Monday, February 27, 2017

Will America Ever Be Ready For A Woman In The Oval Office?

While catching up on my Sunday newspaper reading, I read this interview with Chelsea Clinton in the New York Times Book Review.  I was impressed, while certainly not surprised by the intelligence and poise reflected in her responses to the questions.  I've read quite a bit about how Chelsea allegedly does not come across well in public appearances involving large audiences, but does better in small-scale encounters like this one.  For that matter, I've read the same thing about her mother. In this regard, given a choice between her parents, she fell close to the wrong tree.  In other regards, I think it's just as well that she fell closer to the tree she fell next to.

In those moments when I'm not ruing the reality of living with Donald Trump as President, I have spent some time wondering how Hillary Clinton managed to lose to him.  It certainly wasn't a lack of either experience or intelligence; she easily outweighed Trump in both departments.  It may have been a lack of public speaking skills, though I don't think it can be honestly said that Trump had much of a lead over her in that department.  To me, her loss is best explained by two things.  The first is her inexplicable decision to not campaign, or under-campaign, in the Upper Midwest, whose electoral college votes she desperately needed.  That seems to reek of cockiness; she felt so certain that those states were in her back pocket that she wasted money and energy campaigning in states that were more likely than not to end up in the GOP column simply because that's where they usually ended up.

And the second thing?  Her husband, and her relationship as well.

I have always thought that Clinton escaped impeachment not because the public felt that his relationship with Monica Lewinsky was unimportant, but because they disapproved of congressional Republicans elevating it to the level of a constitutional crisis.  And too, he presided over one of the greatest periods of economic expansion in post-World War II history.  No one was in mood to have the Republican lust for power ruin the Clinton jobs parade.

Somehow, however, the Clintons seemed to believe that all was utterly forgiven, and they were free to take Bill's eight years in office and turn it into the key to an international fortune, cloaked under the guise of spreading good will around the globe.  No one doubts that they did a lot of good in the process, but everyone noticed that, personally, they did fairly well for themselves at the same time. And, in any case, no one (including me) really believed that Bill had become a different human being when it comes to women.  As Gennifer Flowers, one of his conquests, reportedly once said, "A leopard never changes his spots."

Which is why, despite my support for Hillary, I was a little uneasy about the thought of Bill back in the White House, subject to the same temptations of power and (a) without the discipline of a Presidential agenda, and (b) more time and privacy as First Gentleman to indulge his worst tendencies outside of the prying eye of the media.  A lot of Democrats and independents didn't want to say so publicly, but I suspect many of them felt the same way--enough to deprive Hillary of the votes she needed.

But, having said all of that, I hasten to add that there is more than a little bit of a double standard here.

Hillary stood by Bill thoughout all of his infidelities, and the impeachment process as well.  This was, however, not seen as a case of marital fidelity, but rather a case of Hillary hanging on to her political meal ticket when it came to her own ambitions.  That perspective, rightly or wrongly, was supported by subsequent events--her election to the U.S. Senate, and her service as Barack Obama's Secretary of State.  A former First Lady, Senator and Cabinet Secretary--what better political portfolio could a potential presidential candidate have?

On the other hand, if this was a case of a man standing by a powerful woman in trouble, would it be seen the same way?  I tend to doubt it.  Men, because of the access to power their traditional gender role gives them, would never be seen as needed help from a woman to gain that access.

So, putting her own campaigning mistakes aside to a degree (and not completely in any case), it can and should be fairly said that Hillary Clinton lost the election because she is, well, a she.  The United States is simply not ready at the present time to elect a woman to serve in the Oval Office. Were it otherwise, I believe, she would have survived her campaign blunders against such a transparently obvious disaster as Donald Trump.  It is not otherwise.  And she, as well as we, didn't.

And if you want to know what Republican men think about women who attempt to speak truth to male power, the media is replete with examples as ugly as you can imagine.  Perhaps uglier.  I've shared many of them myself with you; here's one more recent example (and do you think he would have flinched if there had been an actual woman, instead of glass, underneath that gavel?).

And yet, instead of inspiring despair, this reality of last fall's election outcome seems to have inspired a desire to fight back.  I'm not just talking about the Women's March on Washington, in which I was proud to participate.  I'm also talking about women running for office, which they appear to be ready to do in greater numbers than in past years.  Take a look.  If this comes to pass, it will almost certainly mean that Hillary's run will not have been in vain.

Will America ever be ready for a Madame President?  One day, hopefully.  I'm not all that optimistic that I'll live to see it.  Then again, I didn't think I would live to see Obama happen. So who knows?  I do feel it will happen eventually.  Let's hope the idiotic male we have in power now doesn't blow us up first.

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