How Long Will it Be Until the Next “Viable Woman Presidential Candidate?”

Jun 3, 2008 by

I didn’t start out as a Hillary Clinton supporter.

John and Elizabeth Edwards were my presidential couple of choice.  In fact, when it became clear, lo’ those many years ago, that Hillary was crafting her White House strategy I said to anyone who would listen that she would never be able to be elected — partly because of her Clinton “baggage” and partly because I didn’t think this country was ready yet for a woman president.

Uttering those words felt like feminist treason.

But as someone who grew up in a rural community and who has lived in some fairly red areas, I had a bad feeling in my gut that America wasn’t ready.

It looks like I was right.

Many have argued that such a notion is nonsense,  After all, plenty of other countries have had women leaders, so surely it was time for the US to join those ranks.

But America lags in so many things that benefit women — reproductive rights, numbers of women involved in government (we’re behind plenty of countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Argentina just to name two), and maternity leave benefits— that I doubted whether we as a country possessed the basic amount of respect toward women that would be needed to put one in charge of the whole country.

If lawmakers won’t acknowledge women’s value to our economy or that certain rights should be permitted under the law, how can we be at a place where voters can see one pulling up with the moving van to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

When the Supreme Court pronounces that women are incapable of making decisions about their own reproductive rights, saying that their decision in Gonzalez v. Carhart was for “[women’s] own good,” what hope is there that our country is in a mental place where it can imagine someone who wears skirts (or pantsuits) making decisions about everyone?

Sure, we’ve come a moderate way, baby, but not far enough to take that last step.

I wanted to be wrong.  I really did.  So when John Edwards dropped out of the race, I decided to support Hillary over Obama, in large part, because her health care plan was essentially the same as Edwards’ — real coverage for everyone — whereas, Barack Obama’s is not.  Yes, it’s WAY better than what the Republicans want, but it’s still not health care for everyone.

I also became the teensiest bit excited about the possibility of being able to show my second-grade daughter in November that girls really could be anything, and thought it would be special to make plans with her to watch as Hillary took the oath of office as the first woman President of the United States.

Clinton is in campaign shut-down mode and I’m a bit depressed.  Not because I thought she was the best candidate to be our next president, but because of what it says about our country and its views on women and how much longer that road is than I had thought.

We’re not ready for a woman president.

So if not now, when?

Given the treatment Hillary has received as a candidate, I fear it will be a long time before another woman is ready to subject herself — and her family — to the meat grinder of American presidential politics.

While Joanne is trying to come up with names for the next viable woman presidential candidate, you can find her at her place, PunditMom, as well as BlogHer, where she’s a Contributing Editor for Politics & News, and The Huffington Post.


  1. I repectfully disagree, Joanne.

    I think that Senator Clinton's showing in the hard-fought race shows one thing, if anything. This country not only is changing, but has changed one hell of a whole lot.

    While I know we have a long way to go in all sorts of social change, I don't believe that Senator Clinton's showing is as much about her gender as it is/was about her history/personality and people's perception of her.

    I think that this country is ready for a woman President… no, it won't be Senator Clinton, and I never suspected that it would be… but I think the first woman President is already on her way to the office… and I suspect that both you and I, and our daughters, will see her take office.

  2. By the way… I loved Gina Davis in "Commander In Chief" I was very disappointed when the show was cancelled.

  3. Not QUITE yet. NBC still has a different count and he's not quite there.

  4. I agree with Pundit Mom. You got my hopes up. Even according to the AP, their numbers require that Obama needs at least 30% of the delegates in MT and SD.

    They are right that he clinched it, but he isn't quite yet the nominee.

  5. While I certainly agree that Hillary has seen her share of sexism come her way, I do not believe sexism is what ultimately kept her from becoming the party's nominee. Rather, her team ran a "big state" campaign in an era that needed a "50 state" strategy. Yes, the Clinton baggage was an issue too — as is some people's (including mine) perception that her actions don't always meet up with her words.

