Wednesday, January 27, 2016

American Women Have Waited 227 Years for a Female President...and It's Time for the Wait to Be Over

Clinton concedes to Obama, June 2008
There is so much to recommend about Joan Walsh's incredible piece in The Nation today entitled "Why I’m Supporting Hillary Clinton, With Joy and Without Apologies" that it's hard to know where to begin. Just go and read it all, because Walsh has captured what so many of us have been feeling for months and spawned a new rallying cry with already-trending #WeWontBeErased.

I want to focus on one particular section that echoes something that's been on my mind for a while now:
Bernie is building a movement, we’re told (with little evidence of lasting organization, by the way), but it’s a movement whose loudest advocates are entitled young men who heap the vilest abuse on women who don’t deign to join it. To his credit, Sanders rapid response director has seen the online abuse, and warned on Twitter Monday night: “If you follow Bernie Sanders, please follow the senator’s lead and be respectful when people disagree with you.” Still, the larger message to Clinton supporters is that our demand for equal representation at the highest level of government at last, by a supremely qualified woman who is thoroughly progressive if not a socialist, must sadly wait. Again.
Yes. Again.

Eight years ago, Senator Hillary Clinton barely lost an epic and historic Democratic primary battle against Senator Barack Obama. But it wasn't just a crushing defeat for her, but also for her millions upon millions of passionate unknown number of whom would not live to see a female president in their lifetimes. One of these supporters was Hillary's own mother Dorothy Howell Rodham (1919-2011), who was born before women could even vote.

After losing such a long and exhausting race, many of us would have wanted to simply pout and go home, wishing their opponent the best of luck without lifting a finger to help them in their final battle. But she didn't. Instead, she accepted a traditional female role of supporting a man, one who happened to be seeking the very job that she was arguably the most qualified for in the first place. And she was a happy warrior all the while.

Later that same June...
From her concession, to her joint events with Obama, to her amazing speech at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary gave her all to make sure that her former opponent became President of the United States. In the midst of such incredible disappointment, she did not hesitate to go above and beyond to support her party and her country. Then, after all that, she went further still by serving a successful four-year tenure as President Obama's secretary of state.

Many of us will never, ever forget that. Neither will the history books...and the craziest thing of all is that she's not even close to being finished.

Eight years later, Hillary Clinton stands before us once again as unquestionably one of the toughest, smartest and most experienced people to ever seek the or woman. And she's not going to stop until she finally breaks that highest and hardest glass ceiling once and for all.

But Hillary also knows more than anyone that politics is a tough business, and every candidate for president must stand in front of the American people and be judged on their own merits. No one is entitled to the position, no matter what their race, gender, experience or family lineage might be. And passionate supporters on all sides are expected and necessary for our democracy to work.

However, there's something unique, unmistakable and widespread going on this year that is quite troubling: The absolute fervor against Hillary Clinton among mostly young, white (and supposedly progressive) males. Saying "Bernie is awesome and he should be president" is one thing. Saying "Hillary is a corrupt lying old witch who must be stopped at all costs" is quite another. This sort of talk is hard to miss and pretty much accepted as the norm, particularly any place on the Internet where you can hide your face behind an avatar. If you don't believe me, go check out the comment sections of YouTube clips of Hillary speeches or any article about her at The Hill. Actually, don't...because you'll probably be completely horrified by the combination of offensive sexism and ageism on display.

I'm sure that a great deal of these comments are coming from Republicans who would never vote for Hillary even if their lives depended on it. But I have questions for any so-called progressives out there who are seeking to build their candidate up by viciously tearing Hillary down: Are you really assuming, on the off-chance that Bernie Sanders pulls off an upset for the ages, that the women of America will quietly accept the defeat of the most accomplished woman in our nation's history again? Are you taking for granted that Hillary will happily assume the same intensive support role to help an arguably less-qualified man get elected once again? Are you assuming that the whole party will come together without much fuss...again...this time to help elect a democratic socialist instead of a lifelong Democrat?

That's a hell of a lot to assume, so if you really want Bernie Sanders to be president and believe in the same things that he's stood for his whole life, you'd be well-advised to tone it down a notch or two. Or seven.

Again, we have every reason to believe that Hillary Clinton will win the nomination. In fact, I have never seen a stronger candidate in my lifetime. But if someone else does win, my last piece of the year will be a brief recommendation to support the Democratic nominee, where my own vote will surely eventually go. I tried to talk my readers out of being PUMAs in 2008, and rest assured that I would do the same thing this year should the worst-case scenario occur.

And so, to her most ardent detractors on the left, I have one more question: Can you say the same thing right now, should she beat your chosen candidate? If so, you can prove it immediately by calling out the offensive language we regularly see against her, no matter where it may pop up. Barring that, just a basic level of respect for what Hillary Clinton represents and what she has accomplished in her life would go a long way.

Until that happens, rest assured that the women (and men) who passionately support her in 2016 will on keep reminding you that they won't be erased.

It might also be good to keep in mind that the women of America have been waiting 227 years for this moment, ever since the first male president (I believe his name was Washington) took office back in convincing them to wait any longer is likely to be a very tough sell.

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