2020 presidential election overall, and this timeline specifically, offer evidence of progress – from fielding the most gender and racially diverse set of candidates ever to engaging more directly than previous contests with the effects of deeply-rooted gender and racial inequities – as well signs of persistent hurdles to presidential success – most notably, the belief that women, and especially women of color, are unelectable at the presidential level. Even more, the campaign moments highlighted on the timeline further illustrate how the 2020 presidential election itself represented a contestation over the degree to which voters would accept and even promote transformation in the raced, gendered, and race-gendered foundations of presidential politics.
Setting the Stage for the 2020 Presidential Election
The 2020 election occurred in the midst of social and political upheaval, as well as during a global pandemic that only further illuminated and deepened inequities. From his 2016 success through Election Day 2020, Donald Trump mobilized Americans, many on the basis of gender, race, and intersectional identities. The largest mass protest of women in U.S. history occurred just one day after he was sworn into office. Trump’s electoral victory, despite allegations of sexual misconduct from more than 20 women and video of him admitting to sexual assault while taping a segment with Access Hollywood, preceded but provided additional fuel to the #MeToo Movement. That movement took hold in the fall of 2017 alongside the exposure of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men across industries. #MeToo conversations also revealed racial disparities among women in exposure to abuse, being believed, and having access to remedy and accountability.
The gathering of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia for the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally exemplified the rise in white nationalism documented over the first years of the Trump administration; the event also resulted in the murder of a young woman when a white nationalist drove directly into a group of counter-protesters. Three days after the rally, President Trump condemned “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” but then told reporters, “You had some very bad people in that group [the white nationalists], but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” Racial tensions were amplified further by the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the Southern border, continued violence by police against Black and brown Americans, debates over Confederate monuments, and a continued rise in domestic terror at the hands of white supremacists.
Within this context, efforts to preserve and promote greater gender and racial equity became a more prominent electoral issue. They ranked high on the agendas of many 2018 midterm candidates, among whom a record number of women and more racially diverse candidates were elected to office. And as the 2020 presidential election took hold, it was nearly impossible for candidates to ignore the racial and gender reckonings at play in American society and politics.
These forces strengthened throughout the presidential campaign, and interacted with the coronavirus pandemic, which spread globally and began its strike on the United States in winter and spring 2020. The pandemic not only hampered in-person campaigning, but also created another ideological divide in the seriousness with which voters and candidates responded to the virus. Race and gender shaped coronavirus effects and politics, with Black and brown Americans more likely to contract and die from COVID-19, and women and racial minority groups bearing the brunt of economic hardships. Anti-Asian hate increased domestically, arguably exacerbated by President Trump and other leaders referring to the virus as the “China virus” or “kung flu.” The June 2020 murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis – which was filmed by bystanders and circulated widely – reinvigorated racial justice protests and activism nationwide. Floyd’s murder was not unique in its injustice – it came after the deaths of many Black and brown victims of police violence, including Breonna Taylor in March 2020, and was followed by more instances of racial bias in the use of police force – but the widespread backlash to Floyd’s death forced candidates to more directly address systemic racism than they had before.
The confluence of these forces and events created an unprecedented context for the 2020 presidential election. Together, they shaped how candidates – Democrats and Republicans alike – engaged and addressed gender and race on the campaign trail, as well as voter considerations, motivation, and decision-making.
Gender and Intersectional Dynamics in Election 2020
The timeline created for Tracking Gender in the 2020 Presidential Election illuminates the gender and intersectional dynamics at play in this unprecedented election. Below are brief overviews of some of the most prominent dynamics evident in the presidential contest. Each section references some specific examples of that dynamic in election 2020 and refers readers to the most relevant tags to explore the digital timeline for more illustrations of that dynamic at play. Timeline posts include additional analyses of campaign events, coverage, or resources through gender and intersectional lenses.
A record number of women candidates competed for the Democratic presidential nomination.
A record six women – Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Marianne Williamson – competed for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Never before had more than one woman competed in a major party presidential primary in the same year. All but one – Marianne Williamson – were featured in a Vogue profile of the record number of women presidential candidates, with accompanying photos by photographer Annie Liebowitz. These women joined a field of 23 Democrats, including five men of color, who launched campaigns to run against incumbent President Donald Trump. The presence of multiple women candidates made clear the diversity among women — in paths to office, lived experiences and perspectives, ideology, policy agendas and priorities, and political strategy. They challenged any idea that there is a singular model for being a woman presidential candidate, pushing voters and media to accept the same diversity among women that they have long allowed – and even expected – from men.