    Barack Obama is no saint or savior, but in general, I'm impressed to see a politician who (for once!) seems to possess integrity of thought and belief. From DailyKos, relating to a meeting where Congressman Wexler of FL spoke:

    There were other policy-related questions, until nearly the last questioner revisited Obama. "Could you please tell us more specifically why you chose Obama over Hillary?" Lots of "Yeahs!"

    Congressman Wexler hit this one out of the park: "I support Barack Obama because he showed better judgment on the Iraq War, because he has remained more forcefully against it. I support him because of his stand on ethics reform, and commitment to engaging our enemies. I support him because he speaks truth to power. He spoke in front of a largely Cuban-American organization in Miami. Everyone has told this organization the same thing for 40 years. 'We're going to continue the embargo against Cuba, no monetary remittances there, no anything.' Whether or not it works, that's all any politician dares to say. Obama suggested to them we engage with Raul Castro, and take steps towards ending the embargo. Obama told a crowd in Detroit that we should increase fuel efficiency standards, and he told members of Martin Luther King's church in Atlanta that we all share some of the blame for some of the race problems in America today."

    This captures it beautifully, IMO.

    We WILL have a woman president, perhaps sooner rather than later.

  6. I have to agree with Gunfighter. By all the polling, exit and otherwise, when gender influenced voters it favored Clinton 9 to 1.

    This was Clinton's race to lose. It was her actions, and the actions of her surrogates (like Bill Clinton) that lost her support that would have given her the nomination.

    Personally, I believe that this country is ready for a female president. What it wasn't willing to accept was more Clintonian politics when given the option Obama offered.

  7. Actually, that's not entirely true. What NBC said (via MSNBC because my work computer has issues with the NBC site):

    "NBC News said it would not confirm Obama as the presumptive nominee until all private commitments by delegates are made public."

    From here:

    A small difference, but a difference nonetheless. To me, that phrasing sounds like they're expecting him to get the delegates he needs to come out on top – and trying to avoid the debacle from a few years ago when that news agency (Fox?) declared someone the new President and then had to retract?

  8. It's no secret I'm hoping for 8 short years until we have our first woman president. Because if we can lay the groundwork and play our cards right, after a two-term Obama administration I'd love to see his female VP enjoy *her* two term administration. Which is why I'm so enthused about Kathleen Sebelius as *potentially* the other half of Obama's presidential ticket.

  9. D

    I can feel your disappointment, PunditMom.

    However, I think the fact that this country is — or seems to be, at least — ready for a black President speaks volumes about how far we've come. And to me, I take it as a sign that this country would be ready for a woman candidate. If she were the right one.

    Obama happened to be the right black candidate. Hillary, to me, was not the right woman candidate. I see her loss as being about her, very specifically, and not about women in general. I think if we had had a different woman running against Obama or anyone else, she could have secured the nomination. Hillary is just not the person most of us want running our country, regardless of her gender.

    Also, I have heard, from some pretty good sources, that Obama is going to bring a fantastic woman (*cough* from Kansas *cough*) into the White House with him as VP.

    Don't give up — a woman will be elected president yet. In our lifetimes.

    President Sebelius in 2016, anyone?

  10. Yep Nicole, the emphasis for me is that Obama has enough private superdelegate support to more than make up for the 31.5 delegate shortfall (as of this comment; the superdelegate endorsements keep rolling in). If, as the AP claims, Obama has "more than a dozen" waiting in the wings, then even if he totally bellyflopped and got hardly any pledged delegates from the states that have yet to vote, he'd still be able to make the winning total.

  11. I'm looking at this as a glass half full. No, we haven't had a woman president yet. But look at how close Clinton got! She took it all of us a huge step during this election. Even though I'm an Obama supporter I can't help but feel proud at how far Clinton took women in the country. Next time, next time.

