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John Hickenlooper: how come we’re not asking women whether they’re willing to put a man on the ticket?

The former Colorado governor’s attempt to flip the question ignores existing inequities.

Former Colorado Governor And Democratic Presidential Candidate John Hickenlooper Holds Campaign Kick-Off Rally In Denver Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

John Hickenlooper, a former Colorado governor and one of several men running for the Democratic presidential nomination, tried to flip a question that’s been posed to a handful of male candidates — to limited success.

Hickenlooper, during a CNN town hall on Wednesday, was asked whether he would commit to considering a woman as his vice presidential running mate, something that Sen. Cory Booker and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke have signaled that they plan to do.

“Of course, but ... I’ll ask you another question,” Hickenlooper said, in response to CNN anchor Dana Bash. “How come we’re not asking, more often, the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’”

“When we get to that point, I’ll ask you that question,” Bash shot back.

While Hickenlooper’s response appeared intended to push the limits of a gendered expectation — an interpretation he reportedly reiterated after the Atlanta event Bash underscored very clearly in her reply exactly why it was so off-putting: Men as major-party presidential nominees has been the norm in America for centuries, whereas only one woman has ever been a major-party nominee.

To treat the idea of a man considering a woman as his running mate and a woman considering a man for that position as the same question simply ignores painful realities that still exist about the gender inequities in politics.

The data highlights this all too clearly: Despite the groundbreaking “Year of the Woman” in 2018, only roughly 25 percent of Congress is currently made up of women lawmakers. A woman has never been president of the United States, or vice president.

Hickenlooper didn’t appear to mean any offense with his offhand comment, and seemed more keen on pushing the boundaries of the question. The only issue was that it failed to consider why the question has been so important to ask the men running for office in the first place.