See Timeline Tags: Announcements,Departures,Representation, Gendered Presentation
Electability bias forced women to wage two campaigns at once.
Concerns about women’s electability – their ability to win a presidential general election contest – plagued the six women running for president in 2020. Multiple factors appeared to both inform and amplify the electability bias at play in the presidential election. First, the fact that no women had yet been elected to the nation’s highest office meant that voters and media alike had no model for women’s presidential success. For women of color, perceptions of electability hurdles were only amplified by the dominance of whiteness in presidential election history. The defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016 – despite her winning the national popular vote – may have also increased concerns that the United States was not ready for a woman president. Questions posed to women candidates about being “Hillary-ed” and Biden’s admission that he would not have to confront the sexist attacks Clinton did only served to keep these concerns at the front of voters’ minds. Those concerns were especially acute in an election year where defeating Donald Trump was a key motivator to Democratic voters’ behavior. Public surveys showing disparities between Democratic primary voters’ “magic wand” candidates – those candidates they would prefer if they could bypass the general election – and their anticipated vote choice under normal circumstances further revealed how Biden benefitted and Warren suffered most from voters’ risk-aversion in a general election context. It is within this context that women candidates for president were forced to wage two campaigns at once. First, like their male counterparts, they made a case that they were the candidates with the best qualifications, positions, and plans to be president. That case included drawing contrasts with the incumbent officeholder and explaining why they would be the best candidate to compete against him. But women, unlike most men in the race, also waged secondary – and concurrent – campaigns to prove not that they could win against Donald Trump, but that they could win at all. Those concurrent campaigns entailed touting women’s winning records, whether across contests in 2018 or among the specific women running in 2020. Warren made this case in January 2020, when she reminded viewers that she and Klobuchar were the only people on the Democratic primary debate stage to have won every election in which they had run. In waging these “concurrent campaigns of belief,” women candidates in 2020 revealed how electability bias remains a persistent gender hurdle in the path to the presidency.1 But 2020 also made clear how impossible it is to separate race, gender, and perceptions of electability, since the idea of electability is so deeply rooted in previous election outcomes. As many pointed out during the Democratic primary in particular, the electability myth is perpetuated if and when voters see attempts to disrupt white male privilege as too risky.
See Timeline Tags: Electability, Polling
Women’s emphasis on experience and qualifications worked against prevailing biases.
Research reveals the penalty for voter perceptions of candidate incompetence is greater for women than men candidates.2 This is consistent with findings from political practitioners, who report that women candidates need to prove themselves, while their male colleagues face fewer questions of credibility to lead.3 It is no surprise, then, that research finds women candidates and officeholders are more qualified than their male counterparts on multiple measures of political experience – an indication that women who run for office know that they need to accumulate more credentials to be perceived as equally qualified as male candidates.4 These realities were evident in the 2020 presidential contest, both in Amy Klobuchar’s direct claim that women and men are held to different standards to be viewed as qualified to be president and in Elizabeth Warren’s “I have a plan for that” slogan tied to her extensive portfolio of detailed policy plans.
See Timeline Tags: Gender Bias, Gendered Presentation, Gender Messages, Male Privilege
Candidates offered diverse definitions of and models for toughness and strength.
Presidential candidates have historically been expected to demonstrate toughness and strength as evidence of their capacity to be commander in chief.5 Women candidates have confronted doubts that they are tough enough and/or have sufficient expertise in defense, national security, and foreign affairs to keep the country safe. Men and women alike have sought to prove these stereotypically masculine credentials, especially when running for president. Donald Trump was perhaps most explicit in waging a campaign to prove he was the most masculine in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, relying on tactics and rhetoric to emasculate his opponents – men and women alike – to further reinforce his masculine credentials. Interestingly, while Trump reinforced toughness as a masculine standard by which he measured presidential fitness, his unpopularity (particularly among Democrats) and Democrats’ skepticism of tough guy presidents may have contributed to 2020 presidential candidates’ displays of toughness and strength in ways less tied to traditional stereotypes of masculinity. While Democratic candidates and surrogates sometimes fell into the masculinity trap of presidential politics – evident in Biden’s “That’s a President” advertisement and Harris’s mocking of Trump as a “small man,” their toughness credentials more often came from stories of persistence and resilience – sometimes in the face of gender and racial discrimination – instead of direct combat. Their fights were also for targeted, and sometimes under-addressed, causes, including gender and racial equity. In the general election, Biden and his surrogates – including former President Barack Obama and WWE champion Dave Bautista – were more likely to present alternative definitions of toughness less tied to dominant masculinity. And when Biden shared experiences of overcoming personal grief and called for greater empathy and compassion, he elevated these traits as more indicative of presidential strength than aggression, force, or a lack of emotion. This disruption of stereotypically masculine standards for presidential fitness is especially beneficial for women, as those standards have been historically easier to meet for men.