  12. Why do I keep having the phrase "our long national nightmare is over" going through my head?

    The fun starts now — dreaming of the ideal Cabinet — John Edwards as AG would be the most exciting…

  13. I agree with most of the comments here. I will certainly not deny that sexism played a role in the campaign. And to be honest, I'm not 100% sure the country is ready for a woman president. But I don't think Clinton losing the nomination is proof of that. It is only proof that Clinton herself is not someone the party wanted to put forward to become President. I'm not sure either if this country is ready for a black president (i certainly hope so, because the alternative scares the CRAP out of me), but we won't know until November. But as much as the pundits and commentators have forced race and gender into the forefront of this campaign, I think the voters were less concerned with which "group" each candidate represented, and more concerned with which candidate they thought would be the best president. There are lots of reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton that have *nothing* to do with her gender (I'll spare you my list). Why can't we give the voters the benefit of the doubt here? Why can't we trust that the voters are smart enough to look past race or gender to see a candidate as he/she is?

  14. Disappointed but optimistic. I hope he follows up with what he promised but then I get a strange feeling that it won't work out the way people are hoping. Just watch, MCCAIN will get in with our luck!

  15. I agree with a lot that has been written, particularly meanderwithme. Although I'm an Obama supporter, I've been very pleased with how far Clinton has gotten — it shows that in many ways and despite virulent sexism, the country is getting ready.

    One reason she may have stayed in so long is to ensure that she is not quickly forgotten, that her campaign will not necessarily remembered as a short-lived failure, but a nearly-there success.

    There are many talented women who are poised to enter the national stage and if they can get out of Clinton's shadow, they stand a great chance of getting some great support…

    Kathleen Sebelius
    Janet Napolitano
    Claire McCaskill

    Or even Corvallis, Oregon's representative Sara Gelser (totally cool) — she might be ready in 8 to 12 years.

    As feminists, I think we need to make sure there are talented women in the leadership pipeline. The country is ready — feminists need to provide the talent.

  16. Jozet

    Thank you for this. Thank you for the truth.

    The polls didn't even open yesterday, and the media was calling for Clinton's concession speech. She didn't give it. Now they are jumping all over themselves, frothing at the mouth at Hillary being a spoiler when she'd just won another primary from the "presumptive" nominee. This does not bode well for Obama.

    Hillary was being knocked down by the media, by her own party, by the patriarchy since day one. Even here, history, evidently, is only made by men when right in front of you is a candidate, a Democrat, a woman, the original Momocrat, a human being who won 18 million votes – more than ANY candidate in any US primary – but to say that out loud only gets more bashing down. To celebrate that as a worthy and amazing accomplishment only gets asterisks that mention the big boys.

    She's not the right woman candidate?

    18 million voters say you're wrong.

    18 million voters.

    18 million voters.

    And the Obamacrats are going to have a tough time bringing many of them into the fold – if at all – after months and months of standing by for this type of maligning.

    So, what's the plan? What's the plan for unity?

    What's the plan to endeavor to deserve our votes, the votes of anyone who didn't vote for Obama in the primary?

    Because "let's hug and make up" isn't going to fly.

    "Give them time and they'll come around" isn't a good plan for November.

    And "there, there, sweetie" is always a bad comeback when you're talking to 18 million tenacious and equally passionate fighters.

    So again, what's the plan?

    Sell us Obama, and start from scratch.

    If I cast my vote for him, I want to know what I'm voting for, and I want to hear the good and the bad, not the bad spun clean with rhetorical artwork. Be honest. Where are his failings and shortcomings? On what issues do we need to hold his feet to the fire?

    And remember, I'm from small town Pennsylvania. I already believe in a savior.

    So tell me, who is this guy and what has he done – not what has he said – but what has he done that should deserve my vote.

    Why should I not write in my candidate of choice – real choice – in November.

    (Hint: The answer isn't "because a vote for any but Obama else is a vote for McCain." That's condescending and a thinly veiled threat. Nor is the answer "because you're a Democrat". I registered Independent after Hillary's delegates were stolen from her and given to Obama.)

  17. I hear you Jozet… but short of Senator Clinton being the nominee, which she won't be, what would it take for you to be satisfied for the sake of unity?

    I'm not being snarky here, I'd really like to know.

    as for what Obama is capable of… I'll leave that for another discussion.