Next Tuesday will probably bring an end to Senator Hillary Clinton’s drive for the Democratic presidential nomination. Senator Barack Obama currently enjoys a double-digit lead over his opponent in Texas, the state where Clinton cut her political eye teeth, and is gaining on her here in my home state of Ohio, long thought by the Clinton camp to be a likely firewall for her candidacy.
But there will be no Clinton firewalls. The end I thought inevitable on the day after the Iowa caucuses—an Obama nomination, is now coming more clearly into view. This outcome was only forestalled by a sympathetic wave of support given to Clinton in New Hampshire when right wing talk show hosts and one-time nomination rival John Edwards belittled her for tearing up in a Q-and-A. (See more here and here.)
There will be many explanations offered for why Clinton, seemingly imbued with many advantages, failed to catch on sufficiently to win her party’s nomination.
One that I’ve put forward is that Clinton is a conventional laundry list candidate. Even when Obama presents laundry lists, he makes them sing. Clinton shows no facility, seemingly incapable, except in rare moments, of connecting with the average voter.
The Economist has noted that Clinton ran as though she were an incumbent. I note that in her most recent debate with Obama, she talked about spending seven years negotiating with foreign governments, as though she had already served in the Oval Office. The experience card played by Clinton, which was of dubious truth anyway, was probably not the one to play in a year which Democrats, at least, are putting more stock in change. (See here and here.)
But there is one reason some people are likely to advance for Clinton’s failure to win the Democratic nomination which I feel certain is not true. They will say that the US isn’t ready for a woman in the Oval Office.
I disagree. The US is more than ready for a female president and the proof is in the most recent primary exit polling.
In last Wednesday’s Wisconsin primary, Barack Obama won a majority of female voters in every age group, save those sixty and older. This result reflects what the women I know are telling me about how they will vote in Ohio’s Democratic primary next week.
Women over sixty see a vote for Hillary Clinton as a vote to elect the nation’s first woman president. One seventy-something of my acquaintance has said that this is the reason she’s already cast an absentee vote in our state’s primary for the New York senator. Accustomed to the pervasive sexism that once confined women to the home, these women see it almost as an act of patriotism to vote for Clinton.
But women under sixty, the confident beneficiaries of the fight of the modern women’s movement for equality, see no need to vote for Clinton just because she’s a woman.
That women competing for and winning the presidency will become commonplace is something about which they have no doubt. (I share that sentiment as an American and am enthusiastic about it as a Christian.) To vote for Clinton, in spite of misgivings about or disagreements with the senator which they might have, strikes them as ridiculous.
This is an opinion expressed to me by every under-sixty year old woman I know, the lion’s share of whom are Democrats. Women, once thought to be the bedrock of Hillary Clinton’s support, are so confident that women presidents are just around the corner that they feel no need to vote for the first female to credibly vie for a major party’s presidential nomination. Their confidence is a clear indication that what they assume is actually the case.
The United States is ready for a woman president. But, in part owing to the verdict of women in Wisconsin, who last week helped Barack Obama win the ninth of his ten consecutive primary or caucus victories, Hillary Clinton isn’t going to be that woman.
[Mark Daniels writes about politics and other topics at his personal blog.]
UPDATE: In response to Ryan’s comments, I wrote, “I didn’t mean that it was her tears that brought out the vote for Clinton in New Hampshire. It was the savage assault she underwent from the the talk show right and John Edwards in the wake of her tears that caused people who, the evidence indicates, were going to vote for Obama overwhelmingly on the Monday before the election…to tell the critics where to get off.
“Most voters are, I think, fair-minded. Some New Hampshire Democrats, certain that Obama would win and that their votes for Clinton wouldn’t matter, decided to send a message to the sexists who wanted to spurn Clinton for her tears. If you read the piece I wrote about “tears in New Hampshire,” which is linked in this post, you’ll see that I compared the critique of Clinton choking up to a similar one involving Ed Muskie back in 1972. Then, Muskie was the victim of similar attacks to those of Edwards and the right wing talk show hosts. Those attacks brought him down. It’s another measure of the decreasing influence of sexism and, more importantly, our willingness to accept the humanity of our candidates, that in 2008, people rallied around Clinton. That wasn’t the case for poor Muskie.
“The switched votes in New Hampshire, voters making a statement about their rejection of what they saw as a sexist attack–and which, in many cases, probably was a sexist attack, gave Clinton her win there and extended a candidacy which, after her loss in the Iowa caucuses, would have spelled the end of her candidacy.
“I hope that this clarifies what I was saying here. Thanks for your comments.”