Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A woman for president

I was not a Hillary Clinton voter in 2008. I was a Barack Obama fan. I saw his convention speech in 2004 and remember well the Saturday in 2007 when he announced his candidacy for the presidency from the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield. It was audacious--an African-American male choosing to stand on the steps of the building where Lincoln gave his "House Divided" speech to begin a campaign to be the president of all America.

Eight years later we're a long way from a post-racial America, and the taunts and lies that have been directed at the extraordinary family living in the White House have shown how ugly and raw and unthinking racism is, even in a country whose founding document says "all men are created equal."

But there it is--"all men." We can't go back and rewrite a historical document, but who would dare use that language today? Women got the vote--eventually. Now it's men and women who are created equal, whose individual talents are recognized, and whose gendered ways of being in the world are beginning to be celebrated in ways that don't deprive women of power.

So yes, I cast my vote for Hillary in the primary and I'll vote for her again in November. I think she's got the right stuff for the job. I think being a centrist and a deal-maker and a listener is what we need right now. The way some Bernie voters are still doing the "my way or the highway" thing scares me. We don't need people staking out positions from which they will not move. We've got enough of that strongman thinking over in the Republican party. So I'm not for Hillary because she's a woman. I'm for Hillary because I think she's right for the time.

But what I'm finding this week is that tears rise in my eyes and there's a lump in my throat when speakers declare that Hillary Clinton will be "the first woman president of the United States of America." I feel tenderness and pride and validation for a feminine way of being in the world.

And when Bill Clinton, in that sly and charming manner he surely used on his mother at the age of 9, painted a picture last night of a young law student, an ambitious career woman, someone whose water broke, who worked for the good of children and mothers, who fussed in her daughter's dorm room until it was time to leave her behind, who just keeps doing the next thing--I don't know if this humanized Hillary for the rest of America, but it sure did for me. Maybe it's because we're close in age. I'm sure when that bio video for her plays on Thursday night, I'll see not only the person and the accomplishments, but also the dresses and the suits that we wore in the 70's and 80's and 90's and 'aughts, along with the life stages of a mother and a working woman.

Twitter and the commentariat went a little nuts last night about Bill's presumption in talking about their marriage without confessing to its troubles, which is to say, his own unfaithfulness. I choose to give her credit for soldiering on, for sticking with the partnership, for working with imperfection.

I've read interesting analyses of Hillary's political and leadership style that cite gender differences in her leadership style and the way gender expectations affect how she is perceived. Some of these have even been written by men. I think she'll be a very capable president, though unlikely to get tons of recognition for the good job she will do. There are many in our bitterly partisan politics who despise her and make cheap fun of her, who don't give her the same room as a man--room in which she can be fully human with faults and misjudgments. But she's got skills, she collaborates, she listens. I think she's what we need now.

I'll still be choking up in November when the election comes around, and I hope in January (she's all that stands between us and Trump!) on Inauguration Day--choking up with hope for a more perfect union in America, led by a woman.

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