Clin­ton may have lost, but women still won

The Myanmar Times - - News - MAR­GARET CARL­SON news­room@mm­times.com Mar­garet Carl­son is a Bloomberg View colum­nist.

THERE will be the temp­ta­tion to see Hil­lary Clin­ton’s de­feat as ev­i­dence that a woman can’t rise to the top. If we’re not care­ful, the dom­i­nant gen­der will whis­per in the back­room, let’s not nom­i­nate one of them again.

But it will hap­pen, none­the­less – and thanks to Clin­ton. Just see­ing her win her party’s nom­i­na­tion and tri­umph in three de­bates has in­grained the idea that a fe­male pres­i­dent is in­evitable. Mul­ti­ple fe­male can­di­dates will stand upon Clin­ton’s shoul­ders as she stood on oth­ers’. In her mem­oir Hard Choices, she wrote that the ven­er­a­ble Maine Se­na­tor Mar­garet Chase Smith’s chal­lenge to Barry Gold­wa­ter for her party’s nom­i­na­tion in 1964 in­spired her to run for class pres­i­dent. They both lost and they both sol­diered on.

Eight years later, the first black con­gress­woman, Shirley Chisholm, ran, los­ing to Sen Ge­orge McGovern, who would go on to lose ev­ery state but Mas­sachusetts. Hu­bert Humphrey gave Chisholm his del­e­gates, which won her a speak­ing spot at the con­ven­tion. Later, she said that just as the Catholic Al Smith’s run paved the way for John F Kennedy’s vic­tory, she hoped that hers would make oth­ers feel “as ca­pa­ble of run­ning for high po­lit­i­cal of­fice as any wealthy, good­look­ing white male”.

It did. There were oth­ers who gave it a try – from Rep Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, who gave us Ti­tle IX, to Sen El­iz­a­beth Dole, R-Texas, each putting a chink in the wall of male pre­rog­a­tive. Women broke the vice pres­i­den­tial bar­rier when Wal­ter Mon­dale picked Rep Geral­dine Fer­raro, D-New York, as his run­ning mate in 1984. Even though she was asked de­mean­ing ques­tions at the debate with Vice Pres­i­dent Ge­orge HW Bush, such as whether the Sovi­ets wouldn’t be tempted to take ad­van­tage of her be­cause she was a woman, she cut a vivid pic­ture at the con­ven­tion of a woman who could be a heart­beat away from the pres­i­dency. In 2008, Fer­raro said she looked at Hil­lary’s name on the bal­lot and “it felt like Su­san B An­thony was stand­ing be­side me say­ing, ‘Pull that lever.’” She died be­fore see­ing Clin­ton win the nom­i­na­tion.

With­out Fer­raro, there might have been no Sarah Palin, of­ten blamed for Ari­zona Sen John McCain’s 2008 loss. But what­ever you think of Mamma Griz­zly, she laid the ground­work for women to fail up­ward. In this al­ready im­prob­a­ble year, one of Trump’s favourite sur­ro­gates is ru­mored to be on his short list for in­te­rior sec­re­tary.

In the long years that it was hard to get on any bal­lot – the 19th Amend­ment wasn’t rat­i­fied un­til 1920 – women from Lu­cre­tia Mott to Jane Ad­dams to Dorothy Day found oth­ers ways to wield power. Franklin Roo­sevelt is cel­e­brated for his New Deal but there wouldn’t have been one with­out the un­elected (likely un­electable) so­ci­ol­o­gist Frances Perkins, a noted pro­po­nent of worker’s rights as an aide to Roo­sevelt when he was gov­er­nor of New York. The pres­i­dent-elect wooed her to be the first woman cabi­net mem­ber by agree­ing to her agenda: a 40-hour work week, a min­i­mum wage, un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion and the abo­li­tion of child labour. So­cial se­cu­rity, which changed the lives of the el­derly? That was Perkins.

As we await the in­evitable back­lash – that Clin­ton was the wrong woman – she did what women do, spend­ing hours con­sol­ing staff, donors, friends, fam­ily and, maybe some­where in there, her­self, as she tried to block out crit­i­cism that she let the team down by talk­ing about ed­u­ca­tion and health­care when her op­po­nent was tak­ing the low road, lead­ing chants of “lock her up”.

Let’s hope she then went home, power-walked past the el­lip­ti­cal, sat down and al­lowed her­self a heap­ing bowl of ice cream. Clin­ton may have a dif­fer­ent kind of con­so­la­tion in mind. The news that the Clin­tons bought a house for Chelsea near them in Chap­paqua fu­elled the ru­mor that the for­mer first daugh­ter will run for the con­gres­sional seat open­ing up when Rep Nita Lowey, D-New York, re­tires in 2018.

Sure enough, Chelsea would have a head start and could well win. But don’t count on it as a suc­cess­ful open­ing gam­bit in an ef­fort to ac­quit her mother’s loss. Dy­nas­ties seem to have lost their ap­peal. Be­fore the 2016 cam­paign be­gan, Bar­bara Bush asked if the coun­try couldn’t find some­one other than a Clin­ton or a Bush to be pres­i­dent. The coun­try did.

You wouldn’t think Clin­ton has to de­fend her legacy, espe­cially not to the women who voted for her. The next woman to at­tempt the as­cent will find that she won’t have to start at the bot­tom: Clin­ton es­tab­lished a base camp, closer to the peak than women have ever been.

The 54 per­cent of women who voted for her, and those who didn’t, should say thank you. – Bloomberg

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