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?. Salon.com.) 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.