See Timeline Tags: Gendered Presentation, Gendered Messages, Masculinity, Racial Presentation, Racialized Messages
Gendered expectations around likability persisted, motivating strategy and generating media attention.
Research has found that evaluations of women’s qualifications for office are tied to perceptions of their likability in a way they are not for men.6 In other words, men can earn voters’ support while being unlikable, while women must simultaneously demonstrate they are likable and qualified. Failing to succeed in meeting either expectation can undermine a woman’s candidacy. The early months of election 2020 revealed that likability would remain a source of scrutiny, if not challenge, for women presidential candidates. Women candidates were met with media coverage tied to their likability – from Politico asking how Warren would avoid being “written off as too unlikable before her campaigns gets off the ground” to multiple stories about Klobuchar’s poor treatment of her congressional staff – in the campaign’s earliest days. They went on to face characterizations from voters, media, and opponents as “nasty,” “angry,” “strident,” or too emotional. In each of these attacks, opponents and critics mined a vein of particular vulnerability to women candidates, one heightened for Kamala Harris due to stereotypical tropes of “angry black women.” But in 2020, women candidates and commentators alike pushed back against these characterizations more overtly than in past presidential contests, both justifying their passion – as Klobuchar and Warren did on a Democratic debate stage – and pointing out the gendered roots of these attacks — as Warren did in response to those calling her “angry.”
See Timeline Tags: Gender Bias, Gendered Presentation, Gendered Messages, Likability, Racial Presentation, Racialized Messages, Racial Bias
Women candidates leveraged identity as an electoral asset instead of a hurdle to overcome.
While men have benefitted from the alignment of stereotypes of political leadership and gender – whereby expectations of political leaders overlap with those of masculinity and men – women have historically confronted incongruity between stereotypical expectations of political leadership and gender.7 This incongruity has forced women candidates to navigate more complicated gendered terrain on the campaign trail; research offers mixed findings on the utility of women working to compensate for perceived deficits in stereotypically masculine expertise or traits or, instead, leaning into the distinct credentials they offer that are tied to being a woman.8 A shift in women candidates’ strategies is evident in recent elections, including presidential contests. For example, while Hillary Clinton’s campaign team suggested that the country was not ready for the “first mama president” in 2008 but would be willing to support the “first father president that is a woman,” Clinton’s 2016 campaign strategy leaned into her distinct experiences and perspective as a woman as a benefit to her political leadership. In 2018, women candidates across the country leaned even further into the value – and even necessity – of their identity-based credentials for officeholding, problematizing the dearth of gender, racial, and even generational diversity in political institutions as perpetuating inequities and ineffectiveness in policymaking and policy outcomes. That shift was evident at the presidential level in 2020, with the six women presidential candidates speaking more explicitly about both the importance and value of their gender-based experiences and perspectives in presidential leadership. Gillibrand was most explicit about the distinct brand of leadership and policy priorities that she would bring as president, while Warren and Klobuchar often walked a line between touting the benefits of women’s inclusion while keeping their case for the Democratic nomination focused on other factors. Harris appeared reluctant to lean too heavily into her intersectional identity – as a Black and South Asian woman – in her presidential campaign, even telling a reporter who asked why she did not talk more about the historic nature of her candidacy, “There are certain self-evident truths.” But Harris’ intersectional identity became more central to her vice presidential candidacy, reflecting the Biden campaign’s hope to show their embrace of diversity, as well as the likely reduction in risk from this approach in a vice presidential versus presidential campaign; despite increased recognition of the value of gender and racial diversity in political leadership, women and candidates of color still confront potential backlash if they are perceived as relying too heavily on identity-based differences in their case for officeholding.
See Timeline Tags: Gendered Messages, Gendered Presentation, Racialized Messages, Racial Presentation, Representation, Vice Presidency
Candidates openly addressed white and male privilege on the campaign trail.
