Monday, January 28, 2008

Why I Plan to Vote For Hillary Rodham Clinton And Think You Should, Too

Okay. I had said a while ago that I wanted to pen an entry about why I plan to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton and Think You Should, Too. Then I came down with the Plague. I went to Philadelphia to celebrate Alissa's birthday, where I saw some of my favorite politically-minded people and got to dissect the issues and hear their opinions without having to build a common ground for discussion first or getting tripped up on major, divisive, deal-breaking issues like gun control or abortion, which can derail even the most respectful of intentions in debate, rather than just talking about the merits of candidates. It was really enlightening, actually, and I feel more favorable toward Obama than ever before.

To that end, I am not anti-Obama. I think Barack Obama is a charismatic candidate, one I will be happy to cast my vote for should he receive the Democratic Party's nomination. This isn't an anti-Obama essay; it's a pro-Rodham Clinton one.

Let me be very clear: Hillary Rodham Clinton is NOT the perfect candidate, a flawless gem, easily electable, or a public figure whose personal ethics and morals perfectly reflect my own. In fact, I think her success, achievement, and influence DESPITE the endless cataloging of her flaws and public scrutiny of her personal life is one of the things that make her the best candidate for president.

Reason# 1: She is incredibly well qualified and good at what she does.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is incredibly competent. She is smart. She is effective. She is well traveled, worldy, and articulate.* She has been an excellent representative for the state of New York in the U.S. Senate. If she were a man, her campaign would have the ability to focus more on this fact, and non-New Yorkers would know more about it.

She thinks well on her feet, a quality that was first demonstrated at her college graduation from Wellesley in 1969. She was the valedictorian and the president of the college government and as such, was scheduled to speak right after the keynote address by Sen. Edward Brooke. During the senator's speech, he made some assertions about poverty and anti-war activism with which she disagreed.

Standing on the podium that day, she set aside her notes, and off the cuff, more or less ripped the senator a new one in a speech that earned her a standing ovation, inspired a feature article in Life magazine, and included this statement: “The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible."

She was 22. She had not yet met her husband, although it's worth noting that she was at Yale Law School getting her law degree when they met.

*In my mind, those are minimal requirements to be "the leader of the free world," but then, I didn't vote for our current president- who, prior to his first 'election'- had never been outside the United States except for a short trip to Mexico, and one gets the impression he spent more of his time there at Senor Frog's, but that's an entry for a other day.

2. Her presidency would serve as a means to an end in terms of breaking the glass ceiling and widening the scope of future presidential candidates.

I think that we, as a country, need a larger pool to draw our leadership from. For too long, our presidential candidates have had the same matrix of identity. They come from similar backgrounds, have intertwined family connections, cookie-cutter religious affiliations, not to mention identical characteristics in terms of race, religious and gender. We keep electing Christian (AND Christian-Non-Catholic* at that) white guys born with silver spoons in their mouths and wondering why Washington seems so out of touch with the reality of the average American.

*We've only had one Catholic president, despite the fact that being Pro-Life alone motivates voters to go to the polls more than almost any other single issue, and that guy got assassinated. And that was forty-five years ago.

My point is, we need more choice for leadership. We need viable candidates who are DIFFERENT than what we've had, again and again and again. We need candidates who are women, who are people of color, who grew up working class, who think globally and act locally, who understand that education is the key to success, who can lead an America that is truly a meritocracy, or at least more of a meritocracy than it currently is.

The presidency of Hillary Rodham Clinton would be a stepping stone for this country, a means to that end, an intermediate step to that larger talent pool. (So would Obama, I acknowledge that.) It's true, if she is elected, all of our presidents in the last 20 years will have come from the same TWO families. If she serves four years and gets elected to a second term, the West Wing will have been occupied by the Bush and Clinton families for nearly three decades. Nepotism and elite Washington insider connections? Absolutely.

The thing is, though, that first woman in the White House will *have* to know those ropes. She has to to have a key to the Old Boys Club, or she's never getting in at all. Is that sad? It's downright tragic. Do I hate it? But someone has to be first. Someone has to break this glass ceiling. Candidates like Carol Mosely Braun, my personal favorite candidate in the last presidential election, will never get a shot without it.

3. She already knows how the sausage is made, from a perspective other candidates don't have.

On Sept. 12, 2001, the world turned to America with compassionate hearts and open minds. In that terrifying, tumultuous time, the international community was by our side. We had an opportunity to show the rest of the world- no strangers to acts of terrorism and fear- that we, too, could be vulnerable. We, too, had a mass graves in our country. We, too, were bleeding in our own streets. We could have shown that a government by and for the people could be HUMAN, not an imperialist ambassador of cultural demise, hawking McDonald's cheeseburgers and Baywatch. We had a chance to unify, lead and demonstrate the goodness of a democracy in action. We had a teachable moment. AND WE BLEW IT.

