The Problem With ‘Electability’

Discussions of electability are often really about identity — and they tend to come down negatively on nonwhite and non-male candidates.

…How comfortable should we be, as a society, with discouraging members of traditionally marginalized groups from pursuing political office because other Americans might have a negative view of those potential candidates’ gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics (or some combination of these characteristics)? After all, a candidate can change her ideology if her platform isn’t appealing to voters — but many of these traits are immutable.

This is not a theoretical issue. 

…Discussions of electability matter in a system where a huge part of who wins is who runs in the first place, and a major factor in who runs is who other people encourage to run. If people are telling women and members of minority groups that they can’t win, that could be a factor in the underrepresentation of minorities and women in politics. 

…Because the U.S. is majority white, and because a significant number of Americans have some negative views about nonwhite people and women, a heavy emphasis on electability can be tantamount to encouraging any candidates who aren’t Christian white men either not to run in the first place — or to run only if they are willing to either ignore or downplay issues that involve their personal identities.

The Problem With ‘Electability’ | FiveThirtyEight



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