Monday, June 9

Witnessing his/herstory, Part I

Earlier this month, the United States witnessed what some thought would never happen: a black man as candidate for the country's highest office. I have a colleague who thought white America would never vote for Barack Obama. He's an intelligent, well-traveled African American man who firmly believed that white America talks a good game but doesn't walk the talk. I don't think he realized how polarized the country might be in its view of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I'm fascintated by political pundits. They will flip-flop on their prognostications faster than you can say "flip flop." I'm sure they call it "redefining their positions" or "shifting their paradigms based on more complete information," but it's flip-flopping all the same. You know, the same thing politicians do on occasion and for which the pundits have no tolerance and for which they have unlimited scathing commentary.

Anyway, Hillary has given what may have been the best speech of her campain in her concession on Saturday. I've read many a commentary by folks who also see that speech as one of her best and wonder why in the world she didn't campaign with that sort of rhetoric. She will undoubtedly spend a lot of time reviewing ther campaign strategies--what worked and what failed miserably. My guess is that any woman who chooses to campaign for president in Hillary's wake will have learned a lot from Obama's approach and from hers. There are some who say she tried too hard to be gender neutral or not be too female. I have to shake my head at that, but I understand what they're saying. For some reason this country is not yet ready for a woman is both a leader and a woman. It seems to make some people (read "men") edgy. But if they really stopped to think about it, and thought about the strong women they know, they'd realize how ridiculous they're being.

But thanks to Hillary Rodham Clinton and all of the other women who perservere in public and private service, seeking office as mayor, governor, senator, CFO, CEO, and other key positions of leadership, perhaps the path to those positions got a little easier to navigate.

One of the best lines from Hillary Clinton's speech is this one "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it." Of course, you have to wade through a lot of blah blah blah politicospeak to get to it, but it's there. The next best lines are these: "So I want to say to my supporters, when you hear people saying - or think to yourself - 'if only' or 'what if,' I say, 'please don't go there.' Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward. Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been."

On the other hand, perhaps because of Hillary Rodham Clinton, some will be more reluctant to vote for a woman in the future. They will remember too many campaign fiascos as she worked so very hard, so very desperately to become the candidate for president. Perhaps they will remember her husband's occasional campaign faux pas. On the other hand, perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton will serve as a sort of guideline for the kind of woman this country does or does not want in the White House.

I've made no secret of my distaste for Bill Clinton and the nausea I felt whenever I contemplated him remotely close to the White House again. And though I wouldn't mind seeing a woman in the White House, not that woman--not Hillary Rodham Clinton and for a very long list of reasons that suggest to me I would most definitely not want her picking up the phone at 3 a.m. to respond to a crisis.

I do hope the fact that she campaigned will in fact encourage other women to go into politics, though I think the endless political posturing is one of the reasons women become part of organizations that simply do rather than talk about doing. But perhaps if more women were elected to political offices we could also change the way we do politics and perhaps we would eventually have governments--local, state, and federal--that really do the work of the governments rather than assign blame when there's a scandal or talk about governing rather than actually govern.

But I have to say that I don't think political change is the sole purview of women. Obama has talked a lot about change and I know there are many who wonder what he really means by that and how much change he might really be able to introduce. I think there are plenty of idealistic men and women who enter politics with the hope and expectation of making a difference, of instituting real change that improve peoples' lives. And I think there are far too many of those idealistic men and women who become disillusioned when they are told that's simply not the way things are done.

Well, if we get enough folks in positions who are not willing to accept the status quo, and who remember the reasons people voted for them rather than the people who made large political bribes, er, contributions to their campaigns, then maybe, just maybe we'll begin to see some real political change that returns some dignity to this country. Ah well, it doesn't hurt to dream.

No comments: