Pol­i­tics: Ceil­ing un­lim­ited

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIAL & COMMENTS -

EIGHT years ago Barack Obama be­came the first Afri can-Amer­i­can nom­i­nee of a ma­jor US po­lit­i­cal party. In July Hillary Clin­ton will be­come the first woman to be nom­i­nated by a ma­jor US party. Whether Mrs. Clin­ton can break an even big­ger his­tor­i­cal bar­rier – and be­come the first woman pres­i­dent – re­mains to be seen. Her chal­lenges in the next few months dif­fer in im­por­tant ways from those fac­ing Mr. Obama in 2008. Then the young Illi­nois se­na­tor could run a cam­paign of “hope and change” – pre­sent­ing him­self as a Wash­ing­ton outsider who of­fered a fresh start.

Clin­ton can’t play that role. Her strengths (and weak­nesses) both stem from her long ca­reer in pub­lic ser­vice and in­clude in­evitable se­cond-guess­ing about choices she has made. She has al­ready tried once for the pres­i­dency in 2008 and was de­feated by Obama. (She then pledged her sup­port to him and served as his sec­re­tary of State.) Now she will cam­paign for the na­tion’s top of­fice again. Her pri­mary op­po­nent, Se­na­tor Bernie San­ders, and pre­sumed Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump have won en­thu­si­as­tic fol­low­ings by vow­ing to shake up the sta­tus quo. A Clin­ton pres­i­dency would rep­re­sent a third con­sec­u­tive term for one po­lit­i­cal party (in this case the Democrats). In the last half cen­tury vot­ers have left a party in the Oval Of­fice for more than two terms only once (Repub­li­can Ron­ald Rea­gan fol­lowed by Repub­li­can Ge­orge H.W. Bush). While older women (and men) may be in awe of the prospect of the first woman US pres­i­dent – just as older African-Amer­i­cans were in awe of Obama’s ac­com­plish­ment – younger women to­day seem to be say­ing “no big deal. We see no glass ceil­ing.”

But 96 years af­ter women first won the right to vote in the United States a woman has yet to hold its high­est of­fice. And al­though roughly half of vot­ers are women, they make up only 20 per­cent of those elected to Congress. The world al­ready has seen a woman prime min­is­ter, Golda Meir, bring Is­rael through the 1973 Yom Kip­pur War. In the 1980s Mar­garet Thatcher, Bri­tain’s “Iron Lady,” en­acted tough eco­nomic re­forms and led her coun­try to vic­tory in the Falk­lands War. Indira Gandhi holds the ti­tle of the first woman to be prime min­is­ter of India, the world’s largest democ­racy. To­day Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel plays a piv­otal role in the future of the Euro­pean Union. And coun­tries from Liberia to Lithua­nia, Brazil to Bangladesh, are headed by women. The US is a late­comer in this arena. In Novem­ber vot­ers won’t be mak­ing a de­ci­sion based on gen­der but on who is best suited for the of­fice. But should they choose Clin­ton in 2016, as they did Obama in 2008, it will rep­re­sent an equally sig­nif­i­cant his­tor­i­cal land­mark. — The Chris­tian Science Mon­i­tor

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