The dominance of both whiteness and masculinity in presidential politics has led to an under-examination of how white and male privilege persist at this level and what it means for political representation. Both in light of the racial justice protests and in response to Donald Trump’s appeals to racial resentment, white Democratic candidates were more likely than ever to address their racial privilege in the 2020 presidential election, whether proactively or in response to questions posed by voters, media, or activists. And even more specifically, white male candidates, perhaps for the first time, were asked to address their race and gender privilege as potential liabilities to their presidential bids instead of assuming they were electoral advantages. Public recognition and definition of these privileges – as was evident when Kirsten Gillibrand explained white privilege to an Ohio voter and when Jay Inslee detailed the distinctness of his lived experiences as a white man – opens the door to deeper discussions about gender, racial, and intersectional hurdles to political power, and creates opportunities for women candidates and candidates of color to more overtly discuss their identities and experiences as values-added. Democratic presidential candidates also adopted language not commonly used in previous presidential elections, including “systemic racism,” “implicit bias,” “intersectionality,” and “reproductive justice,” among other examples of language that reflected candidates’ recognition that their voter base expected them to be both better versed on and more vocal about axes of gender and racial inequity in 2020. Trump and Pence, however, pushed back against these concepts, disparaging the Democrats’ language as both inaccurate and unpatriotic.
See Timeline Tags: Gender Bias, Gendered Presentation, Male Privilege, White Privilege, Racial Bias, Racial Presentation
Candidates faced greater scrutiny of records on gender and racial equality and understanding.
Presidential candidates in the 2020 election faced scrutiny over past behaviors, positions, and comments that shed light onto both their understanding of and contributions to gender and racial inequities. As a result, these issues were raised to broader public audiences for debate ahead of both the primary and general election, and some candidates were held accountable for past behavior in ways they rarely, if ever, had been before. Former prosecutors like Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris were criticized for enacting policies or prosecutions that upheld the racial bias of the criminal justice system. Perhaps held to a higher standard due to her own racial identity, Harris faced opposition to her prosecutorial past earlier and in greater volume than Klobuchar. Biden was forced to answer for his past positions on busing and abortion access, acknowledge his failure to curb the sexism and racism levied against Anita Hill in the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, and address how his tactile approach has made women uncomfortable. Warren navigated her own response to previous claims of a Native American ancestry with multiple stumbles, ultimately issuing a lengthy apology and policy promises to tribal leaders. In contrast to previous elections, Michael Bloomberg’s gender and racial records – including evidence of sexual harassment and misogyny from Bloomberg himself and under his leadership, as well as the racial disparities in policy outcomes during his mayoral tenure – garnered near-immediate attention and appeared to play a significant role in curbing any campaign momentum in its earliest days. As Elizabeth Warren made clear in her targeted attack on Bloomberg at a February 2020 Democratic debate, these behaviors and positions – formerly excused or ignored – were deemed, at least by more people than ever before, as disqualifying for presidential leadership.
See Timeline Tags: Gender Record, Race Record, Racialized Messages, Gender Messages
Candidates navigated parental-role expectations that vary by gender.
Private lives have long posed particular challenges for women candidates. Every woman who runs for office must decide how she will present her children and spouse – or the fact that she has none – to the public.9 Maternal roles are especially tricky for female candidates. Voters value the communalism and compassion that they consider attached to women’s familial roles, but often question whether women can successfully and simultaneously fulfill private and public responsibilities. Male candidates are rarely asked the kinds of questions that women candidates face about their parental roles. Instead, the public and the media assume the candidates’ wives are taking care of day-to-day family responsibilities, while crediting fathers for demonstrating the power and protection required of presidential leadership. Expectations of paternal protection differ from stereotypical norms of maternal care,10 creating complications for women candidates who seek to reassure voters that their maternalism does not come at a detriment to their toughness and capacity to lead the American household. The embrace of maternal roles and experience among the women candidates for president in the 2020 election – from Gillibrand’s claim that her maternal identity would assure voters of her commitment to the job to Warren’s discussion of juggling motherhood and professional responsibilities to motivate her case for better work-family policies – signaled evolution over constraint. While Democratic men also offered more progressive models for engaging their paternal roles on the presidential campaign trail, the fact that two men ran with newborns at home and multiple other men in the race with school-aged children even waged presidential candidacies revealed persistent differences in gender expectations and private-role demands that have often delayed women’s entry to and advancement in American politics. But unlike in past elections, some media detailed this disparity in parental-role scrutiny. And when Beto O’Rourke joked that his wife Amy was raising, “sometimes with his help,” their three kids, he faced a quick backlash for feeding into assumptions that women would bear the brunt of caregiving without problematizing it or recognizing how few women could make a similar claim. O’Rourke quickly issued an apology and vowed to “be part of the solution.” In contrast, Donald Trump – as he did in 2016 – played into more traditional models of paternal protection, often characterizing women – including white “suburban housewives” specifically – as dependent on men and as those most in need of the protection he would provide.
