Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hillary for President?

With the primaries for the 08 election only a year away suddenly America is all into early preparation – we could use some of that over in homeland security. People all around me seem obsessed with one question – it’s the same question that they’ve been obsessed with since 2000: What do you think about Hillary running for president? Seven years of thinking and I still don’t have a satisfactory answer.

The reason why I can’t decide on my feelings about Hillary are all tied up with the somewhat questionable way that I choose to spend my votes. As a member of the cynical generation I have never been inspired by a politician in a way that made me sure that they could lead me to the America of my dreams. Most election years I grudgingly get inline behind whomever I’ve deemed is most promising despite my (often many) reservations. How I determine “most promising” is complicated. Much of it has to do with party affiliation and how much the candidate playing to the whims of the populace has annoyed me. I don’t believe that I am capable of truly knowing where a candidate stands. Campaigns are serious branding initiatives these days and I never feel like I know a candidate, I can only guess at their true feelings and hope that public claims are at least somewhat true. Because I do not feel like I have reliable information to guide my decision I often tend to get caught up in the symbolism of an election outcome. Hillary’s presidential bid is fraught with the following two pieces of conflicting symbolism:

  1. I want to live in a country where gender equality is so advanced that the majority of people will vote for a qualified female presidential candidate.
  2. I want to live in a country without a political nobility class, a place where the “American” dream is possible for everyone, a place where anyone (given enough smarts, drive and insanity) can be president.

If Hillary gets elected I get to at least hope that we’ve finally accomplished (1) but I’ll have to give up a little bit more on (2) if our presidential line goes Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. If Hillary loses perhaps I can go back to believing that anyone can be president but it’s four more years where America feels behind on the gender front (behind England, Germany, the Philippines, Iceland, Malta, Nicaragua, Liberia, etc).

I don’t think a woman is certain to do a better job at being president than a man. I think it is unfair to categorize women as competent or not based on gender stereotypes ("Women are more compassionate.", "Women would not be able to declare war.", "Women are too led by their emotions.", "Women care too much about china patterns."). We’ve had 42 men lead our country, certainly there are women who could have done as good a job – certainly there are women in America today who could have kicked George W’s ass at the presidenting! I really want to root for Hillary because as a woman in America, she’s my only option when it comes to hoping that I have the same value in this country as my male counter part.

Just as there must be women out there who are not being allowed to lead out country because of their gender there are certainly people not named Bush or Clinton who would make great presidents. I’m frustrated that as a country we don’t seem capable of thinking outside of first families when it comes to presidential candidates. Just from a probability standpoint it seems unlikely that the best future president just so happens to be related to the guy who ran the country 8 years ago.

Everyone I talk to seem concerned that Hillary isn’t electable. Time Magazine has her ahead of the pack (and I’m sure that the poll taken 22 months before the election is totally reliable.) but that’s not good enough. Democrats (all of whom *REALLY* want to win in 08, myself included) are concerned that most of America hates Hillary. I’ll grant you that a lot of people really seem to hate her, though I don’t understand why (I googled “Why do you hate Hillary Clinton?” and all I got in a fear of her “peeing standing up” and assertions that once elected she would unleashed an undefined liberal hell.) and I’m not at all convinced that she has more enemies than George W Bush had in 04. Anyway, guessing at electability, especially over a year in advance of the election, seems futile.

How do I feel about Hillary running for president? I’m happy that we can finally have a viable female contender. I’m sad that she needs to have a famous name.

1 comment:

themikestand said...

Excellent post, Brianna. If I used the phrase "controlled feminism", would that be insulting to you? If not, I think you showed that you can exhibit just that.

Also, Canada once, for five months, had a female head of state: Kim Campbell.