People are really saying this?

>> Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In today's Slate, the ever-brilliant and wonderful Dahlia Lithwick has a nice piece about the doomsayers who now claim that Hillary Clinton's all-but-certain defeat in the Democratic primaries means we won't ever have a woman president in our lifetimes. Or somebody's lifetime. Maybe all of these writers are planning mass suicide or something. I don't know. The thing I find most bewildering is that there are people saying this at all; of course, Ms. Lithwick takes them all to task and points out what fools they are and why their... their--does it deserve to be called analysis?--why these articles and commentaries are full of logical hoops and faults and flaws.

When did Hillary Clinton become the acme of political womanhood? I mean, good grief: even when I still respected her, I didn't necessarily assume she was the greatest woman in the United States Of America. I'm not sure who, if anyone, I might have picked for such deification, to be honest. And at this point, after repeatedly demonstrating that she has issues with honesty, integrity, fair play and reality itself, I have to wonder why anyone would think Senator Clinton is the best her gender has to offer, much less the only thing out there. Am I the only one who reads articles like the New York Times and Washington Post pieces Ms. Lithwick so elegantly fillets and thinks of the Futurama episode "A Leela Of Her Own"?

For those of you who missed the episode or (gasp!) aren't fans of one of the best science-fiction shows and one of the best television cartoons of the past twenty years-or-so, the episode runs something like this: Leela, the one-eyed starship captain and general badass of the Planet Express delivery service, gets the opportunity to be the first female blurnsball pitcher--blurnsball being a thirtieth-century sport that combines elements of baseball, pinball, tetherball, giant-spider rodeo riding and (possibly) Calvinball. The problem is, Leela's utter lack of depth perception (one-eyed starship captain, remember?) and general incompetence as a blurnsball player means that she's a fiasco. The team owner only keeps her on the team because her career becomes a lucrative circus show that salvages the team's falling attendance--people start coming to games to watch Leela bean the crap out of some poor batter.

The episode ends--and this is where I'm really feeling the parallels to what ought to happen to Senator Clinton--with an up-and-coming female blurnsball player confronting Leela to tell her how much Leela has inspired her to play: Leela has become such an embarrassment to her entire gender that she felt obligated to try even harder just to prove that it's not women who suck, just Leela.

There will be a woman President of the United States. She won't be a chimera of the sort Times writer Kate Zernike pointedly says "doesn't exist." She may not be anyone we've ever heard of. Maybe she'll focus on her own experience instead of trying to say that her experience as an elected office-holder's wife makes her especially qualified for office for some reason. Maybe she'll be relatively honest, at least as honest as politicians get or can be; maybe she won't come off as being as opportunistic as Senator Clinton sometimes seems (take, for instance, her newfound relationship with publisher Richard Mellon Scaife, who once accused Senator Clinton and her husband of murdering Vince Foster--please). I'd love it if the first woman President is a liberal, but writers who keep making that assumption seem to be oblivious to politicians like my own state's Senator Dole. (Did you realize, incidentally, that the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, Jeannette Rankin, was a Republican*? The first woman nominated to the United States Supreme Court? A Republican. The first woman to serve in the United States Senate, it turns out, was a Democrat--apparently she was appointed to serve and served one damn day; you know, I really, really, really hate to say it, but it may be that people who appear to be so desperate to get a woman elected to the Oval Office are looking at the wrong fucking party.)

Above and beyond anything else, the first woman President will be a leader. She won't be elected because she "deserves" it, or because she's paid her dues, or because it's just time now for a woman to be elected, already. She will be elected because she can persuade a majority of the public that they should follow her, she will be elected because we decide she's the right person to lead the American people.

*I josh at the expense of Republicans, but Congresswoman Rankin's Wikipedia entry makes her sound unbelievably awesome and is a reminder of the fact that Republicans used to Not Suck: Congresswoman Rankin was a social worker, a suffragette, voted against American entry into World War I, was the founding vice-president of the ACLU, studied pacifism in India, protested the Vietnam War, and when she died left her property to found a scholarship fund for women with low incomes. This woman

Ms. Rankin, I think I love you.


Jeri Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 2:31:00 AM EDT  

Amen! (And I would have voted for Elizabeth Dole, as I believed she was a leader of substance... even though I'm an independent voter who leans liberal.)

Nathan Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 5:58:00 PM EDT  

It's not like anyone had ever heard of Obama just a few short years ago. I suspect an extremely viable female candidate is out there somewhere.

Jim Wright Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 10:44:00 AM EDT  

Great post, Eric, and as Jeri said, Amen.

Sarah Palin, Alaska's current governor. She's a middle of the road republican who appointed a democrat as her deputy, and the first thing she did once in office was start cleaning house - several state representatives are now in jail, and number are headed that way (maybe even Uncle Teddy, er Ted Stevens) because of her. She slapped the oil industry right up side the head and is basically scaring the shit out of every good ole boy politician in the state (Alaskan politics are notoriously corrupt, Palin is a major shock to the system - a women and an honest politician).

I don't care for her stand on abortion or stem research or etc - but she's a pretty incredible leader, and I'd love to see her in the White House, the only down side is we'd lose her here in Alaska.

Michelle K Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 12:31:00 PM EDT  

Alaskan politics are notoriously corrupt

OK, not to sound stupid, but is there a state that doesn't say this?

In 1960, there were 19,879 eligible voters in Mingo County (WV), according to the book. Registered voters totalled 30,331.

Eric Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 8:54:00 PM EDT  

The fact that so many of the folks saying things like "Hillary was the last chance for women" seem to disregard conservative female leaders suggests that they're engaging in a kind of blatant stereotyping of their own. As I said, I understand their preference for a liberal--but the terms "woman" and "liberal" aren't synonymous any more than "white" and "conservative."

By the same token, do the people who are trying to say Senator Clinton was the Last Great Hope for women politicians really think that in a race between, say for instance, North Carolina's ultra-conservative U.S. Representative Sue Myrick and, oh, let's say almost any male Democrat in the United States, that the vote for the woman is a vote for feminism? In such a competition, unless perhaps the Democrat in question is a protégé of Zell Miller, it's nearly certain that the man will be more concerned with so-called "women's issues" like choice, workplace discrimination, education and healthcare.

What those who claim Senator Clinton's loss is the last great hope for a woman President are really doing is redefining reality in a way that fits with their existing prejudices. Aside from ignoring realities like the one Nathan alluded to (that nobody knew who Senator Obama was a few years ago), they're also ignoring the fact that a female candidate may come from another party and may not be someone they can vote for--unless their only criteria for voting is gender, in which case I suppose they get what they deserve....

I'll defer to Jim on corruption in Alaska and Michelle in West Virginia. I always thought Louisiana was the most politically corrupt state, but then again I have to admit that pork-barreling a bridge to nowhere and getting it named after yourself is a pretty fine dubious achievement--which may give Jim an edge in a matter of, uh, state pride?

Michelle K Friday, May 30, 2008 at 12:48:00 PM EDT  


If you want pork barrel and not corruption, I fear that Senator Byrd wins hand down.

I think about everything in the state is named after him.

And y'know what? We appreciate it.

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