Women pi­o­neers of US pol­i­tics

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - Garfield An­gus Con­trib­u­tor Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

ALTHOUGH WOMEN were first granted the right to vote in the United States, via the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the 19th Amend­ment to the con­sti­tu­tion, on Au­gust 18, 1920, and widely called ‘women suf­frage’, the big par­ties, be­fore 2016, have al­ways ig­nored fe­male pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls.

And while one awaits the pres­i­dency of Hi­lary Clin­ton, credit must be given to the early pi­o­neers, who, against the odds, showed that fe­male lead­er­ship was a quest that could be pur­sued as the right to vote by women and mi­nori­ties had to be vig­or­ously fought.

It should not be for­got­ten that Vic­to­ria Wood­hull pi­o­neered the way for women to stand in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. She cham­pi­oned the cause for women to have rights to vote un­der the Priv­i­leges and Im­mu­ni­ties Clause of the US con­sti­tu­tion. This po­si­tion she starkly de­fended be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in 1871, but the Supreme Court ruled against her in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

In the 1872 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Wood­hull, rep­re­sent­ing the Equal Rights Party, with Fredrick Dou­glass as her run­ning mate, was the first woman to con­test for the pres­i­dency. Though she and other women were not legally per­mit­ted to vote, she re­ceived 26 votes. Women who turned up to the polls to vote for par­ties of their choice in the 1872 elec­tion were ar­rested.

After Wood­hull came an­other woman, in 1884, Belva Lock­wood, from the Na­tional Equal Rights Party, who also sought to be­come US pres­i­dent. She tal­lied 4,149 votes.

While Wood­hull failed with the votes, and Lock­wood gained, the mis­sion con­tin­ued with Gracie Allen, who rep­re­sented the Sur­prise Party, in 1940, with 42,000 votes. The 1952 and1968 elec­tions had two fe­male can­di­dates who did not fac­tor, but, in the 1972 elec­tion, Linda Jen­ness ran for the So­cial­ist Work­ers Party and polled 83,380 votes.

Of note, too, is Mar­garet Chase Smith, who, in 1964, was the first to run for a ma­jor party, the Repub­li­cans, and got more than one vote. She re­ceived 27 votes.

The revo­lu­tion was to be ig­nited in 1972 when Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, an­nounced her bid for the pres­i­dency un­der the Demo­cratic Party and the first black can­di­date for any party in the US and first woman to seek nom­i­na­tion for the Democrats. She was also an am­bas­sador-des­ig­nate to Ja­maica, un­der Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, but had to de­cline the nom­i­na­tion be­cause of ill health.

With the ex­cep­tion of the 1984 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tions of Geral­dine Fer­raro, for the Demo­cratic Party, and that of Sarah Palin, in the 2008 elec­tion, no other fe­male politi­cian has dom­i­nated the US po­lit­i­cal land­scape like the ca­reer lawyer and for­mer first lady, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

BE­HIND OBAMA

In 2008, though she nar­rowly lost the nom­i­na­tion to Barack Obama, to rep­re­sent the Demo­cratic Party, she is the only woman to be listed at that level in US po­lit­i­cal his­tory. Never to be down for long, the com­mu­nity ac­tivist, for­mer sen­a­tor, and ex-sec­re­tary of state con­tin­ues her po­lit­i­cal dom­i­nance, and de­spite the many hur­dles, she re­mains ahead of her ri­val to be the next pres­i­dent of the USA.

On the night of Novem­ber 8, 2016, the United States will fi­nally join 54 other coun­tries on six con­ti­nents that have, in the past cen­tury, elected fe­male po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, pres­i­dents, and pre­miers. Sri Lanka, then known as Cey­lon, in 1960, led in the revo­lu­tion when Sir­i­mavo Ban­daranaike be­came prime min­is­ter.

The coun­tries to fol­low were Ar­gentina, when it elected the first fe­male pres­i­dent of a coun­try, in the per­son of Is­abel Perón. Is­rael, in 1969, elected Golda Meir as prime min­is­ter. In the mix, too, are Bangladesh, Fin­land, Lithua­nia, Malta, New Zealand, Nor­way, the Philip­pines, Poland, Slo­vakia, the United King­dom, Do­minica, the United King­dom, Turkey, In­dia, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Ja­maica.

