With two women squaring off, how will gender dynamics play out in the 5th District race?

In the most recent poll conducted by the Spokesman-Review, Trump supporter and Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers clings to a slimmer-than-comfortable lead over Trump critic and Democrat candidate Lisa Brown. Her lead is now only six points, with 16 percent still undecided; Rodgers is tracking 17 points lower than her average election day result from the past seven elections.

Still, the McMorris Rodgers money continues to roll in if for no other reason than the Congressional Republican Party has a serious stake in this election. Should Brown win, the 5th District would have pulled off the most important upset since George Nethercutt edged out Tom Foley in 1994. Moreover, losing a symbolic fixture in the GOP leadership would be national news. Foley had been attacked because he supported the ban on assault weapons and supported the League of Women Voters, who opposed term limits. More importantly, though, I suggest he lost because he didn't get his usual turnout.

Turnout for Brown will be critical.

The numbers that confound me are on women's preferences. I'm not surprised by the male numbers — McMorris Rodgers leads by a whopping 23 points amongst male voters. But the female numbers? Brown leads by only eight points. Why not 40?

Nationally, millennial women favor Democrats over Republicans by — get this — 47 points. So what's up in our 5th District? Is Brown, for some strange reason, not yet connecting with the younger set? My goodness, McMorris Rodgers has, and is, supporting the most openly sexist and misogynist president in U.S. history!

Now about those men: America is and has always been a sexist country, often downright misogynist. Say what you will about how Hillary Clinton ran her campaign, but Donald Trump appealed to both sexism and misogyny. He won the male vote by 12 points in an election where he lost the popular vote by almost three million. But here's maybe the most telling telling statistic: Beginning in 1940, until today, worldwide we have seen about 140 women chosen or elected to be president or prime minister somewhere. In America, the number of women to reach national elective office is zero.

Not all of this history should be attributed to sexism and misogyny; the fact is that our form of government also influences outcomes. The parliamentary system, where the prime minister is chosen from the majority party, is a system that places more emphasis on female strengths: personal relationships, working together, what we might call "retail politics." Parliamentary systems emphasize these skills and talents.

Working in the U.S. Senate is akin to serving in a parliamentary system. You have to personally earn the trust and respect of your colleagues. Clinton had done so well in the Senate she was confirmed as Secretary of State by a bipartisan vote of 94-2! Lots of men, Republican men included, voted for her.

"Presidential elections," writes Clinton, "...reward different talents: speaking to large crowds, looking commanding on camera, dominating in debates, galvanizing mass movements and, in America, raising a billion dollars."

Not that the U.S. Senate over the years hasn't had its share of demagogues, and no doubt sexists and misogynists. Let's not forget Joe McCarthy. And let's also not forget that he was brought down with the help of a woman Republican senator from Maine. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith stood not 10 feet away from McCarthy in the Senate Chamber and denounced him "for his shameful reliance on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear."

Could it be also that women, more than men, deal with what they are socially programmed to believe about behavioral expectations? Case in point, the second presidential debate in 2016. There was Trump doing his best "keeping women in their place" routine. Stalking back and forth behind Clinton. And what did Hillary do? Nothing! In her memoir she does write that she wanted to turn and call him a "creep." But instead, she did nothing. She decided to "keep her cool." (She might have added, "and act ladylike.")

She leaves the reader with a question: "Well, what would you do?"

I'm no expert, and certainly don't pretend to speak for women, many of whom confront versions of Donald Trump every day. However, since you asked, Ms. Clinton, here's my take: You should have channeled your inner Germaine Greer, the feminist icon.

Greer wouldn't have worried about acting ladylike. With a rapier-like verbal reaction, she would have put Trump in his place and perhaps created a devastating moment.

Recall that some years back, in a more civilized debate setting, Greer, the author of Female Eunuch, destroyed conservative icon William F. Buckley not once but twice. Buckley had the grace to acknowledge his defeats.

Of course Trump would have done no such thing — but, with the point made and the bully made to look ridiculous, who would have cared?

These are all lessons with broader implications as, this time, we have two women to choose from to represent us in Congress. ♦

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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.