Tag Archives: Woman President

Hillary’s Legacy

I’ve got to agree with Ezra Klein:

Insofar as Clinton’s campaign was a trailblazing, historic candidacy, it’s because it consciously sought to ease the way for those who would come after Clinton. By proving a woman could be commander-in-chief, by proving a woman could win primary states, by proving a women could out-campaign the guys, the idea was that the barrier would not be so high for future women who wished to run. Clinton’s example would normalize women in national politics. That is the precise opposite of preserving the idea that it’s a rare and unique thing for women to compete in national politics, and only one woman has the capability or credibility to do so.

I don’t pretend to know who from Hillary’s circle is spreading this idea, but it’s vicious. In closing the trail to those who would come after Clinton, it makes a mockery of what truly was trailblazing in her campaign. There are reasons to pick Sebelius and Napolitano and Clinton and all the other women in competition for the vice presidency, and reasons not to do so, but nothing could be worse than trying to retroactively trash the legacy of Clinton’s campaign by robbing it of its contribution to the cause of women in national politics.

I think that is largely right. Hillary did open a lot of doors for women candidates. I think we are likely on the verge of a generation of women running for public office in a way we haven’t really seen before. Perhaps Hillary’s biggest accomplishment is that she didn’t run as a woman. Much like Obama, she ran as a politician. She ran on experience, judgement and health care. She ran as though there was nothing historic about her running for the presidency.

Klein’s point from earlier in his post is important.

Plus, for reasons of simple social justice, it’s important that women are routine candidates for highest office. In an electorate that’s majority female, there should be nothing exceptional about women seeking the presidency.

We’re clearly not there yet. That was, for me, the most disappointing aspect of Hillary’s candidacy. I didn’t really see it until the end, after she dropped out, but this video brought it home for me.

Now, I don’t think that all of the statements that are in there are necessarily sexist. In particular and I don’t think Obama was attempting to be sexist in his comment or that Olbermann was. But the sad fact remains. In 2008 a woman ran for president, yet it was still perfectly acceptable to call her a bitch and a cunt. That stems in part from Hillary’s preexisting public image, but a lot of it was clearly just from the fact that she’s running.

To quote an insightful post at Daily Kos:

I first noticed the nutcracker in late December, next to a rack of doomed “Rudy for President” shirts at a National Airport kiosk specializing in ephemeral topical kitsch. At the time, I was taken aback at the sheer misogynist chutzpah of the product, but I figured that it was a niche political product being sold at a niche political store in a niche political city — Washington — and that it would disappear from the shelves in a couple weeks, relegated to fringe online backwaters like the Newsmax store. Yet the nutcracker spread from DCA through the airports of the nation like a tacky virus, and soon one couldn’t clear security anywhere without being confronted with its stainless steel thighs. Eventually, the nutcracker escaped from the sterile zones and its TSA protection into mainstream American retail, and became minor fodder for late night comics and “wacky news” types like CNN’s Jeannie Moos. But the nutcracker never became a serious news or commentary item — there was very little discussion, at least in the mainstream media, of what the novelty, and its apparent popularity, said about the 2008 campaign or about the nation itself.

And that was the most remarkable aspect of the nutcracker blight: the manner it which it was just accepted. Here we had a blatantly sexist product which traded on one of the most misogynistic archetypes of the last 50 years — the castrating, pantsuit-wearing, hyper-ambitious professional woman — being sold in otherwise anodyne, apolitical stores throughout the country, and no one with a serious microphone was saying anything about it. Anyone with a hint of consciousness about gender politics had to be asking themselves what the hell the deafening silence meant.  Is America irredeemably sexist? Does the fact that a similarly racist Obama doll couldn’t be sold without massive public outrage mean that casual sexism is more tolerated than casual racism?  Would any woman running for president be subject to the same mockery, or is Hillary somehow more susceptible than other female politicians?