Our government squandered every shred of goodwill directed at this country after 9/11/01. We were metaphorically sacked by the visigoths and at the moment, our preisdent is playing the fiddle while Rome burns. Our next president has a lot of work to do to re-establish our good standing in the hearts and the mind of the world. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as former First Lady, is better poised to do this than any other candidate at this time. She has already made the public relations tours, toured the holy sites, shaken hands at the state dinners, drunk the tea, seen the folk dances, received the tokens of goodwill from heads of state. She has an intimate knowledge of not only the key players in front of the cameras and media coverage, but the diplomats and dealmakers who are in the room when the peace treaties are knocked out.

She has already seen how the sausage is made, and she has the stomach for it.

4. The first woman president is going to face a storm of pain in the ass questions she shouldn't have to even think about, but Sen. Clinton is well poised to answer them.

When Nancy Pelosi took over as Speaker of the House a year ago (the first woman to hold this office, by the way), the pundits immediately began wringing their hands over whether or not she could both do the job and still have enough time for her six grandchildren. Um, WTF?

To paraphrase Gloria Steinem, no man has ever had to answer questions about how he balances work and fatherhood. The first woman president is going to have to answer all these pain-in-the-ass questions about what kind of mother she is, whether or not her child or children will suffer because she's busy running the country.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's personal life has already been stripped down, publicly exposed and endlessly analyzed in every possible way. Everyone knows which way he husband hangs and what he does with his cigars. Whatever you say about her family life, the fact remains that Chelsea Clinton is a functional member of society, educated at Stanford and Oxford. Chelsea Clinton was called "ugly" throughout her adolescence by everyone from Wayne and Garth to Sen. John McCain. (Citation: Corn, David (1998-06-25). A joke too bad to print?. Her parents' sex life and marriage became a national joke when she was a teenager, and she's still managed to avoid the public scandals involving drugs and alcohol that have plagued the Bush daughters.

There are also going to be a bunch of pain in the ass questions about the role of the First Gentleman. Traditionally, the role of First Lady has been a combination of hostess and goodwill ambassador with a passionate commitment to one or two pet causes. In my opinion, the first First Husband is going to face all kinds of jokes about which china pattern he'll choose for the West Wing and who wears whose pants- blah blah blah. The Clintons have had that for years, anyway, and who better to the blaze the trail of a man in the role of ambassador with one or two key causes than a former President?

4. She's shown she can stand up to the bullshit with a tenacious grit and singularity of focus.

In 1992, she wanted to talk about universal healthcare, and all the rest of the country could talk about was her headbands. Sixteen years later, Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey's reports that 40 million people don't have health insurance. Headbands are out of fashion, but she's running for president with universal healthcare as a key point of her platform. The woman does not give up. We need a president with that kind of dogged sense of determination, because things are pretty grim at the moment.

She has been called every name in the book. She got a little misty-eyed talking about her concerns for the state of the country (when I regularly want to gnash my teeth and vomit blood at the current state of affairs in this country) and the difficulty of the campaign. No one mentions the fact that this is right before a primary in a state where AN ARMED GUNMAN broke into her campaign headquarters and took her campaign workers as HOSTAGES AT GUNPOINT. Yeah, the campaign has been hard, in some way harder for her than anyone else she's been running against so far, and STILL she's picking up endorsements left and right, winning primaries, and stumping the issues.

4. She's not "likable." So what?

People don't like women who are wealthy and powerful and aren't nice about it. Oprah is wealthy and powerful, but she's super nice about it. She gives away Philosophy facial cleanser and eyebrow kits and the occasional car and scholarship and people love her for it. (Although Michael Moore has a hilarious chapter on why he wants Oprah to be President of the United States in his book "Dude, where's my country?" It's worth the price of the book for that alone. Run, Oprah, run!)

I admit that Sen. Clinton comes with a lot of baggage, and her husband provides a certain liability. I've heard some people say she's riding on his coattails; others say he comes with a lot of baggage dragging her down. She can't "get it right" either way, but when it comes down to it, she gets shit done.

Also, I think think of any other woman currently on the political scene who would be poised for the presidency any time soon. If not Hillary Rodham Clinton, then who? If not now, then when?

I keep coming back to the speech she gave at 22: "The challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible."

It's time. It's time to make what appears to be impossible, possible. It's time put a woman- a smart, well-educated woman with legislative experience and international influence- in the White House.


cindy w said...

Ok, I appreciate where you're coming from, but here's why I don't want to vote for Hillary:

1) The idea of potentially TWENTY-EIGHT years (if HRC gets 2 terms) of either a Bush or a Clinton in the White House. This is not a country that is supposed to have dynasties. Let's get some fresh blood in there, dilute the gene pool, whatever.

2) She's such a polarizing figure that I don't think she could get elected. The people who hate her? They *really* hate her. I'm not saying it's justified - certainly, the far right has villified her way more than she deserves - but if she ends up being the Democratic candidate, the Republicans are not only going to turn out in full force to vote against her, they're going to drag their friends and neighbors along with them to vote against her too. What's the point of having her as your nominee if we're going to end up with another Republican president?

