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Who if Not Hillary?

Posted on May 21, 2008

By Marie Cocco

    WASHINGTON—A woman? Yes. But not that woman.

    It is the platitude of the moment, an automatic rejoinder to any suggestion that Hillary Clinton has struggled so desperately—and so far unsuccessfully—to grasp the Democratic presidential nomination in some measure because she is female.

    It isn’t the woman part, the rationale goes. It’s the Clinton part: That “polarizing” persona and “unlikable” demeanor. The unappetizing thought of President “Billary.” The more inspirational quest by Barack Obama to become the country’s first black president.

    Yet the question remains: If not now, when? If not Hillary, who?

    The record suggests that if Clinton is not the nominee, no woman will seriously contend for the White House for another generation. This was the outcome of the 1984 Geraldine Ferraro experiment. After 24 years, Ferraro remains the only woman ever to run for national office on a major party ticket. And she was selected, not elected, as a vice presidential candidate. 


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    “Maybe a generation from now,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “My feeling is, I don’t see who’s coming after Clinton and I don’t feel like it’s going to be easy for whoever comes next.”

    The United States already lags miserably behind the rest of the world in electing a woman as head of state. To look around the globe is to see a stark truth: Americans seem peculiarly averse to female leadership.

    Women have had some success in gaining legislative office. Yet only eight women currently serve as governors, the springboard to the White House for four of the last five presidents.

    So which woman, exactly, would be acceptable?

    Readers—that inexact approximation of vox populi—typically answer: Someone like Margaret Thatcher or Elizabeth Dole or Condoleezza Rice or Christine Todd Whitman or maybe Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic governor of Kansas. The roll call itself illuminates the barriers.

    Thatcher, for instance, never ran for executive office on her own. She became the first (and only) female prime minister of Britain by reaching the leadership of the Conservative Party. That is how many women heads of state have risen—through parliamentary systems that often use quotas to guarantee women legislative seats. Americans don’t like quotas much.

    And we don’t like political wives who strike out on their own. Yet around the world, presidential spouses, widows and daughters are elected with stunning regularity. Indira Gandhi of India, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Cristina Fernandez, the current Argentine president—who succeeded her husband—all rose to power through family connections.

    Here, though, revulsion often is expressed at the prospect of the Bushes and Clintons trading the White House among one another. But the “dynasty” argument didn’t impede other American political families: not the Adamses, nor the Roosevelts nor the Kennedys. It sure didn’t keep George W. Bush from becoming president.

    Though it never sparked the rancor attached to Clinton’s White House drive, Elizabeth Dole’s brief presidential bid in 2000 was a preview. Dole, now a Republican senator from North Carolina, served as a Cabinet secretary in two administrations and headed the American Red Cross. Yet a review of media coverage by Rutgers political scientists showed that when Dole received in-depth coverage, nearly two-thirds of the stories mentioned her marriage to Bob Dole, the former Senate Republican leader and presidential candidate. Elizabeth Dole’s marriage to a powerful politician often drowned out discussion of her own record. 

    No woman on the political horizon possesses the portfolio that Clinton brought to this campaign: national name recognition. A record as a prodigious fundraiser—for herself and scores of other Democrats. Winner of two Senate races in New York, a rough-and-tumble state with a trove of 31 Electoral College votes and Democratic donors with deep pockets. And a huge, loyal base of support within her party.

    Who can compare? Not Secretary of State Rice. She’s never run for elective office, and it’s tough to run for president with no experience in those muddy trenches. Not Whitman. The former New Jersey governor has openly broken with conservatives who dominate the Republican Party. Not Sebelius. She heads a state with six electoral votes and limited fundraising potential.

    Clinton cleared the hurdles often cited as holding American women back, yet she is unlikely to surmount the final barrier. So you have to wonder.

    Is it something about Hillary, or something about us? 
    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)
    © 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

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By HG, May 22, 2008 at 12:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


So Obama wins by 170 or so delegates and only if and when Clinton concedes defeat.  But 170 is such a small number compared the 36 million who voted, half of whom voted for Clinton.  If you count Florida and Michigan then Obama’s delegate lead is weakened because Clinton would lead in the popular vote.

Obama is not the unanimous winner.  So why the righteousness?

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By Andrew, May 22, 2008 at 12:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Please spare me the feminist hair tugging and breast beating polemic. The moment Clinton said she would “obliterate” Iran, in effect committing the US to a monstrous war crime, she should have been kicked out and never let back in the Senate. She may have been trying to show she was more hairy-chested than any of the guys, but that kind of talk is frightening, fascist, and proves she is not fit for the job. And I won’t even go into her nonsense about ho Daddy taught her to shoot.

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By cyrena, May 22, 2008 at 12:03 am Link to this comment

•  “It isn’t the woman part, the rationale goes. It’s the Clinton part: That “polarizing” persona and “unlikable” demeanor. The unappetizing thought of President “Billary.” The more inspirational quest by Barack Obama to become the country’s first black president.”

That’s really NOT the ‘rationale’ at all Marie, so you’re talking to the wrong people in search for a rationale, because all you really need is a bit of common sense.

It really IS more basic. It’s about TIMING Marie, and it’s about who is the best PERSON for the job right now, and it’s NOT Hillary Clinton, for the same reason’s that it’s NOT John McCain, for the same reasons that we are in the shape we’re in now because of Dick Bush. I really don’t understand why you guys don’t get that.

