The Likability Project: We Weren’t Obsessed with Likability Until We Met Hillary Clinton

We’re Still a Country That Wants Women to “Stay in Their Place”

Joanne Bamberger

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Image via Joanne Bamberger/All rights reserved

Our collective preoccupation with whether a woman presidential candidate must be likable to be electable can be traced directly to our inability to accept one woman in particular — Hillary Clinton.

Of course, we’ve always wanted to like the political candidates we vote for.

Voters liked John F. Kennedy more than Richard Nixon in 1960. Nixon hoped Checkers and his wife’s sensible cloth coat would help with that, but visibly sweating under the hot TV debate lights wiped out any gain Nixon might have made trying to portray himself as an everyman. But did voters really like Nixon more than Democrat Hubert Humphrey in 1968? That year was complicated, with the assassination of Robert Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run, and the country’s internal conflict over the Vietnam war. Whether voters actually liked “Tricky Dick” didn’t seem to factor into the voting equation.

Jimmy Carter seemed like a nice family man. And there is still much love among political conservatives for Ronald Reagan.

Our judgmental fascination over whether we needed to find a political figure “likable”…

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Joanne Bamberger

Author, opinion journalist, attorney, photographer. Entreprenurial Journalism Fellow, Newmark J School/CUNY