Over the weekend, Janell Ross interviewed a couple of experts in gender and politics to get their take on whether Hillary Clinton is held to a different standard than male candidates. Julie Dolan, a professor of political science at Macalester College in Minnesota, had this to say:
Clinton is the most experienced candidate in the field, but campaign rivals Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are leveling attacks against her that she’s not qualified for the job. In doing so, they’re playing into a long-standing narrative that women lack what it takes to succeed in the male-dominated world of politics. The fact that two less-experienced male candidates are leveling this attack against her is telling. Neither Trump nor Sanders feels compelled to shore up their own credentials or justify their own relative lack of experience because they don’t need to; they benefit from a gendered double standard where men are automatically presumed qualified for public office and women are not.
This illustrates the problem of viewing politics through too narrow a lens. For starters, Hillary Clinton isn’t the most experienced candidate in the field. Bernie Sanders has served in Congress since 1991. That’s more experience than Hillary even if you count her years as First Lady. And while Trump has no political experience, he’s running on his business background—just as lots of other candidates have. This year alone Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson joined Trump in the Republican primary as candidates with no political experience at all.
Nor is it true that Hillary’s opponents have been slamming her for being unqualified—aside from the usual sense in which political candidates always claim to be better qualified than their opponents. There was a single incident in April where Hillary tiptoed a bit around the question of whether Bernie was qualified, which led to a misleading Washington Post headline (“Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president”), which in turn led to Bernie losing his temper and kinda sorta saying she’s not qualified if she’s taking lots of money from Wall Street. But even there, Bernie was pretty obviously using “unqualified” in the sense of “bad policies,” not in the sense of having too little experience.
As for Trump, again, there was a single incident a couple of weeks ago in which Hillary called him unqualified, and he naturally hit back in his usual nanner-nanner way: calling her judgment bad and saying she’s the one not qualified to be president. Just the usual Trump bluster.
Hillary Clinton simply isn’t the target of an unusual number of attacks on her experience and qualification. She’s rather famously running on the fact that she has more of those qualities than anyone else in the race, and no one has really disputed that. Quite the contrary: this year, having a lot of experience is something of a problem, one that both Sanders and Trump have capitalized on. If Hillary Clinton is being slammed for anything, it’s for being too qualified, not the opposite.