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An Oral History Of How Barbie Lost The Presidency Yet Again

On July 28, 2020, Mattel announced it would be releasing its seventh presidential Barbie. They have released one in nearly every cycle since 1992, but of course, America has yet to see Barbie in the Oval Office. But this year, for the first time, Mattel gave her a campaign team. Candidate Barbie 2020 came with a campaign manager, a fundraiser, and one (1) voter. There was renewed hope in the Barbie camp that this could be the year she won.

Flash forward to Nov. 4, 2020. In an alternate universe somewhere, the four women discuss with NPR how Barbie lost the presidency yet again. Candidate Barbie and Campaign Manager Barbie speak from a hotel lounge in downtown Miami, shortly after the concession speech. Fundraiser Barbie talks via Zoom from her home in Connecticut. Voter Barbie talks from her kitchen in Suburbia, USA.

How the campaign got started

CANDIDATE BARBIE: [pours scotch] This was my seventh run. And it's the last, I swear to God.

FUNDRAISER: [stubs out cigarette] I signed onto that campaign in a heartbeat. I mean, think about the fundraising potential — she's BARBIE.

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I mean, yeah, she's lost over and over. And she was proposing a two-person campaign team. How did she think that would work? But then, I thought...think about the name recognition that woman has. I mean, who would turn that down? Of course, I said yes when she asked me.

VOTER: Of course, I was interested in her. She's been at this so long. And so smart and put-together and accomplished. She's done every job out there. Why wouldn't I consider her?

CANDIDATE BARBIE: I've been running for president since before you media people even took women candidates seriously. I've been different races, different ethnicities — I've tried to break all sorts of barriers. I've been running for president since before a lot of those bigtime politicians, of any gender or race, even got into politics.

[pause] Well, OK. Joe Biden ran before I ever did. But still.

How the campaign functioned

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You're very right that it's hard to run a campaign without a party or positions. Any given speech was basically half an hour of platitudes.

CANDIDATE BARBIE: Beyond "I'll create jobs," I said nothing of substance. But I have political views! I swear I do! For example- [campaign manager lunges at her, clamps hand over her mouth. Both fall to floor, wrestle for 30 seconds.]

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: [gets up, dusts self off] Sweetie. Even now, you can't do that.

CANDIDATE BARBIE: But I came with a piece of paper that might be a platform! I must believe something!

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: [pours a glass for each of them] Yeah, but it's too small to read. For good reason.

VOTER: Candidate Barbie seemed nice enough. I guess I did want her to say a little more about what she stood for, but not in an angry way or anything.

FUNDRAISER: [lights new cigarette, deep drag] Of [expletive] course we took corporate money. We're made by a massive multinational corporation. You think we're gonna turn that [expletive] down?

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: But seriously, we couldn't say too much about Barbie's beliefs. Do you know how hard Voter Barbie is to pin down? She's a blank canvas! I mean, she's not Protest Barbie or Conspiracy Theory Barbie. She's "Voter Barbie." How the hell do we sway her? Best to stay inoffensive.

VOTER: Fundraiser Barbie would call me at all hours. At dinner. In the middle of my kids' soccer games.

FUNDRAISER BARBIE: See, we had that sweet Mattel money, but we needed small-dollar donations. I had to show Voter Barbie that Candidate Barbie has grassroots support. So yeah, I pumped Voter Barbie for donations. A lot.

VOTER: OK. I don't have many opinions, but Fundraiser Barbie needs to chill out.

FUNDRAISER: [stubs cigarette out on campaign button] I chill out the moment a voter hits her [expletive] $2,800 limit.

On dealing with sexism

CANDIDATE BARBIE: Shatter the glass ceiling? At this point? There's about as much chance as there is of a real woman having this figure. [motions to her own DD-cup breasts and 22-inch waist]

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I'm so sick of that joke.

VOTER: Candidate Barbie isn't married. That's weird, right?

CANDIDATE BARBIE: [draining scotch] Ok, I take it back. Girls can do anything. I know this. Please make sure to print that: "girls can do anything." [glares] Make. Sure. You print that.

VOTER: I'll be honest: I just wasn't a hundred percent sure she was electable.

FUNDRAISER: [gestures with cigarette for emphasis] I was proud as hell to work for a single woman, I'll tell you that.

VOTER: You know what I mean, right? I mean, I wanted to vote for her. But would anyone else?

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Oh. My. God. That "is she electable?" thing. Voter Barbie said that same thing in every focus group. But, like...she is LITERALLY THE ONLY VOTER.

FUNDRAISER: [unintelligible string of expletives]


On losing... and maybe giving up

FUNDRAISER: That gal worked so hard. You gotta feel a little bad for her.

CANDIDATE BARBIE: Maybe it's time to throw in the towel. Finally let myself be me. Put on a few pounds, get surgery to un-point my feet, write a tell-all, finally have some opinions.

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You don't mean that.

CANDIDATE BARBIE: [leans forward] OK, reporter lady. I'll tell you my views on abortion, but we have to go off the record.

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: [sighs, rubs forehead, pours four fingers of scotch] You really aren't planning on running again, are you?

FUNDRAISER: [casually puts cigarette out on tongue] Ohhh, I don't think I'm getting out of the game. Like, yeah, I could start a super PAC, but that's the coward's way out. Maybe I'll convince one of the Bratz girls to run. They aren't doing anything these days, I don't think.

VOTER: Thank God they made me with non-pointed feet. I had to stand there waiting five hours to vote. So yeah, that was an ordeal.

CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I stress again: she's the ONLY VOTER.

VOTER: Yeah. Five hours I waited. Why do you ask?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.