August 11th, 2006

ozarque figure

Politics and sexism; Hillary Clinton versus Condoleezza Rice...

In a recent discussion, I said: "I'm not looking forward to the possibility of a presidential race with Hillary Clinton versus Condoleezza Rice as the two contenders; I hope that doesn't happen."

And Margo, in a comment, wrote:
"May I ask why you hope that doesn't happen?"

It's a reasonable question, and I'm willing to answer it -- with the caveat that what I'm about to say is nothing more than my opinion on the issue; I can't prove a word of it. I also have to say that the statement Margo was responding to was anything but clear; it obviously refers to a situation in which Clinton and Rice had secured the nominations and were the only contenders. It's what I said, but it's muddled; I should have said that I hoped that wouldn't happen, and that there was something else I hoped wouldn't happen: a presidential race in which Clinton and Rice were two of the contenders for the nomination and the rest were men.

I believe that the concept "The President of the United States is a man" is still so deeply entrenched and internalized in the national consciousness that no woman could possibly win a presidential election. Not yet. Suppose Clinton was the Democratic party's nominee and Rice was the Republican nominee -- something I don't believe could happen, but let's just suppose it could, for the purposes of discussion: I believe that a man would run against the two of them as an independent or third-party candidate, and that he would win.

And then there'd be an endless barrage of "Look, it's obvious -- if even Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rica couldn't get elected president, there's no way any woman could!" Which would set women back politically for a very long time, in my opinion.

I'd be delighted to be proved wrong about this.

One more thing.... Even if I were willing to set all of that aside, I'd still hate to see Clinton and/or Rice running for president, just because of what would inevitably happen to them, and to their families and friends, as a result of the way our political system is run. Every smallest slip either woman -- or any member of either woman's family or circle of close associates -- had ever made, from the cradle on, would be dragged out and embellished and embroidered and distorted and paraded through the media twenty-four hours a day. We all know how that's done; we got to watch it being done by Kenneth Starr and his platoons during the presidency of Clinton's husband.