This is a day we all knew was coming. Hillary Clinton has announced that she is running for president. There are things about her that I greatly admire; her efforts on universal health care, her advocacy of children, her toughness, her strong, clear voice, her loyalty. There are things about her that make me nervous. So much ambition and desire for power makes me nervous in anybody, yet I know that without those qualities, one can't be elected president.
It's a long time before the 2008 election, and the one thing we can count on is a change. So many things will happen. There will be scandals, gaffes, surprises and moments of great dignity and maybe even inspiration during the upcoming campaigns. I don't know if Clinton will get my vote, but I know that I'm glad she's running.
I remember the presidential election of 1984 so clearly and seeing Geraldine Ferraro's smiling face. Her energy such a strong counterpoint to Walter Mondale's solid and rather uninspiring presence. I remember crying while watching her receive the nomination at the Democratic convention and thinking they'll never win, but damn it, she gets to try! 23 years later, I still remember the uproar caused one day when she waved to a crowd, lifting the hem of her dress enough to show a couple of inches of slip. It stayed a major news article for days, and I remember hearing her say that she'd always remember to wear a full slip rather than a half one when she wore a dress after that. I remember thinking with all she's accomplished and all she's got to do, she still can't get away from even the tiniest details with which all women have to cope. It was a good warning of what would come my way. I never achieved power or great accomplishment, but those damn details are still biting me.
I look at how reviled Hillary Clinton has been. She's been criticized for being a working mother, but her daughter seems to have turned out pretty well. She was criticized for wearing headbands and then for being too fashionable. She was criticized for being an attorney as if that's something to be ashamed of, for investments that were neither proven nor disproved to be shady, for being the push behind her husband's career. She's been accused of being too strident and too bossy, and too acquiescent in light of her husband's infidelities. I just never understood the last criticism. I thought making a marriage work and keeping a family together was a conservative family value. I thought forgiveness was a responsibility for Christians, and she got grief for it. I don't know if she's a good woman or not. I'm still undecided if she will be a good president or not. I know that she won her senatorial election with a 62% majority, and her constituents seem to approve of her. Her national approval ratings put our current president's to shame (though they are what he has earned), and whatever she does, she does with dignity.
When I was a kid, people would still say to the boys, "You could grow up to be president some day." The implication was that with character and hard work, they could do anything that they wanted. No one ever said that to the girls. It was unimaginable that a woman could lead the most powerful nation on earth. It was unimaginable that a woman really could do anything she set her mind to. I was a grown woman before I could imagine even a slim chance of a woman being president. My daughter can see one as the front runner in the race now. The possibilities for her and all our daughters look wider and brighter than they ever have in all of history. When I look at Hillary Clinton, I know that hard work, ambition and determination -- the tools of accomplishment -- belong as much to the girls and the women in this country as they do to the guys.
(Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro are not the only women to run for or secure a place in a presidential election. Even before women could vote, they were running for president. Here's a list of women who have made it to the national ticket.)
Hillary Clinton, presidential campaign, feminism