When I lived in Atlanta, I was sitting at the bus stop when I got into a conversation with a man who stands on the side of the road holding a sign for a living. Things quickly turned to who we would and wouldn’t support in the coming election. I wish I could remember his exact words but, just as the bus was arriving, he said something along the lines of: “Even if she is a woman, I would vote for Hillary.” No, I think it was even worse, he said something like, “Hillary’s the only woman I would vote for.” And he said it like it was a compliment, a concession of goodwill! As if being a woman were some kind of handicap that he couldn’t support except in the most spectacular and generous cases. I had half a mind not to get on the bus but instead to pick a friendly argument with this man, to waste half an hour of my day standing around on the road while he was getting paid minimum wage to prop up a sign that reads “CELL PHONES.” Sense got the better of me, but it was this man who sealed my decision of who I was going to vote for in the upcoming primary two years before people where even whispering the name Obama.
The very idea that there are still people out there who think that women are inherently unfit to command is a shock and an outrage. Putting this up to the obvious litmus test of black-white race relations, (as contentious as race is in this country it is always the easiest marker) there is no doubt he would be deeply offended if I responded that the only black person I would vote for is Oprah. Perhaps this outrage goes without saying. Yet the fact that people still think this way emphasizes how much we deeply need a woman president. We need to erase all doubt that this is a woman’s job as much as a man’s.
Most people I have spoken with are disgusted with the idea that I might vote for Hillary because she is a woman, as if they were voting strictly on issues. But they’re not. These people are hard-core lefties and if they really voted on the issues they would be backing Kucinich or Richardson. And, yes, I would love for Obama to win the race and become the first black president.Â But I am still bitter that African-Americans got the vote more than fifty years before women. This is not to say that black folks didn’t face terrible oppression an addition to voter discrimination (I have no wish to play Opression Olympics). It is only to say that it is time for a woman president. While it is a shame that a minority group that makes up 13.4% of the population has never been represented in our nation’s highest office it is absurd that a group which makes up more than half the U.S. population has not held the title.
As a little girl, I never thought that I could be president one day. I could dream of being a senator or a governor but president was simply not an option. *Clinton articulated this argument brilliantly October 22 during an appearance in front of the Washington State Democrats at Benaroya Hall. “There are two groups that inspire me to keep going,”Clinton said. “One is women in their 90s who come to my events… They all say something like, ‘I’m 95 years old. I was born before women could vote in this country and I’m going to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.’ The other group is the children who come… I see a parent lean over to a daughter and say, ‘See, honey? In this country you can be anything you want to be.'”
Hillary Clinton is an exceptional woman, not only because she has political savvy and the skills to lead the free world but because she looked at what Bill did on a day-to-day basis and thought Heck, I could do that. And a nation full of people are looking at Hillary, sign-holders and execs alike, and they aren’t seeing the ultimate glass ceiling. They see her standing on the other side of it and they are ready to hand her the vote. Maybe it won’t shatter the glass ceiling but it will certainly make a mighty splinter. Additionally, women candidates usually sprinkle their staff with more women which means more women in leadership positions all the way down to the campaign volunteers.
If liberals can admit that not having had a woman president is in fact an impediment to having a woman president, perhaps they can see where this will benefit all democrats. A woman president means more women will see politics as their arena and enter the playing field, which will disproportionally fall to the party that supports women’s rights, childcare, the impoverished, gun control, and a sensible foreign policy. Because let’s face it, most women are not Ann Coulter. This is true for other “minority groups” but women are not in the minority. If the democratic party can bring more women to politics then they are fleshing out not a quarter or a third but fifty percent of their ranks.
Despite all this, I am the only woman I know (and I know a lot of feminists) who is openly backing Clinton. These are people who have made very convincing arguments in favor of affirmative action (which, contrary to popular opinion, primarily benefits women). But if you are working in an office with ten men on staff and that office has gender parity by-laws then they will consider only qualified women for the job. Well the office of the presidency has had a tired string of 42 men in the position. So the only question I must ask myself is, is Hillary Clinton a qualified candidate for the presidency?
And I think the answer to this is obvious. Though they may not like Guliani, no one is questioning whether the Mayor of New York is qualified, though Clinton held the higher position of New York senator. She is a far more appealing candidate than Kerry ever was and half the country was in line to back him. Let’s get real: a good chunk of the people joking about supporting comedian Stephen Colbert aren’t really joking. The very thing that many lefties don’t like about Clinton, her ability to give the canned, moderate answer to every question, is a sign of her political aptitude. Yes, she talks like a politician, and it’s because she knows how to appeal to both voters and party leaders. She is not the perfect radical candidate but she is an ideal moderate candidate. Americans can imagine her handling delicate diplomatic situations, something that was woefully assumed of lesser men that held the office.
If other voters want to plaster their cars with the latest liberal white guy for president, I respect that. For once, there are many fantastic candidates on the primary ticket and I will support whichever one wins it. I am in the minority in voting with my vagina and that’s okay. But please don’t roll your eyes. If there had never been a male president, you can bet men would be indignantly towing penis placards outside the oval office. “It’s about time!” they would shout; and I’m not too shy to say the same.