Hillary’s not the only one who faced this, Obama does too, and I’m sure that if Bill Richardson caught fire he would have too. In fact, you could make the exact same video about Obama. But with Hillary it went mainstream, with utterly sexist comments being made on national television and in major newspapers, as though it were OK. I think that when people look back on Clinton’s run she will clearly be a pathbreaker, she almost won after all and she would have been a strong favorite in the general election, but they will also be shocked at the amount of sexism that was considered OK in 2008. We may be getting close, but it isn’t normal for a woman to run for president yet.

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The First

I’ve got to say that Dahlia Lithwick makes a good point about women and the Presidency:

We all know these double standards exist for females in public life—voters demand toughness but not bitchiness, confidence but not shrillness, authenticity but also glamour. If the Clinton candidacy has taught us anything, however, it’s that a woman can straddle all those irreconcilable demands and still win. She can win more than 16 million votes in the primaries and around 1,779 delegates. Clinton has shown that a woman can win huge at the ballot box and bring in huge money, and even if Obama ultimately secures the nomination, those facts will not change. Faced with all that evidence of success, how do the naysayers prove it can never be repeated?

Hillary Clinton has been just about the most successful non-winning primary contender in history. In a presidential nomination process dominated by spin, momentum and the media she has taken to race all the way to the finish line. She just ran into a candidate who designed and executed a near perfect campaign strategy and who hit the campaign finance motherload. Unlike Jesse Jackson in 1988 she didn’t lose because there were broad swaths of the primary electorate that wouldn’t vote for her. She lost because there was a candidate running who was, very marginally, more attractive. That she lost doesn’t say that no woman can ever do it again. It says that a woman has a great shot in any year where as talented a politician as Barack Obama isn’t running.

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Who Will be the First?

I’m really not quite sure why the New York Times would declare “Asked to name a potential first woman as president, though, even the shrewdest political strategists said they couldn’t think of anyone.”

I’m sure a lot of women are terribly disappointed that Hillary isn’t going to be elected this year, but are we really in a position where we can’t imagine any other women winning the presidency besides the wife of a former president. The third highest elected official in the country is a woman. There are 16 women who are senators and 8 who are governors. Granted, some of them aren’t likely presidential material, but a lot are. That doesn’t even take into consideration that the two of the last three Secretaries of State have been women. Condoleeza Rice is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate and Madeline Albright, who consistently polls as one of the most popular political figures in the country, would be if she were born in America and were a little younger.

I can think of no reason why Janet Napolitano (D-AZ), Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) or Sarah Palin (R-AK) wouldn’t get serious consideration if they threw their hat in the ring. Napolitano and Sebelius are both successful executives who have brought Republicans and Democrats together to govern their states. Sebelius has basically killed the Republican party in the state, getting a former chairman of the state Republican party to cross the aisle and run as her Lt. Governor. Palin is only 44 and has not only taken on the corrupt Alaska Republican establishment, but done so while maintaining 80 percent approval ratings. Jodi Rell (R-CT) and Linda Lingle (R-HI) are popular female governors. Even Christine Gregoire (D-WA) is an incredibly talented governor who could get consideration if she wins reelection. If Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) was born in America she would be a formidable candidate. The only woman governor who I couldn’t see mounting a serious presidential bid in Ruth Ann Minner (D-DE), mostly because of her age.

The Senate isn’t as fertile a ground for female presidential contenders, but its hardly a waste land either. Many of the candidates who could have been considered, such as Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) are too old to be considered at this point. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is also probably too old. The best prospects are likely Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who were just elected in 2006. Both are impressive women with relatively moderate politics and strong political skills. McCaskill was able to knock off a popular incumbent in Jim Talent and Klobuchar trounced Rep. Mark Kennedy, who was initailly supposed to be a competitive candidate. Both are rising stars in the Democratic party, especially McCaskill, who has been a key surrogate for Barack Obama.