See Timeline Tags: Familial Roles, Gender Presentation, Racial Presentation
Candidates engaged in gender and race-based appeals to voters, yielding varied levels of success.
Targeting is a key strategy to mobilize and persuade voters in any electoral campaign. Because women both outnumber and outvote men, they are often a primary electoral target. And because women voters are more likely than men to support Democrats, they are an even more essential group of voters in the Democratic primary. Whether via specific policy-based appeals or symbolic messaging – such as Warren’s pinky promises with girls to remember running for president “is what girls do” – men and women candidates alike made targeted appeals to women throughout the presidential campaign. While much of Trump’s masculinist rhetoric appealed directly to men, Trump’s women-specific appeals were often specifically to white, suburban women, who he perceived as essential to his campaign’s success. Trump also made more targeted appeals to Black men than Black women, touting his success in passing criminal justice reform legislation meant to address the high incarceration of Black men. He claimed to have done more for the Black community than any other U.S. president (with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln) at various points during the campaign. While Trump’s appeals may have sought to chip away at Black voters’ strong allegiance to the Democratic Party, some suggest that those messages were meant to reassure white voters who were uncomfortable with accusations that Trump condoned racism in policy and rhetoric. In contrast, much of Trump’s rhetoric – including the demonization of Black Lives Matter and racial justice protesters – and priorities appealed directly to white conservative voters, tapping into racial resentment to mobilize his supporters. Pete Buttigieg referred to Trump’s “white guy identity politics” as that which “uses race to divide the working and middle class.” The loyalty of Black voters, and the particular reliability of Black women voters, to the Democratic Party meant that their support and turnout was key to both primary and general election success. Despite this dependability, Black voter interests have often been sidelined in presidential campaigns. In 2020, candidates faced greater pressure to adequately integrate Black voter – and even more specifically Black women voter – priorities into their campaign messaging and policy agendas. As research has shown, outreach efforts to Black communities that rely on stereotypical imagery instead of substantive commitments are ineffective.11 Some of this imagery was evident in campaign appeals – such as the Biden campaign’s series targeting Black men in barber shops and their web video featuring an Ultimate Rap League battle about the importance of voting. But campaigns also integrated more substantive policy promises into public messaging. On the eve of the general election, Kamala Harris made a direct written appeal to Black women voters — a culmination of her efforts leading the Biden-Harris campaign’s “Sister to Sister” voter outreach program, noting, “Black women hold the power in this election.” In her victory speech, Harris acknowledged: “I want to speak directly to the Black women in our country. Thank you. You are too often overlooked and yet are asked time and again to step up and be the backbone of our democracy. We could not have done this without you.” Finally, with the increasing racial and ethnic diversification of the U.S. electorate, candidates must appeal to other racial and ethnic groups that play an increasingly powerful role in electoral outcomes. In the Democratic primary election, the lack of concerted and long-term efforts to appeal to these communities – especially Latino/a voters – by many candidates likely contributed to their defeat; in contrast, the Sanders’ campaign success among Latinos/as helped to shore up his competitiveness in the primary campaign. While the effects of Kamala Harris’s addition to the general election ticket are hard to isolate, her ability to engage voters who share her gender and racial identities also informed voter outreach efforts and messages. One survey found that her vice-presidential candidacy increased Indian-Americans’ enthusiasm for the Democratic presidential ticket and likelihood of voting in the general election.
See Timeline Tags: Gendered Messages, Racialized Messages, Gendered Presentation, Racial Presentation, Race and Voting, Gender and Voting, Race Issues, Gender Issues
Gender, racial, and intersectional lenses were applied to and influential on presidential policy plans and agendas.
Just as presidential candidates faced greater pressure to respond to their prior records related to gender and racial equity, they were also met with expectations that their policy plans and agendas would not only address gender and racial inequity, but would integrate gender, racial, and intersectional axes of analysis and understanding across issue areas. Kirsten Gillibrand was most overt in her gendered approach, characterizing her own policy platform as “women plus.” Though many candidates issued agendas for gender and/or racial equity specifically, the integration of these concerns across policy plans helped to reduce the marginalization of these issues – as well as the voters they most directly affect – throughout the presidential campaign.
