Robert G. Boatright and Valerie Sperling

Aug 24, 2020

Trumping Politics as Usual

Masculinity, Misogyny, and the 2016 Elections

Oxford University Press 2019

How did the Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns affect other elections in 2016? How did the use of gender stereotypes and insulting references to women in the presidential campaign influence the way House and Senate candidates campaigned?

The 2016 American elections forced scholars and candidates to reassess the role that gender plays in elections. In Trumping Politics as Usual: Masculinity, Misogyny, and the 2016 Elections (Oxford UP, 2019), Robert G. Boatright and Valerie Sperling (professors of political science, Clark University) focus on how gender norms are used to frame – both positively and negatively – the people who run for office. The book interrogates gender and sexism in campaigns (the “gender issue”) and what happens when the media, electorate, and candidates expect to have a clear winner and loser(the “loser” issue). Boatright and Sperling distinguish between the top of the ticket and down ballot elections to tell a story about the impact of the 2016 presidential race on competitive congressional races. They demonstrate how Donald Trump’s candidacy radically altered the nature of the congressional campaigns by making competitive races more consequential for both parties and changing the issues of contention – towards sexism and misogyny – in many congressional races.

It is unusual to see a collaboration of this kind – a comparativist who specializes in Russian politics and wrote an award winning book on political legitimacy in Russia (Sperling) and an Americanist usually focused on campaign finance reform and congressional redistricting (Boatright). The book is a tribute to how crossing disciplinary boundaries in political science yields a more compelling and nuanced qualitative and quantitative analysis – one that is more relevant to contemporary politics.

The podcast was recorded the day after Democrat Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. Sperling and Boatright discuss how stereotyping has already affected the 2020 race. Their trenchant analysis of the code already being deployed by the Trump campaign against Harris in terms of both gender and race should not be missed.

Both authors are veterans of the New Books Network and you can hear their earlier interviews with Heath Brown (Boatright, The Deregulatory Moment?) and Amanda Jeanne Swain (Sperling, Sex, Politics, and Putin).

Daniella Campos assisted with this podcast.

Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013) and, most recently, Retreat from the Rule of Law: Locke and the Perils of Stand Your Ground” in the Journal of Politics (July 2020). Email her comments at or tweet to @SusanLiebell.

Listen to more episodes on:

Your Host

Susan Liebell

Susan Liebell is Dirk Warren '50 Professor of Political Science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Learn More

Also Hosted By Susan Liebell