About four years ago I had a burning itch to move to New York, launch my publishing career, and vote for Hillary Clinton in ’08. I had it all worked out. I was a woman with a plan. Now, with the US economy going down the shitter, after reading report after report about Americans not reading or buying books, and after seeing Michael Moore’s Sicko, I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things. Even voting for a woman for president.
Ok, don’t get me wrong: I’d love a woman in the White House. In fact (and I know I’ll take heat for this), I think it’s accomplishment to have a black woman not wearing an apron working for the president. Sadly, Condi Rice plays for the wrong side, but baby steps, ladies, baby steps. We had Madeleine Albright and Sandra Day O’Connor and now Nancy Pelosi. Our time will come.
But is Clinton our feminist messiah? Does she have all the answers? She certainly has pedigree, and as she puts it “experience.” She was the unelected ear of the US president for eight years. And if she wins in November the United States of America will have been ruled by two families for more than twenty years.
Yes, she campaigned for universal health care. She was First Lady, not an elected official. She was a the Spouse of the Commander of Chief of the American Armed Forces. Clinton is now the elected Senator for the state of New York…who voted in favour of the war in Iraq.
Clinton is no shrinking violet and she is no doormat, and for those reasons I think she’s great. Her experience in the de facto politics of the white house—elected or no—is undisputed. I just wonder if she’s the right choice for president just because she’s a woman. Is she the right person for the job? Must we women (ok, maybe not me since I’m not an American citizen nor will I ever be) vote for a woman out of some trumped up sisterly love? Just because she has a vagina, does that mean I have to take one for the team? Should I have voted for Margaret Thatcher? Golda Meir? Benazir Bhutto? Kim Campbell? Would that have been the right thing to do?
When pundits flog Clinton’s advocacy for universal health care they forget that that’s an easy motherhood issue…and a change that will not see the light of day even in two terms. Eight years for all the HMOs to roll over and play Red? Not bloody likely! We’d need the next Clinton in office, dear Miss Chelsea, before that gets any traction.
So where does that leave us? Watching the middle: John Edwards. The nice, obliging, rich, white guy in a suit. And that doesn’t leave me with any Hope for Change.
Now for part 2 of my electoral rant. I’ll be brief. Really. This past Sunday, January 13, the New York Times ran a great story "Rights vs. Rights: An Improbable Collision," about the rights issue; specifically enfranchisement for women versus black men. About twenty years ago I wrote an essay for a women’s history class on this very topic about how largely white middle-class women campaigned for the vote before full male suffrage, which would have included not only black men but non-landholding men. Now, if I recall correctly (my typewritten essay is MIA) I probably used the inflammatory term “racist” (I was twenty-something, it was the Eighties). My prof wrote some scathing remarks about scholarship, I believe, but she also took offence at the content. Nevertheless, two decades hence, I feel vindicated. And sad at the same time.