On Tuesday, when it became clear that Hillary Clinton was (finally) the Democrats’ official “presumptive nominee” for president, the identity politics began.
“Historic,” they said. As the media began proclaiming that she had clinched the nomination, her campaign posted a heroic black and white photograph of her, looking triumphantly to the sky with the words “History made” and the date scrawled on the image.
This is a narrative that Hillary Clinton desperately wants to wrap herself in. And her supporters are all too happy to help.
Back in February, I was walking through Target with some time to kill and stopped by the book section to look for something my nine-year-old son might like. I happened across a book with a heroic-looking little girl on the cover. The title? “Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some girls are born to lead.”
I turned to the first page and, fighting back the powerful urge to vomit, read the insane propaganda. “In the 1950s, it was a man’s world,” it began. “Only boys could have powerful jobs. Only boys had no ceilings on their dreams.”
Okay. That’s laying it on a little thick.
Despite the growing facial tick I had developed reading this shlock, I continued. “Girls weren’t supposed to act smart, tough or ambitious. Even though deep inside they may have felt that way.”
“But in the town of Park Ridge, Illinois… along came Hillary.”
Hillary Clinton, the deliverer of Park Ridge, Illinois, Arkansas, and now America, from the scourge of sexism. Breaker of chains. Mother of dragons.
Is this a historic moment of note? Yes, of course. Something that has never happened has now happened.
But, I have to ask, have we really arrived at some kind of turning point? Has sexism in politics been defeated? Does Hillary Clinton becoming the first female nominee and possibly the first female president fundamentally alter the core values of this country?
I’m being told so. “Now I can tell my daughter that she can grow up to be anything she wants to be, including president!”
Not to impugn anyone’s parenting philosophy, but were you not already telling your daughter that? I have four older sisters — from a conservative household — who were told in the 1970s and 1980s by their parents that they could be anything or do anything.
I’m about to become the father of a daughter next month. I plan to tell her she can be president of the United States, the secretary-general of the United Nations, the CEO of a major corporation, or a world famous particle physicist.
I will also tell her that her intelligence, hard work and the merit of her skills are what will win her those things. Hillary Clinton possessing the White House has nothing to do with what I would have told her.
Which makes me wonder, has the glass ceiling truly existed for the last several decades? The absence of a female president, up until this point, is all that matters to people who would say yes.
But Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel in 1969. The United Kingdom elected a female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in 1979, and she served for 10 years. Good Lord, Pakistan — Pakistan! — elected the since-assassinated Benazir Bhutto as prime minister in 1988, and again in 1993. Angela Merkel has been the Iron Woman of Germany for a decade now.
Was there really a glass ceiling all this time in America, but not Pakistan?
The answer, of course, is no. The reason the United States has yet to have a female president has more to do with the low number of female candidates, and the relative electoral weaknesses of those candidates.
Michelle Bachmann didn’t lose the Republican nomination in 2012 because she was a woman. She lost because she was a terrible candidate facing better ones, who just so happened to be male. Same with Hillary Clinton in 2008. Carol Moseley Braun in 2004. Elizabeth Dole in 2000.
Before those names, there really weren’t any female candidates of any national prominence who had run since Margaret Chase Smith in 1964.
So is the glass ceiling broken? Or has it already been broken for a long time, and this is just the reconfirmation of that which we already should know?
My daughter can be president. She could have been it before Hillary. She could still be it after her. Let’s cool it on the implication that electing Hillary represents something more than it actually does.