Hillary Rodham Clinton came close, but failed. Beyond the wrong turns pointed out by strategists, her political path this year was rooted in social biases, some scholars say.
Gender stereotypes, for instance, put Clinton in a no-win situation, said Caroline Keating, a psychologist at Colgate University in New York.
"When white women step up to the plate and behave as leaders, so they're aggressive, and arrogant and ambitious, that conflicts with our gender stereotype for femininity," Keating said. "Even though they may be seen as competent, the way Hillary Clinton is, we're a little uncomfortable with it and it's harder to like such a woman."
In addition to leadership traits that often don't fit our picture of a woman, Keating and some sociologists point out Clinton's demise as a presidential candidate hinges on society's and the media's acceptance of sexism. Furthermore, they say, the political race was not between stick figures, as voters are also interested in the individual characteristics that make Clinton, Clinton.
Sen. Clinton is expected to drop her presidential campaign on Saturday at an event in Washington D.C. The announcement will mark the end of the line for her in some ways, but it's also a beginning for women as U.S. presidential leaders, said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.
"Let’s keep in mind that Hillary Clinton came within a whisker of doing what no woman has ever done in American politics — winning a major party’s presidential nomination," Sabato said. "Had she not been opposed by another candidate with an equally impressive 'first,' Barack Obama, she would have been the nominee."
Sexism and racism
While Hillary was set to make political history for women, Obama obviously has also broken what was an unwritten presidential rule on race: For 200-plus years, every U.S. president and major party ticket candidate has been a white man.
For some sociologists, it's no surprise that