It’s like this Marie..It IS true that HRC has a ‘polarizing’ persona. On the other hand, she would be an able enough administrator, (and I’d like to believe much better than GWB) and everything would be peachy, if we were in a different reality. Like even 30 years ago. Timing is everything, and her dictatorial and polarizing uncompromising demeanor could have been easy enough to deal with, as long as there weren’t any pressing issues, or more specifically, JUDGEMENT CALLS to make.

So, you really do have to stop pitting this as a decision or ‘inspirational quest’ between a ‘first this’, or a ‘first that’ because we are in truly dire straights in case you hadn’t noticed, and we don’t have time to deal with all of the social niceties of gender and race, when you just need THE MOST QUALIFIED PERSON THAT HAPPENS TO BE AVAILABLE, AND WILLING TO DO THE JOB!

Nobody said that out of the 100 or so million US citizens that might actually have the right combination of qualifications for what we need NOW, Obama is the very best. He just happens to be the very best available that is in the running for the job! I’m sure there are others out there, who would probably be even better than him, but it just ain’t Hillary. And if she changed herself into a black male, and get everything else the same, it STILL wouldn’t be Hillary.

What you’re asking us to do here Marie, (as you have for months) is to give Hillary the job, NOT because she’s the best one for it at the time, but because we just need to have a woman in the office.

So, our world is on fire, (because of GW) and we have to have a fireperson, and fast. We can select one that will put it out, (using fire retardants and other things like diplomacy and stuff like that) or we can select a fire chief who will just bring a whole bunch of fuel in with her, and proceed to dump it on the already burning fire that is currently destroying us. You want us to choose somebody who changes their positions on everything from A-Z, all within a week, so that we remain in a constant state of instability, and chaos, and not knowing what she might do from one minute to the next, over someone who has been consistent, while at the same time making it clear that he is flexible enough to deal with changes as they occur.

Marie, you think we’re as stupid as the same people who voted for the assholes that we have in there now. WHY would we do that Marie, if we have other and far better choices?

•  “Yet the question remains: If not now, when? If not Hillary, who?”

Nope, this question does NOT ‘remain’. The answer is simple enough; for NOW, (because no one else is otherwise qualified among those running) we’ll have Obama. Sorry, he probably has no desire to turn himself into a 60-old white woman, and I can’t say that I much blame him.

Meantime, there are SEVERAL woman who ARE qualified for the job, but they aren’t running. Now when any one of them decides to do that, we’ll hire her. Until then, get over it.

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By HG, May 21, 2008 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not surprisingly the Obama machine will portray Clinton’s campaign as failed but 17 million votes is not a failure.  Winning the popular vote when you count Michigan and Florida is not a failure.  Winning with sizable percentages in 18 populous and important states is not a failure.

The failure is this country recognizing the courage and conviction of a real life hero.

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By Adam, May 21, 2008 at 11:20 pm Link to this comment

The dynamics of sexism and racism are clearly at play in this election, and so I would expect Truthdig to explore these twin terrors of white male power in the thoughtful and insightful way it does with most everything else it publishes.  Do you publish Reports like this one by Marie Cocco because you really can’t find better-reasoned and more provocative analysis?  “If not now, when? If not Hillary, who?”—these questions should be irrelevant to any voter’s decision-making process for choosing the next President of the United States.  But the best is saved for last: “Is it something about Hillary, or something about us?”  Cocco, are you really asking this question or is this just another clever use of false choice?  Do you mean to imply that it’s one or the other, a sexist country or a flawed candidate?  If you’d like this reader’s thoughts (and by your absurd Report I’m fairly confident that you don’t), I’d say it’s quite obviously both: white male power is still around (I don’t mean to state the obvious, but Cocco’s Report forced my hand) and Hillary Clinton is losing potential voters because of her frequent dishonesty, her willingness to pander to fear and prejudice, her support for this war, her threats to Iran, her support of the bankruptcy bill—but that’s enough, huh?  It’s the year 2008, and these people are running for President of 300 million US Americans, not to mention the 6 billion or so other humans whose future is threatened by our country’s disastrous ways.  We all know that this is a crazy moment in history, right?  Why is Truthdig dithering with Cocco’s continued Reports of false reasoning and fear mongering?  We can do better!

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By Monte Asbury, May 21, 2008 at 10:49 pm Link to this comment

It’s Hillary. She lies. All the time. Like Bush.

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By Jessie Carter, May 21, 2008 at 10:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is not that a woman cannot become president.  It is that Mrs. Clinton cannot become president.  She as her husband did before her depended on a leaner Democrat party.  I know for them the primary turn out was unexpected and the confusion over why she did not garner the support that she thought was automatically hers was a surprise.  But you only have to look at the lackluster voting in both her Senate races to understand her situation.  In New York state she literally had no opposition.  Her election was a cakewalk.  Out in the state’s hustings her husband’s cache served her well and it did likewise in such states as PA, WV and KY.  I think most reporting on the primaries overlooked the idea that disenfranchised voters would come-out to vote in what is usually considered as elections that only interest dedicated party types.  These primaries do not bode well for either party for they challenge both candidates to respond to an energized polity.  The dormant stage is over and neither party, no matter who they put forward, is going to survive using the tactics of the past.  The smoke and mirror game is over.

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By Mark, May 21, 2008 at 10:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d love to have a woman president. But HRC is not the ‘right’ woman.

She says she’s been vetted but Obama was mild and her flaws became evident.

She hasn’t accepted responsibility for the poor way her campaign has been run.

And if she runs the country the way she runs her campaign (in huge deficit) then we can do without it.

She’s very good at the old style of politics. Slice and dice. We got enough of that from Bush and Rove.

I love having her as a democrat and I value her contributions but currently she seems to be putting her own interest ahead of the party.

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