See Timeline Tags: Gender Messages, Racial Messages, Gender Issues, Race Issues
Sexism and racism in media coverage and commentary persisted, but pre-emptive and reactive efforts rejected its normalization.
Research findings have been mixed on the presence of gender bias in political media coverage, with some studies finding minimal to no gender differences in quantity or quality of coverage and others finding disparities in coverage of women and men candidates or officeholders.12 The limited research on media coverage of women of color candidates and officeholders suggests that biases persist along both race and gender lines.13 The most consistent findings of bias come from studies of presidential campaign coverage and commentary, signaling that the high level of attention to presidential contests create conditions for gender and racial biases to play a greater role.14 In 2020, some evidence of potential gender bias in quality and quantity of coverage – including analyses from Storybench and FiveThirtyEight – emerged in the earliest months of the Democratic primary campaign. Prominent commentators, like MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch (multiple times) and the The New York Times’ Bret Stephens, also played into gender and racial stereotypes in their characterizations of women candidates like Warren and Harris. But journalists also exposed some of the gender and intersectional biases at play in the primary campaign; for example, Vox questioned whether a male candidate would have faced similar coverage as Klobuchar in regard to their mistreatment of staff and also queried male candidates about their child care plans while campaigning (a question often only asked of women); multiple outlets questioned whether or not a white man was best suited to be the Democratic nominee; and Huffington Post used humor to point out how likability is a standard to which male candidates are rarely held. This exposure and interrogation of biases signals progress in presidential campaign coverage. Another point of progress came in the general election, when TIME’S UP Now launched an effort to pre-empt, monitor, and combat racist and sexist coverage. Even before Harris was named the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, TIME’S UP Now’s #WeHaveHerBack initiative issued a warning to media outlets and amassed a team of individuals and organizations to support their efforts. Similar efforts have been made in previous elections, but the reach of, reception to, and proactive nature of this effort marked important advancement in problematizing the gender and racial biases that have helped to impede women candidates’ success.
See Timeline Tags: Media Coverage, Gender Bias, Racial Bias
Opponents leveraged gender, racial, and intersectional tropes to target Harris, especially in the general election.
Even before Kamala Harris was selected as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, advocates and experts anticipated that she would be the target of gendered and racialized attacks. Biden himself reminded supporters of Trump’s “problem with strong women” on the day he announced that Harris would be his running mate, warning, “We know more is to come,” and adding, “Kamala Harris has had your back, and now we have to have her back.” As soon as Harris’s selection was announced, opponents – Trump, the Republican National Committee, and Republican candidates and conservative commentators – leveraged her gender and race to position her as radical, dangerous, and threatening, characterizations made simpler because of her direct challenge to the white, male status quo. A TIME’s UP Now analysis of media coverage and commentary around Harris’s announcement as the vice-presidential nominee details the sexist and racist stereotypes and tropes evident in coverage, including those characterizing her as an “angry black woman” and those questioning her eligibility to be vice president based on national origin.
See Timeline Tags: Gender Bias, Racial Bias, Gendered Messages, Racialized Messages, Media Coverage, Vice Presidency
The Tracking Gender in the 2020 Presidential Election timeline provides additional evidence, resources, and analyses of gender and intersectional dynamics in the 2020 election. Additional tags for debates, endorsements, and election results capture major campaign events. You can navigate the timeline in its entirety or select various tags to help filter the content based on your specific interests.
In addition to this content, CAWP resources on gender, race, and presidential elections include:
- Women’s Vote Watch (including national and battleground poll tracking by gender, race, and education in 2020, and by gender in previous presidential election years)
- Gender Gap: Voting Choices in Presidential Elections (including data from 1980 to 2020 on gender differences in presidential vote choice, with data provided along additional axes of race, marital status, age, religion, and community type)
- Gender Differences in Voter Turnout (including data from 1964 to 2020 on gender differences in voter registration and turnout in presidential elections, with data provided along additional axes of race, age, education, and marital status)
- Women Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates (including a list of women who have run for president and vice president of the United States)
- Unfinished Business: Women Running in 2018 and Beyond (a report from the Center for American Women and Politics on how women fared in the 2018 election, as well as barriers to and opportunities to women’s political representation)
- Finding Gender in Election 2016: Lessons from Presidential Gender Watch (a report from the Center for American Women and Politics and the Barbara Lee Family Foundation on the role of gender in the 2016 presidential election, drawing from the organizations’ election-length project: Presidential Gender Watch 2016)
See the digital timeline of the 2020 presidential election through a gender and intersectional lens.