With his­tory in the mak­ing, the US is still not rev­o­lu­tion­ary in elect­ing women to its na­tional leg­is­la­tures. It is ranked by the In­ter-Par­lia­men­tary Union, at 96, out of 193 coun­tries. Less than 20 per cent of their rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Se­nate and House are women.

While in some coun­tries women earned their right to con­test elec­tions, so pre­car­i­ous the is­sue has been for decades that the quota sys­tem has had to be re­lied on to get fe­males elected, and world­wide, the ar­gu­ment is con­stant that women never al­ways sup­port other women. Pres­i­dent Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton will have a lot to change over the next eight years.

ITHE THOUGHT of a facile Clin­ton vic­tory has been thrown out the win­dow as what had vir­tu­ally been a cer­tainty (Hil­lary win­ning bigly) has been turned on its head with one let­ter from the FBI to Congress that con­cluded:

“Although the FBI can­not yet as­sess whether or not this ma­te­rial may be sig­nif­i­cant (my em­pha­sis), and I can­not pre­dict how long it will take us to com­plete this ad­di­tional work, I be­lieve it is im­por­tant to up­date your com­mit­tees about our ef­forts in light of my pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mony.”

How vague can a let­ter, that can pos­si­bly change and prob­a­bly did change the di­rec­tion of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, be?

Var­i­ous high-rank­ing of­fi­cials on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal di­vide have com­mented about this ac­tion of James B. Comey, the FBI di­rec­tor.

The most telling of these cri­tiques, in my opin­ion, is that of three for­mer at­tor­neys gen­eral, two in the Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion of Ge­orge W. Bush and the other un­der Obama.

In a CNN Pol­i­tics re­port of Novem­ber 1 ti­tled ‘Ex-AGs Al­berto Gon­za­les, Eric Holder, Michael Mukasey rip FBI di­rec­tor’, David Wright and Eric Brad­ner write:

“Repub­li­can for­mer US At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­berto Gon­za­les on Mon­day slammed the FBI di­rec­tor’s re­cent ac­tions in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email server.

“He called Comey’s ac­tions an ‘er­ror in judge­ment’ and said he is ‘some­what per­plexed about what the di­rec­tor was try­ing to ac­com­plish here’.”

Gon­za­les said, “Comey’s let­ter Fri­day in­form­ing law­mak­ers that the FBI was re­view­ing new emails po­ten­tially re­lated to its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server as sec­re­tary of state breaks from long­stand­ing Jus­tice Depart­ment prac­tice. The pro­to­col is not to com­ment on in­ves­ti­ga­tions and to stay silent on po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive mat­ters less than 60 days from an elec­tion.

Gon­za­les, who served in the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, said Comey wouldn’t have been mis­lead­ing vot­ers by with­hold­ing the news un­til after Novem­ber 8.

These sen­ti­ments were echoed by Michael Mukasey and Eric Holder. It is per­ti­nent to note that Comey served un­der Gon­za­les as deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Buoyed by this lat­est email in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Trump is seek­ing to ex­pand the map by cam­paign­ing in states that are lean­ing Demo­crat. Mean­while, the Clin­ton team has been fre­net­i­cally cir­cling the swing states that they must win to en­sure vic­tory.

HAND THAT IS DEALT

As I wrote in an ear­lier col­umn, when all is said and done, con­jec­ture and what-ifs are all well and good, but we have to deal with the hand that is dealt.

While some polls in­di­cate that the Comey let­ter hasn’t af­fected how vot­ers plan to vote, only a fool (or an os­trich) would dis­count the sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive ef­fects of that let­ter on Clin­ton’s chances of win­ning the pres­i­dency.

At the same time, ‘Clin­ton’s Grow­ing Lead With Col­legeE­d­u­cated Whites Could Block Trump’ was the ti­tle of a Bloomberg Pol­i­tics post of Novem­ber 3. With the sub­ti­tle:

“Trail­ing by dou­ble dig­its, he’s on track to be the first Repub­li­can in gen­er­a­tions to lose white col­lege grad­u­ates.” Sahil Ka­pur writes: “Bar­ring a sud­den and dra­matic turn­around, Don­ald Trump is on track to be­come the first Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee since the dawn of mod­ern exit polling in 1956 to lose among white vot­ers with a col­lege de­gree.

“Los­ing this con­stituency in Tues­day’s elec­tion may be enough to de­liver the White House to Hil­lary Clin­ton, who re­mains favoured to win even as polls con­tinue to tighten.

