Clin­ton is blaz­ing a mo­men­tous trail

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Eu­gene Robin­son Colum­nist Eu­gene Robin­son is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group.

Colum­nist Eu­gene Robin­son com­ments on the sig­nif­i­cance, lately over­looked, of elect­ing a woman pres­i­dent.

Not enough has been made of two ob­vi­ous facts: Hil­lary Clin­ton, if she wins, would be the first woman elected to the White House. And it will have been the votes of women who put her there.

Think, for a mo­ment, about what a re­mark­able mile­stone that would be. Con­sider what it would say about the long and dif­fi­cult strug­gle to make the Con­sti­tu­tion’s guar­an­tees of free­dom and equal­ity en­com­pass all Amer­i­cans. The first 43 pres­i­dents were all mem­bers of a priv­i­leged mi­nor­ity group — white males. The 44th is a black man, and the 45th may well be a white woman. That is a very big deal.

The his­toric na­ture of Clin­ton’s can­di­dacy has been all but lost amid the clam­orous sound and fury of the Don­ald Trump erup­tion. The cam­paign has seen many un­for­get­table mo­ments, but one that I be­lieve will prove truly in­deli­ble came dur­ing the third and fi­nal de­bate, when Clin­ton was speak­ing and Trump in­ter­rupted her by snarling, “Such a nasty woman.”

Within min­utes, “nasty woman” be­came an in­ter­net meme — not so much be­cause of what it said about Trump, since we al­ready knew of his sex­ism and misog­yny, but be­cause of what it said about the mo­ment. A “nasty woman” was on the verge of shat­ter­ing the high­est and most shat­ter­proof glass ceil­ing of them all. That this ac­com­plish­ment would come at Trump’s ex­pense just made it a bit sweeter.

Polls show Clin­ton lead­ing Trump among women by dou­ble-digit mar­gins — an in­cred­i­ble 18 per­cent­age points in a re­cent Fox News poll. If only men could vote, Trump would have a lead, al­beit a shrink­ing one. But thanks to the 19th Amend­ment, Clin­ton is well ahead na­tion­ally and has taken solid leads in al­most all the swing states.

Surely this has some­thing to do with the “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” video­tape in which Trump brags of grop­ing and kiss­ing women against their will — and the 11 women who have come for­ward to ac­cuse him of do­ing just that. But I like to be­lieve it also has much to do with Clin­ton and the virtues she has demon­strated dur­ing the cam­paign.

Trump’s slide in the polls, you will re­call, be­gan af­ter the first de­bate, be­fore the “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape came to light. The con­trast at that en­counter was strik­ing. Trump was clearly wing­ing it, re­ly­ing on swag­ger and pres­ence to bluff his way past ques­tions he could not in­tel­li­gi­bly an­swer. Clin­ton was sharp and ag­gres­sive, but also fully pre­pared to dis­cuss the is­sues in de­tail. She had done her home­work, and it showed.

This was the case in the sec­ond and third de­bates as well, and I’ll bet her per­for­mances struck a chord among women who watched. To suc­ceed, a woman can’t just be as good as her male coun­ter­parts. She has to be bet­ter. She has to know more, she has to work harder, she has to sweat the de­tails while main­tain­ing the il­lu­sion that she never per­spires at all.

Like any woman who runs for of­fice — or, for that mat­ter, seeks a cor­ner of­fice in the busi­ness world — Clin­ton faced scru­tiny in ways men never do. What was she wear­ing? Did she sound “shrill” — as op­posed to “bold” or dy­namic” — when she raised her voice? Did she smile enough? Did she smile too much?

Male can­di­dates sim­ply are not cri­tiqued in this man­ner, un­less there is some­thing bizarre about them that can­not be ig­nored (such as Trump’s hair­style). The next woman nom­i­nated for pres­i­dent by one of our ma­jor par­ties will have a lighter bur­den be­cause of the poise with which Clin­ton con­ducted her­self and her cam­paign.

Barack Obama’s elec­tion meant that African-Amer­i­can par­ents were no longer ly­ing when they told their chil­dren they could grow up to be pres­i­dent. Like­wise, if Clin­ton wins on Nov. 8, all par­ents will be truth­ful when they tell their daugh­ters that there is noth­ing they can­not achieve.

It is ironic that when Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton first met, she was the ris­ing aca­demic and politi­cal star, largely on the ba­sis of a 1969 Welles­ley Col­lege grad­u­a­tion speech that re­ceived na­tional at­ten­tion. But she put her own am­bi­tions on hold in fa­vor of her hus­band’s. It was, at the time, a ra­tio­nal choice; he was likely to go fur­ther, and be able to achieve more, than any woman. Only decades later could she step out on her own.

That’s a fa­mil­iar story to mil­lions of women. Now they look ready to change the script.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.