Monday, August 1, 2016

Ah, the gender card.

The general election is on, the one that counts, that will impact the four years ahead and beyond.  If part of what pertains this time around is playing the gender card, definitely “deal-me-in”!  

With all the Donald Trump bluster and nastiness, the import of having the first female nominee of a major political party may be lost in the noise.  We dare not let that happen.  Bringing a woman to the Oval Office is long overdue — an essential missing step in perfecting our democracy.  Barack Obama broke important new ground on the way to putting the sin of slavery behind us.  There is still a long way to go and he has paid a price for that audacity.  Remember, among others, Donald Trump’s relentless and disgraceful racist Birther attacks.  Hillary Clinton’s election will move us toward mitigating the different, but in some ways no less painful, sin of sexism.  She has been paying the price for challenging the all-male club since being vilified for not fitting into the “traditional” wifely role back in the early 90s.

Not since the days of Eleanor Roosevelt have first ladies been criticized as much as Hillary and, especially early on, Michelle.  That didn’t happen to Barbara, Laura, Nancy, or Rosalind.  Isn’t it interesting that the two accomplished attorneys — Yale and Harvard — who had established meaningful careers predating their husbands rise to the presidency, were the objects of resentment.  Hillary was considered an outrage for not being into baking cookies and Michelle was branded as an angry black for daring to say in 2008 that it was “…the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country”.  Hillary has been criticized for her voice; Michelle for wearing sleeveless dresses.  For Hillary it was not to have the vocal equipment to lead — read that not authoritative male voice to which we’re accustomed.  For Michelle, as a woman told NPR’s Ari Shapiro, in 2012 “…It’s about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady, and looks like a first lady. …I mean she’s more about showing her arms off” — read that too much exposed, OMG, black skin.

Of course, Hillary Clinton committed the ultimate audacity in seeking to shepherd her husband’s healthcare initiative through Congress.  It was an unsuccessful effort, to some degree in how she handled it, but so too was it for all the men who tried it before her.  How dare she undertake a man’s work?  Perhaps she wasn’t given to sleeveless dresses (though Chelsea appeared in a red one last Thursday night), but those pant suits.  Oh, is that presidential?

Clinton’s greatest weakness as a candidate is that many people just don’t trust her.  It’s become a truism, one that is hammered home by the press in almost every mention of her name.  It would be foolish for her supporters to ignore it.  For sure part of that trust gap stems from her use of a private email server while at State, perhaps the dumbest and most mystifying decisions she ever made.  It is said that she guards her privacy, perhaps more than any other political figure.  Where might that come from?  Most of us are old enough to remember the invented scandal of Whitewater that plagued the Clinton’s during Bill’s first term.  It was a claimed dirty deal that just wasn’t.  Then there was the tragic suicide of Vince Foster — for sure he was murdered on orders of the First Family.  More recently, we’ve seen the trumped up Benghazi scandal on which malicious Republican Legislators wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on nothing short of partisan showmanship.  And so it has been throughout her career.  Perhaps what appears to be a bit of paranoia on her part is merited. 

The fact is that Hillary Clinton has had a long and distinguished professional career.  She was a partner of a respected law firm, was a widely esteemed United States Senator, (elected and re-elected) and a tireless Secretary of State.  As the president said last week, “there has never been a man or a woman -- not me, not Bill, nobody -- more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.”  When I tell people it’s about time we had a woman president, some are quick to say, “yes, but she must be qualified”. Leaving aside that Obama put that to rest, hearing such comments always makes me mad.  It’s like those who feel they have to respond to “Black lives Matter” with “all lives matter”.  They just don’t get it.  Sadly, there are too many people left here and elsewhere that don’t think or act like Black lives specifically do matter.  Let’s be honest, we’re way behind the curve in having a woman leader.  Isn’t it the least bit embarrassing that we’re still playing catch up on gender equality at this late date?  Think of all the countries large and small that have elected female leaders, among them India and Israel in the 1960s, more than half a century ago.

Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as a woman is a very big deal.  It’s one of the reasons I’ll be excited to vote for her in November.   The idea that within a matter of eight years we voters have had the privilege of helping our country brake the race and now the sex barrier makes me proud.  I’m also humbled that it has taken us so long.  I wrote in my most recent post about the dreams that take hold during presidential campaigns.   2016 holds a dream to which many of us, women and men, can happily take hold.   Is Hillary an unblemished candidate, a woman who has accomplished but has also made mistakes?  Absolutely, but can any of us claim perfection?  Of course we can’t.  Like or not, imperfection is integral to the human condition.  I’d like to see us make history this November. That’s a big part of why I’m with her.

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