3) You're point about her not being likable? Yeah. She isn't. And it's not because she's a wealthy and powerful woman. It's because she's got too much politician in her. Everything she says and does feels contrived, like it's been thought out and scripted by her people. (Even the crying thing - sorry, I didn't buy it.) It's not sexism, I feel that way about lots of politicians. John Kerry, for example. Yeah, sure, he was qualified, but there was nothing about the man that seemed remotely spontaneous or real. I feel the same way about Hillary.

Then I look at John Edwards, and yeah ok, he's another white Protestant man, and yawn snore, we've had over 200 years of white male presidents already. But I listen to him speak about what he believes and what he wants to do, and he seems so passionate and fired up about all of it, and the way that he seems to "get" what's going on with the working class of America, and oh my god, will someone get that man on the ballot? I like Obama too, don't get me wrong, it's just that Edwards has actually made me tear up when I've listened to him speak, and I can't think of any other politician that I can say that for.

4) I agree that it would be great to have a woman president, and lord knows we're due. But I don't buy the argument that she should be elected because she's the only one on the political scene right now who could do it. If the only woman available isn't a good candidate, maybe we should just wait and have a woman president later? It'd be kind of cool to have the first non-white President too. Might send a nice message to the rest of the world about America.

Of course, I'll vote for whoever ends up as the Democratic nominee, because all of the Republican nominees scare the crap out of me. It's just that if it's Hillary, I'll be rolling my eyes as I punch the ballot, just like I did with John Kerry in 2004.

Michelle said...

I agree with everything Cindy said about HRC, and I believe that her and Obama are very similar candidates, as far as what they believe in and what they want to do.

There are two major differences, and they are why I support Barack. HRC, as you said, has YEARS of time put into politics, in all different roles. She is fully and totally "in debt" to an obscene amount of people. Not only will she represent 20-30 years of the same two families running our country, but she will undoubtedly have to "pay back" an unspeakable amount of individuals for their YEARS of service to her. I LOVE it that Barack has only really been around for a short time, because he has a fraction of the ties that HRC does.

The other major difference that I see is that Obama wants a different course for our country. HRC wants things to be back the way they were in the 90's, under her husband. We don't need to go back in time (even though a lot of good went on then) because that's never the direction we should be headed in. We need to move forward, without a Bush or a Clinton, and we need to elect the first black President, and break that glass ceiling. Another woman will come along who is just as qualified as HRC, but not as "tied down" and not a part of a family that has already ruled the country for 8 years.

Anonymous said...

As the one of your friends who tries to avoid politics at all cost (my first election was that "popular vote LOSING" debacle and I haven't been able to recover since - and don't even GET me started on the ridiculous CA prop system... but I digress...) my very cavilier opinion is that I think we should vote in Hillary as purely psychological experiement. She is quite possible the only First Lady who will ever have that chance and therefore the only candidate who's ever come at the position from that background. Besides a repeat President, she's literally the one who's been there and STILL want that crazy job. She's atleast embracing the devil she knows (the rest are just hoping they'll like it). And let's all face it - Bill as the First Man would be a hoot and a half on an almost daily basis I'm sure. I'd just love to watch the whole thing - essentially preseidential reality TV for 4 years.
As I side not I'd like to also suggest that we RADICALLY change the campaigning process. For instance, why is it we can't have "campaign week" or even two for that matter - primary and final - where the candidates get official and equal air, news, and online "time" to state their case ONCE and for ALL. Literally. Maybe half is their choice and half is Q&A by half professional newsmen/women and half every day folks. Done. And while we're at it let's just pick a line up - like the Olympics - so people have a chance to observe and prepare - so for now we could say HRC, Obama, Edwards alternate with Republic candiates every other term and well let an Independent be VP every time. There campaigning solved for the next few decades. Look at all the campaign money we saved and can now solve national issues with. Any one with me?! ;)

Carl said...

This is shaping up to be the toughest Presidential election I'll have been a part of. The people that step forward to run seem mostly to be polar-opposed idealogues. They each have specific directions they would force upon the country, and not the idealism they'd need to truly lead. Clinton is not at all a clear choice. She seems to possess the very same cynicism that all the other professional policians possess. She just doesn't seem any different, except by stripes.

Alissa said...

Maybe if all political discussions were held over fruity frozen drinks and coconut shrimp we could figure out the whole world peace thing....

Lo Lo said...

Completely agree with Cindy's comment that everything HRC does seems contrived and scripted. And the way she feels about John Edwards is the way I feel about Barack Obama. Dude is LEGIT inspiring.

I heard him speak live in the Boston Common when it was like -2 degrees outside and over 5,000 people stood outside for hours to hear him. He was nothing short of breathtakingly amazing. He gives me hope at a time when I look at the country (as a 22 year old) and realize for the first time how much is wrong with our government.

My (OUR) generation is going to be running this country soon. And I want someone like Barack that I can be proud to call my President.

Wetzel said...


Becky said...

word, ang.

Chunky Photojournalist Barbie said...

Wetzel, I see your "Wow" and raise you a "yowza."