The wicked witch is back. This time, her name is Nancy Pelosi.
The House minority leader was the prime punching bag for Republicans during the Georgia race Jon Ossoff just lost, targeted in a series of ads painting him as her puppet and the epitome of the reviled Washington liberal establishment. Now a rump group in her own party has chimed in, blaming her for a loss that could as easily be credited to a weak candidate who had shallow roots in the district. Nevertheless, the group is calling on her to step down, insisting she’s a liability for the party.
Ms. Pelosi is just the latest in a long line of female politicians — on the left and the right — who have proved rich and resonant targets. Hillary Clinton. Sarah Palin. Michele Bachmann, the former House member from Minnesota. Then Hillary Clinton once more.
In each case, gender wasn’t the only issue. There were plenty of self-inflicted wounds, as well as genuine ideological opposition. Yet each woman was attacked in ways that play off sometimes subliminal, often indignantly denied, biases about women shared by men and women alike.
Overtly ambitious women stir unease and register as less likable, said Adrienne Kimmell, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which has been studying women’s political races for 20 years. Voters have more trouble relating to a powerful woman than a powerful man. Women who are seen as political insiders — or as dishonest, which many voters lump together — suffer more than do men. Witness the 2016 election.