There are also a large number of female House members who, while not immediate contenders, certainly could advance their careers to the point where they are viable candidates. Member of the 2006 Freshman class like Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Michele Bachman (R-MN) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are all up and comers who could win consideration. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) is incredibly impressive and could well move up and be in position for a run. Heather Wilson (R-NM) is facing a tough Senate race she will probably loose, but she is incredibly impressive, an Air Force Academy graduate, Rhodes Scholar and National Security Council staffer, who would make a very credible statewide and potentially national candidate. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) are both rising stars in their respective caucuses and could be statewide candidates in a few years. Blackburn was considered a formidable candidate for Bill Frist’s seat when he retired in 2006. I’m sure there are other young women House members who I’m missing too.

In short, there is no lack of credible women politicians. Napolitano, Sebelius, Palin, Klobuchar and McCaskill could all run in 2012 and nobody would bat an eye. They might not win, but winning the presidency is an incredibly difficult prospect. In the future there are at least half a dozen up and coming House members, almost all of whom are currently younger than 50. That doesn’t even count lower level state officials such as the ones mentioned in the Times article, like Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

Thats just the candidates we know of now. The Times asserts that

But almost anybody — and particularly women — will discount the idea of a woman as dark horse.

“No woman with Obama’s résumé could run,” said Dee Dee Myers, the first woman to be White House press secretary, under Bill Clinton, and the author of “Why Women Should Rule the World.” “No woman could have gotten out of the gate.”

I’m not so sure. Certainly its unlikely that it will happen, if only because it is so rare that someone with Obama’s level of experience gets nominated for president. The last one to be comparable was Jimmy Carter. But the reasons that Obama has become such a formidable candidate seem to me to have nothing to do with his sex or race. They have to do with the fact that he is an incredibly talented politician. He is uniquely charismatic, has a one of a kind personal story and is great at connecting with average Americans. Its not a set of skills that comes along very often. Combine that with the unique fact that he was chosen to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention before he was even a member of the Senate and you have close of a one of a kind confluence of events.

But I can easily imagine a similar series of events for a woman candidate. Imagine. A youngish state senator in a swing state, say Florida, wins a contested nomination against establishment candidates to take on a popular, incumbent governor. The media would start to take notice. Not necessarily the national mass media, but certainly the state media and the national political blogs. She is charismatic, inspiring, was raised by a single mother in deprived circumstances and has that rare ability to connect with people. She attended the best universities in the country and was a successful lawyer who chose to use her skills to give back to the community instead of making money for herself. Voters start to notice how impressive this woman is and she starts to draw large crowds. She manages to upset the governor and win the fall election. I know Obama didn’t have to beat an incumbent, but the boost from knocking one off would approximate the boost he got from the keynote address. The press would be enamored with the new governor. People across the country have taken notice and know her name and the national media features her in several glowing profiles. She has a solid first term, passing some incremental reforms and maintains good relations with the opposite party, and has no scandals or other incidents that reflect poorly on her. In the midterm election she works hard for congressional candidates in her state, raises a significant amount of money for them and has a good record in the election. Shortly afterwards she announces she is running for president.

Would it be crazy to think that woman would have a shot at the nomination? I don’t think so. It certainly would be a long shot, but she wouldn’t be laughed out of the room and would be taken seriously. People tend to forget how many things had to go right in the campaign for Barack Obama. She would have her shot. She’s have to demonstrate her ability to fundraise and connect with voters, like Obama did, but its certainly doesn’t seem impossible.

The idea that it will be generations until a woman wins the presidency just seems a little far fetched. On the Democratic side none of the 2008 contenders are likely to run again, given that they will all be either too old or washed up. on the Republican side Mike Huckabee could run again and Mitt Romney could try, but he’s probably politically toxic. There will be wide open fields in 2012 and 2016 with a new generation of candidates. The baby boomer generation is getting too old to run for president. There will be a new crop of candidates coming up and it seems very likely that at least some of the next crop of candidates will be women. They may not win but they will serious contenders, but they’ll be right up there. Its only a matter of time.


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