Depending on how things shake out, Hillary Clinton could become our country’s first woman president. The Democrats last week took great pride in their “historic” nominating convention, but they had to be mindful of the label “first.”
It seems that Clinton is not the country’s first female nominee for President – a fascinating person named Victoria Woodhull holds that honor, having run in 1872 from the Equal Rights Party.
I don’t watch a lot of other networks (unless I want to know how bad America is, in which case I tune to CNN), but I can report that the Fox News Network has been very careful to classify Clinton as the “first woman nominated by a major party.”
I was thinking about the historic aspect of Hillary’s candidacy as I watched her walk out on the stage to make her acceptance speech. I don’t like Hillary, but I tried very hard to “get my mind right” and look at her from the viewpoint of a supporter – as someone who was actually celebrating her accomplishment. And you kn0w – I was really torn. I have read a great deal about the Clintons, and I believe she has been working toward this for a very long time. How amazing it must feel to work for something your whole life, and then finally have your moment to shine, to claim your prize.
I also watched the amazing mother-daughter moment where Chelsea Clinton spoke and then introduced her mother – and her mother walked out on stage to accept the nomination as the nation’s first woman president, with her adult daughter there to congratulate her. Can you imagine what that might be like? In that moment, I really – really – wanted to be happy for her.
But all I could be, was sad.
Sad, because her run is so shrouded in the heavy cloak of her many mistakes and controversies, not the least of which is the very process that brought her the nomination. Is there really a great deal of pride and joy in claiming a prize that was given in the way this one was?
And secondly, while it would indeed be historic for her to win, I think it comes about 30 years too late for the youngest young women to really understand its significance. The television coverage gave us close-up shots of women in the audience – women my age and older, veterans of the 20th century women’s movement, and their faces were tearful with pride. It is finally happening, we have reached the top, you could almost read their minds.
But try to drum up excitement among today’s young female voters for a Clinton Presidency by telling them she’ll be the first woman to hold the office, and you’ll likely hear nothing but crickets chirping. “So?” they’ll shrug. Or in today’s parlance – “Meh.” And you can’t even blame them – they simply have no historical perspective from which to draw the slightest bit of appreciation for a first woman anything. They’ve lived their whole lives seeing women do everything already and there’s no memory of women NOT doing all these things, or worse, being put down for trying to do these things. A female presidency would have been a huge deal if it had happened in the 70’s or 80’s – but now? Oh it’ll still be a headline because the Baby Boomers are still 60 million strong and it’s significant for many of them. But that storyline will fade almost immediately after the election.
It’s a shame for Hillary that the significance of her achievement will be lost on the youngest voters. It’s an even bigger shame that she worked all those decades to achieve a goal, only to have it over-shadowed by the consequences of her own faulty decisions and mis-steps.