“Clin­ton leads by an av­er­age of 12.3 per­cent­age points among white col­lege grad­u­ates, ac­cord­ing to re­cent polling data tracked by the Bloomberg Pol­i­tics Poll De­coder. While she has lost ground with most con­stituen­cies in the wake of the FBI say­ing it is re­view­ing new emails con­nected to her ten­ure as sec­re­tary of state, Clin­ton’s av­er­age lead with this bloc has ex­panded by 1.4 points since that Fri­day rev­e­la­tion and more than dou­bled since the sec­ond week of Septem­ber.”

PROB­A­BIL­I­TIES AND ODDS

As of Thurs­day, Novem­ber 3, at 10 a.m., FiveThir­tyEight’s prob­a­bil­ity of a Clin­ton pres­i­dency had tum­bled quite dra­mat­i­cally to 64.8 per cent (and still fall­ing) from the high 80 per cent less than three weeks ago. That means that Clin­ton’s chances are rated less than twice as good as Trump’s.

At the same time, the Prince­ton Elec­tion Con­sor­tium has the prob­a­bil­ity of a Hil­lary pres­i­dency at 98 per cent.

In the Huff­in­g­ton Post, un­der the head­ing ‘Poll In­sta­bil­ity Could Be De­ceiv­ing’, Ariel Ed­wards-Levy and Natalie Jack­son warned against ‘Phantom Swings’. It con­cluded that Hil­lary’s chances were still very high at 98.1 per cent when up­dated at 8.01 a.m. on Novem­ber 2.

The book­maker, Pad­dyPower, as of Novem­ber 3, was of­fer­ing odds of 2/5 for a Clin­ton win while of­fer­ing 2/1 for Trump. That’s a huge drop from the 5/1 be­ing avail­able just three weeks ago on a Trump vic­tory.

While I would suf­fer less cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance to side with those giv­ing Hil­lary chances greater than 80%, I feel that her real chance is closer to that of FiveThir­tyEight, that is, around 70%.

I am ac­tu­ally look­ing for Hil­lary to win with 322 elec­toral votes.

AF­TER­MATH

What hap­pens after? Al­ready, hate crimes have been on the in­crease. The lat­est was re­ported by Reuters on Novem­ber 3: Hate crime be­fore US elec­tion: His­toric church in Mis­sis­sippi burned, ‘Vote Trump’ spray-painted. Posted by Kri­tika Ban­er­jee, “A his­toric black church was burned and spray-painted with ‘Vote Trump’ in Mis­sis­sippi in the United States.

“The at­tack comes just a week be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Au­thor­i­ties are prob­ing if it was a hate crime.

“Greenville Fire Chief Ruben Brown Sr told a news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon that in­ves­ti­ga­tors had de­ter­mined the fire at the Hopewell Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church was ‘in­ten­tion­ally set’.

No one was in­jured in the at­tack, but the church was ex­ten­sively dam­aged.

No mat­ter who wins, the post­elec­tion sce­nar­ios prom­ise to be quite ugly.

UNAN­SWERED PRAYERS

Mean­while, in a Roll Call opin­ion piece, Matt Lewis writes in ‘Comey’s Rev­e­la­tion a Gift for Hil­lary Clin­ton’. Wait­ing would have created a cloud of doubt around her ad­min­is­tra­tion:

“Hil­lary Clin­ton prob­a­bly has no idea what an un­ex­pected gift FBI di­rec­tor James Comey gave her this week by fir­ing off that mis­sive about her emails.

“We know that the odds are that Clin­ton will likely be­come pres­i­dent any­way. And if that hap­pens, Comey’s rev­e­la­tions will have ac­com­plished two cru­cial tasks that helped pave the way to her hav­ing a shot at a suc­cess­ful pres­i­dency.

“First, he will have avoided hav­ing her elec­tion clouded by a post-elec­tion rev­e­la­tion. And sec­ond, if my cal­cu­la­tions are cor­rect (and that’s a big “if,” to be sure), he will have helped pre­serve a nar­row Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the US Se­nate.

“Now, if it sounds to you like the lat­ter ar­gu­ment is coun­ter­in­tu­itive, it is. But some­times the things we think we can’t live with­out will de­stroy us, while the things we dread may come as un­ex­pected bless­ings.”

In the im­mor­tal words of Garth Brooks, “Some­times I thank God for unan­swered prayers.”

I

HIL­LARY CLIN­TON Eger­ton Chang

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