In 1984, when Walter Mondale chose Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, the media went wild over this historic step forward for women. Some milestone. What was all the excitement about? Women had already been senators, cabinet members, and prime ministers for a long time.
Weve also been coached to respond to other historic firsts, such as the first female astronaut, the first female network news anchor, and so forth. I understand that nowadays women are also writing novels and directing movies. Golly gee.
More recently weve seen an equally silly frenzy about the first female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Nancy Pelosi herself spoke as if this too were a great triumph against the odds. Excuse me for yawning.
So my emotions arent exactly at a high pitch at the prospect of Hillary Clinton as our first woman president. Im slightly alarmed at the prospect of Bill Clintons becoming our first male first lady, but heck, these things happen. I can take it if I have to.
Actually, I think Id enjoy it.
Would women vote for Hillary just because shes a woman? Whither the womens vote, the gender gap, and all that? Such talk is soooo twentieth century.
Sure, some women would vote for Hillary because of her sex a few little old feminists in tennis shoes who are still burning their bras, I suppose. But others would vote against her because oh, you know how women are. They observe and react strongly to things men arent even aware of. Thats why they make good novelists and film directors.
Men will tend to judge Hillary on her positions or, to put it another way, by their own ideologies. Women, I think, will judge her more by her character, and women are more sensitive judges of character than men. For better or worse, they will give more weight to her dealings with her husband, especially during the Lewinsky scandal.
Was she really fooled? Or was she only pretending to believe his claims of innocence? If so, was she justified in doing so? These questions arent easy to answer. Its quite possible, even likely, that women will judge her more harshly than men will. I wouldnt bet very heavily on sisterhood to deliver Hillary the womens vote in 2008.
If you take a more lenient view, you may think of Hillary as Ginger Rogers to Bills Fred Astaire, doing everything he does backward, in high heels. All that has changed is that shes dancing solo now.
Some conservatives cant shake the idea that Hillary is a Marxist revolutionary hiding her true colors as she bides her time. But weve already had our revolution, and its continuing under Republican management. How much worse could she be?
She showed a flash of charming humor the other day when she joked about having learned to deal with evil men. A little more of that would go a long way toward dispelling her image as cold, calculating, and ambitious. You dont expect Lady Macbeth to enjoy a good laugh at herself.
My chief apprehension about any woman president is that she might feel she had to prove she could be as tough as any man. Of course we have the same problem with male presidents. The first President Bush was a decorated veteran, but he had to face mockery about the alleged wimp factor until he took us into a couple of wars.
Hillary may have learned her lesson after voting in favor of war on Iraq. Shes still paying for that among Democrats who no longer trust her. And shes not yet tough enough to oppose the war outright. Merely second-guessing the Bush administration is a poor substitute for leadership.
But shes not really offering leadership; she doesnt have to. She has money, organization, and name recognition and her name isnt Bush. That may be more than enough.
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