Carly Fiorina's "gender card" trouble: White House hopeful thinks the 2016 race is a game of "Magic: the Gathering"

Fiorina could simply tap two mana and counter Clinton's gender spell with a gender card of her own

Published April 16, 2015 6:49PM (EDT)

Carly Fiorina (Reuters/Mike Theiler)
Carly Fiorina (Reuters/Mike Theiler)

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, failed Senate candidate, and likely Republican presidential contender Carly Fiorina wants a woman in the GOP to challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016, to stop the former secretary of state from playing "the gender card."

“I think that if Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things that she won’t be able to talk about,” Fiorina said Thursday, according to a report from the Washington Times. “She won’t be able to talk about being the first woman president. She won’t be able to talk about a war on women without being challenged. She won’t be able to play the gender card.”

“And so what [Clinton] will have to run on is her track record, her accomplishments, her candor and trustworthiness and her policies,” she continued. “And I think that’s what elections should be run on -- not identity politics, not what you look like, but who you are, and what you believe, and what you’ve done, and what you will do.”

Because I am a seasoned subtext detective, I gather that Fiorina is referring to herself when she talks about this hypothetical woman challenger to hypothetical Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Fiorina believes she has her own gender card to play against Hillary Clinton's gender card, but the real question is: which gender card will be more powerful????????

Let's consider the cards.

Clinton is the overwhelming favorite of the Democratic establishment and sits atop a financial juggernaut, so her gender card, “First Woman President,” is powerful, no doubt. Play it at an inopportune moment, however, and Fiorina could simply tap two mana and counter the Democrat’s spell with a gender card of her own, “Also A Woman.” Clinton’s “First Woman President” goes straight to the graveyard.

Oh man, 2016 is going to be intense.

It's hard to fault Fiorina for trying to turn the buzz about Clinton's favored status into some kind of a liability -- don't hate the player, etc. -- but her one-dimensional read on gender and politics falls flat. As Rebecca Traister wrote earlier this week at the New Republic, "Being a woman, and confronting sexism, is going to help Clinton win votes and support at very same time that it’s going to make her victory more difficult. Gender’s impact on politics and on people is exceedingly knotty and often contradictory."

Navigating presidential politics as a woman is much more complicated than throwing down a gender card and collecting your winnings. Because if that really were the case, we would have had a woman president by now. (Or more than one!) As a woman in politics, Fiorina probably already knows this. And if she declares, her Republican challengers will waste little time before trying to use the exact same lines about "identity politics" against her.

(Related: I have never played Magic: the Gathering, so please don't send me angry emails about it.)

h/t Mediaite

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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2016 Elections Carly Fiorina Gender Hillary Clinton Magic: The Gathering