Last week, NPR had an item about whether Hillary Clinton could win the presidency. She's fairly certain to retain her seat in the senate later this year. While the pundits speculated about whether Senator Clinton has the nationwide support to go beyond that, and whether or not she's too politically divisive to be president, I heard something else that worried me more.
Listen to their discussions with the people on the street. The pundits are looking at the politics, but many lay-people are largely looking at her sex. From Rita Alexander of Scarsdale, NY:
"I don't think this nation is willing to accept a woman. I think that's one of her biggest drawbacks, and I just don't think we're ready for it."From Muriel and Milton Lazaire, when asked if they approve of Mrs Clinton's performance:
Muriel: "Yes, as a senator, but I'm worried about her running for president because I don't think this is the time. I'm so anxious to get rid of Bush and the Republicans, and I..."
Milton: "She's a very able person, but we must be very careful here, and make sure we get a Democrat that will win."
I understand the thinking that the most important thing right now is to find someone who will defeat the Republican candidate. I share that thought. At the same time, though, I fear that we will always think that way; that there will always be a reason that beating the other guy is paramount. And as long as we have the attitude that if we nominate a woman, she'll lose, because "we're not ready" for a woman president... we will ensure that we never have a woman president.
Consider some countries that have had women as presidents or prime ministers: the United Kingdom, Ireland, Israel, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Chile. Briefly, Canada (Kim Campbell) and France (Édith Cresson). And most recently, Germany. Please forgive the oversight if I've missed your country. Why on Earth can't the United States join the rest of the sensible world in accepting that women are as capable of running a country as men are (well, more capable, I think, but that'd be another discussion)?
I'd actually like to see the 2008 election end up as a race between Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice — I believe they're both intelligent, qualified leaders, and it would guarantee us a woman president outside of a short-lived television series.
And then maybe once we broke through that, we could stop considering it as a factor, and go back to the issues and the politics.