Yup! The traditional and social media are falling over themselves relating how Hillary Clinton has made history by becoming the first female presidential candidate in the United States. But what kind of history has been made? Perhaps the kind of history told by those who don’t really know much history.
One could legitimately claim that the Democratic Party made history three times in the past three presidential races: first, the contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 was not the first time black and female candidates vied to be the Democratic nominee; however, it was the first time that the winner would put either a black or a woman on the ballet of a major party in the presidential race. Second, the election and re-election of Obama as the first black president. Third, the most recent contest between Hillary and Bernie Sanders since Sanders is the first Jew to have had a chance at becoming the Democratic presidential candidate. The Democrats were set up to make history once more, therefore, whether Hillary or Bernie won the nomination.
One question to ask is what kind of history is Hillary Clinton making? Some people think it is not at all connected with her gender.
Re-visiting History – Hillary Clinton Makes History! pic.twitter.com/CxgTNBSiVy
— David Leifer (@daveleifer) June 29, 2016
But there are those who point out her merits.
Hillary Clinton LGBT Activitism! Her resume makes her the most progressive Presidential nominee in history! pic.twitter.com/azZwqVwHHT
— Mr. Weeks (@MrDane1982) June 27, 2016
While Hillary makes history as the first female major party presidential nominee in America, it seems traditional media lags behind in feminist awareness. Political analysts hired by networks and invited to provide audiences with the benefit of their experience and education are still overwhelmingly men.
— Feminist Majority (@FemMajority) June 21, 2016
But perhaps the ultimate insult to feminism can be found in print media that chose to show Bill Clinton’s photo in announcements of this historic achievement. CBC News noted that the list of papers featuring Bill’s image as opposed to Hillary’s include such respected names as: the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribute, the Seattle Times, and more.
Newspapers draw ire for putting Bill Clinton on the cover after Hillary makes history https://t.co/s80IzAF4WS
— Michael (@Canine_Rights) July 29, 2016
One tweet made the point that showing Bill’s photo harkens back to age-old gender stereotypes.
Wow, congratulations to Bill Clinton on being the first man to let his wife run for President, or so newspaper front pages seem to suggest.
— Gibson Twist (@GibsonTwist) July 27, 2016
While Hillary Clinton makes American history, she cannot be said to be making global history. If she wins the presidency, and only if she wins, she will become one of a list of female world leaders who preceded her. Indira Ghandi (India, prime minister between 1966-1984), Golda Meyer (Israel, PM between 1969-1974), and Margaret Thatcher (UK, PM between 1979-1990) are perhaps the most famous female former government leaders.
Huffington Post notes that there have been 70 female heads of government since 1960, when Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) elected Sirimavo Bandaranaike as Prime Minister.
There have already been 70 female world leaders. Seems to me we’re not breaking ceilings, we’re way behind. https://t.co/rMDJm0bHbq
— Lindsay Shaw (@LindsayofSF) July 28, 2016
Elected and appointed female heads of government is clearly not a new phenomenon. Given the historic traditional gender roles, however, when an electorate votes for a woman to lead the government, it is a monumental sign of trust in female leadership. At the same time, when a head of state appoints a woman to govern the country, such as Portugal’s Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo in 1979, that is also a historic proclamation of trust in women as leaders.
The fact that Americans are making such noise over “Hillary Makes History” just shows how the USA, that prides itself on modernity and progressiveness is lagging behind so much of the rest of the world. Certainly more remarkable than Hillary’s candidacy is the former premiership of Benazir Bhutto, first female prime minister of a Muslim majority country. She held two non-consecutive terms between 1988 and 1996.
Among history’s important female leaders is Corazon Aquino, who was president of the Philippines between 1986 and 1992. Aquino was instrumental in wresting her nation from 20 years of brutal authoritarian rule by President Marcos; she then led her people to healing and democracy.
Given the conflicts rife in America today, with some suggesting that race relations are worse than they have been in the past two decades, the task ahead of the next president of the United States may, in some ways, not be all that much less daunting than that facing Aquino in the Philippines in 1986.
Is this a job only a woman can do? Or only THIS woman? Or only NOT THAT MAN (meaning Trump, of course)?
Nobody has a crystal ball. Elections are supposed to be the time for citizens to carefully consider who can best lead the country and cope well with the seemingly insurmountable challenges that lie ahead. History, for better or for worse, is being made regardless of who is at the helm.
Did Hillary make history by becoming the Democratic candidate for president? She certainly didn’t make world history — not even close! And the fact that the Democratic Party has turned this into a cause for rejoicing is sad to me. It is a sign that the nominations for candidacy were not really about issues but about catchy clichés and memes.
Let us hope that the coming presidential election campaign between Hillary and Donald can get beyond that inanity. Let us raise our glasses in a toast to intelligent debate, rancorous and biting as it may be, but intelligent. Dare I hope for that?
[Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]