The other day, I was having a polite discussion with a few political junkies about Barack Obama’s candidacy. One of them, who happened to be a female, interjected that although she disagreed with Hillary Clinton on most policy issues, she thought it was more important to have a female president. The thought that someone would use gender as the defining aspect to judge a candidate’s merit was so sickening that I had to leave the room.
Obviously, part of the attraction of Obama’s candidacy is its history-making potential. However, factors such as his unwavering opposition to the war, even when such opposition was labeled unpatriotic, and his inspirational message of optimistic governance are the prime reasons I am supporting him, not his race, and that’s also how Obama is selling himself to the public. The idea that Hillary Clinton is entitled to the presidency because of her gender is not just echoing from students on this campus: It’s also coming from her own campaign. At every single one of her campaign stops so far Hillary has mentioned her gender as one of the foremost reasons to vote for her—not her ideas, not her record, but her gender.
This is a flawed premise. First of all, having the first female president would have about as great an impact on furthering the cause of equal treatment for women as having two black coaches in the Super Bowl did for the civil rights movement. The simple fact of a female commander in chief would do nothing for equal pay, nothing to end workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, and it would certainly not get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. If anything, such a symbolic move could backfire for women. Israel has not elected a female prime minister since Golda Meir nearly lost the Yom Kippur War, India has not followed up on the disaster of Indira Gandhi with another female leader, and Britain and Canada have also followed similar patterns.
This phenomenon of voters turning against poor national leadership by females leads directly to my second point: Senator Clinton would make a poor president herself.
Political leaders must have conviction, courage, and charisma. This craven, cold, and calculating politician exhibits none of these traits. She consistently refuses to admit that her vote authorizing the Iraq War was a mistake. Her out-of-character votes in favor of a constitutional amendment banning flag burning and her speeches in favor of limiting abortion rights were seen as the political calculations they were, rather than genuine stands on these issues. Her blatant attempts to appear more conservative during her short and undistinguished career in the Senate have only served to isolate her from her base of support among liberal Democrats and have done little to allay the rightful fears moderates and independent swing voters have about her abilities. Universal health care, the one major political initiative she was entrusted with as First Lady, failed miserably in the eyes of the public and was partly responsible for the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress.
This should be enough to disqualify Hillary Clinton as a candidate. Yet if all of this is not enough, it’s worth considering that the only accomplishments she had before becoming a senator were due to the fact that she chose the right husband. Perhaps this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for any feminists still unconvinced that the candidacy of Senator Clinton will be a disaster for the plight of women in this country. Even the most ardent feminist must admit that the message we would send to every little girl in America by electing Hillary would be that yes, you can grow up to become a senator, even the president of the United States—as long as you marry the right man. Even this critic of the feminist movement finds that message just a little too 19th century to spread across the country.