Not Just A Woman: On A Clinton Presidency

ANDREW BURTON VIA GETTY IMAGES

“I agree with everything Bernie Sanders says,” admitted a friend’s mother during a short car ride, “but I really want to see a woman president.”

She was a kind, sweet woman, and I wasn’t in the mood for a debate anyhow, so I bit back the seven different responses that thundered in my head and said, “I understand.”

In a way, I do. We’ve seen Obama, and it seems that my friend’s dear mother isn’t alone in her feeling that it’s time for women to have our turn, it’s time for us to see a victor rise to the Oval Office. After hundreds of years, it’s time for a woman to ride into the circle and throw her gauntlet down as so many men have done before. It’s time for us to catch up with the dozens of other countries, some of which we look down upon as less developed, who have elected a woman to take the helm. Ask nearly anyone in America, man or woman, and they’ll agree: It’s time for a woman to have a turn.

But is Hillary Clinton the right candidate? If she is elected, she will be written into the history books right alongside Barack Obama: a champion for the cause of women as he has been a champion for black Americans. Will these same history books be able to erase her mistakes?

As to what kind of president Secretary Clinton would make, one can only speculate. However, she’s got enough dirt on her plate as it is. Will the history books be able to ignore that the first female president is the only person to be under FBI investigation while on the campaign trail? Will the history books conveniently omit, as media news outlets appear to have done so well, how she champions herself as anti-establishment while sitting on tens of millions of dollars in corporate speaking fees? Will the history books paint over Hillary Clinton as a candidate fleeing from a political revolution, desperately assuring voters that she is the foremost agent of change while a seasoned radical leads an army of dispassionate youth against her robotic and self-involved promises? If she is able to stomp out the valiant hopefulness of the millennials who stand behind Bernie Sanders, the figurehead who is expected to address corruption and the exploitation of the middle class in a way that Clinton only pretends to, will the history books call it a victory because she is a woman?

Berkeley professor Robert Reich wrote last week, “[Hillary Clinton is] the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have. But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have.” Clearly, this election, like every other, is about more than just gender. Clinton, as much as she claims otherwise, is a textbook example of an establishment politician: wife to one president, secretary to another, scooping up millions for corporate speeches that the American public may never be privy to, and flip-flopping on policy based on money and political convenience.

Carlo Allegri/Reuters

In the current political system, she is a hardened warrior. But this is a system that has seen the decline of the middle class; it is a system that the American public is trapped beneath, gasping for air as their wages decline and their bumbling mess of a healthcare system continues to gurgle and sputter. Hillary Clinton has thrived under this system for decades; if we want to see it changed, we cannot expect her to do it.

Knowing this, it is hard not to cringe when Clinton backhands political questions by re-establishing her womanhood (as if we didn’t already know). There are women out there, like my friend’s mother, whose desire to see a woman ascend the American political throne overrides their concern about policy, but that alone is not enough for Clinton to win the presidency — or, we should hope so. The best thing a female president can do for women is to be a good president, and although Clinton may be able to do that successfully, we should not toss any better candidates aside in order to satisfy our desire for a woman.

The rhetoric should not be that any woman who decides to charge into the battle of the campaign trail should emerge victorious. Hillary Clinton is not just any woman, it is true, nor is she unqualified, but for those of us who have a different goal in mind for this election — a change in the frustrating tide of our current political system — perhaps it is time for us to brush aside other desires. A woman will be elected president when she is the best candidate. That is the way to do justice to women. If we have a dearth of qualified female candidates — and it would not be much of an argument to say that we do — then perhaps we have an entirely different issue at hand. If Hillary Clinton is the best candidate, then let it be so, but don’t elect her for any other reason.