Ken Herman: Annoy your Trump-hating friends with these questions

Ken Herman, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in Op Eds

Are you the kind of person who likes to stir up trouble at social gatherings? Do you enjoy twisting people into knots with a series of leading questions that they don't realize are leading until they've been led?

Yes, I thought you were.

Here's a little something I've been test driving in recent weeks to combine two of my favorite things: Talking politics and annoying people, which isn't hard to do these days. I'm happy to share it with you and I'd be interested in hearing how it works for you.

Many of you are aware that we're moving toward the quadrennial day when America decides who is most worthy to be our leader for the next four years. Sometimes we get it right. And there are other times. The process seems particularly pitched this particular go-round.

So here's the first question to ask: "Do you believe it is more difficult for a woman to be elected president of the United States?"

History says yes. And I've found that many people, well-versed in history, also say yes, it is more difficult for a woman to be elected president of the United States. I've checked the record and, sure enough, only once in U.S. history has a female presidential candidate received the most popular votes. Many people believe that Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign was hampered by, among other things, bias against a female candidate.

OK. So if you get a yes answer to the question about whether it's more difficult for a woman to win the presidency, follow up with this one (and this whole riff is Democrat-specific): "Is voting Donald Trump out of office your top priority for 2020?"

If you get two positive answers (yes, it's more difficult for a woman to be elected and, yes, my top priority is voting Trump out of office), you then follow up by asking if it then follows that the respondent might want to opt for a male Democratic nominee because of the respondent's belief that it's more difficult for a woman to win the presidency.

And then the fun begins, along with, I've found, allegations that somehow that's not a logical conclusion. Seems to me it is. If electability is your top concern, why would you back somebody in a category from which you believe it is more difficult to become president?

FYI, I happen to believe that due to the current state of play (and the current state of the current president's mind) a woman might have a better chance of winning the White House this go-round. We'll see. One thing seems certain: There'll be at least one female on the Democratic ticket.

My friend Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News explored the gender question during a recent reporting trip to Iowa. He opened his dispatch with words from Kelsey Bell, a 36-year-old accountant who's backing Elizabeth Warren but is worried about whether a woman can win the presidency.

"It is hard for people my grandparents' age to accept the idea of a female president," she told Gillman. "My grandpa can't even go to a female doctor. That generation is just so closed-minded."

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Ipsos, a polling firm, got interesting results when it polled on the gender question back in June on behalf of The Daily Beast.

"When asked about having a female president, Democrats and independents are themselves comfortable with a female president (74%), but believe their neighbors are less accepting (33%)," the pollsters reported.

Gillman included this insightful note: "Pollsters ask bank-shot questions like that to smoke out biases that respondents might not own up to about themselves." (For example, I don't necessarily believe that baseball's designated hitter rule is a communist plot to undermine the great American game and America itself, but I'm pretty sure some of my nutty neighbors think that's true.)

It's also important to report this from the Ipsos pollsters: "Democrats and independents are split in their opinion on whether a woman would have a harder time than a man running against Donald Trump in 2020, with only slightly more of those who say they agree (39%) over disagree (26%) or neither agree nor disagree (28%) with the statement."

The 2020 presidential campaign rolls through Texas this week. Tuesday night, Elizabeth Warren was scheduled to have an event here in Austin. Warren lived here in the 1980s when she was a University of Texas law professor. Let me know if she, like everyone who lived here in the 1980s, talks about how much better Austin was back then.

On Thursday, there is a 10-candidate Democratic presidential debate in Houston. The event at Texas Southern University includes three candidates (Warren and U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California) from the gender that's yet to produce a president. Should be interesting. And long. ABC is planning a three-hour debate.

Last thing, referring back to the first thing in this column: I recently saw a car with a Warren bumper sticker and a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. There was a man and a woman in the car. I could surmise which bumper sticker went with each person in the car, but surmises can be wrong. However, I also thought it would be wrong (and creepy) to follow them and ask which sticker went with which occupant.

If that was your car, or if you have one with that combination of bumper stickers, give me a call.

(c)2019 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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