NBC Reporter Ali Vitali Says ‘Just Winning’ Proves Women’s ‘Electability’
NBC News Correspondent Ali Vitali was embedded with Elizabeth Warren’s campaign during her 2020 bid for the White House. She then took over coverage of Kamala Harris on the Biden-Harris ticket. Vitali’s reporting raised the question in her mind, “why haven’t [we] had a female president, after a race that saw more women run than ever before”? Vitali seeks to answer that question in her new book, Electable (Dey Street Books). In the following Q&A, Vitali discusses the lessons she learned from Warren’s campaign, whether reports of trouble in Harris’ office spells difficulty for her future election prospects, if 2024 will finally be the year a woman will be elected president and much more.
What’s the most important factor at play for voters deciding if a woman is a viable candidate?
Everyone wants to back the candidate (man or woman) who can win—which is why “electability” is such an important metric…and why the way gender factors into how it’s assessed is so important. Understanding the biases at play, and how they’ve manifested in recent election cycles for female candidates, is the work of this book so that we can disrupt those trends in real time going forward, leveling the playing field for candidates of both genders.
Women in positions of power walk a fine line—being forceful without being called bitchy, for example. What will it take to hold men and women to the same standards?
I think often about the ways reporters ask female candidates if they think they’re “likable enough” or “can a woman win.” It immediately puts them on defense and frames the question in a negative way—something male candidates don’t face. Imagine asking a man, “are you likable enough to win?” or “can a man win this election?” Maybe we should [ask men the same questions]. That would level the playing field, while also showing the absurdity of some of these moments. But, of course, the counter is a woman just winning—showing once and for all that they can—and eroding the premise of the question entirely.