Still waiting for Madam President

Take heart! Maybe it won't be that long...

By Katharine Mieszkowski
May 29, 2008 9:56PM (UTC)
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Last week, I wrote about two stories that made some dire predictions about how long it will take for the next serious female contender for president to emerge in the United States post-Hillary Clinton. One piece in the Washington Post suggested a generation, another one in the New York Times thought that was frankly too optimistic, quoting a scholar who put the time frame in terms of generations.

Having wallowed in these bleak forecasts, I am happy to present an alternative view from Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, who argues that Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination and the country's reaction to it will not discourage women from running for president. On the contrary, Clinton's run will likely spur more women to strive for the Oval Office.


Lithwick writes that the naysayers contend that "Clinton had a legitimate shot at the presidency only because she represented a once-in-a-lifetime lightning strike of marriage, fame, and experience that is not only unique to her but that will die with her failed nomination." Lithwick finds that view perversely belittling in its own way: "By advancing the argument that no woman will ever win the presidency without the advantages of a Hillary Clinton because only those advantages account for her success, we do more to disrespect her enormous talents than all of the oily misogynists on Fox News. All across the country, in the most unlikely ways and places, Hillary Clinton kicked ass as a woman. Why take that away from her now?"

Aspiring female politicians will be encouraged by the millions of votes Clinton won in primaries across the country and her fundraising prowess, Lithwick argues. And these commander-in-chiefs-to-be won't be scared off by the blatant misogyny that the Clinton campaign has faced from the mainstream media and on the campaign trail. Quite the opposite, these future POTUSes may even be galvanized to lead in part because of the extra hurdles female candidates still face: "Women will put themselves through this because most of us will have been more inspired by the Clinton run than scared off by it," writes Lithwick. "They'll put themselves through it because -- for the first time in history -- they'll know what it looks like when a woman almost scores the presidency, and it looks amazing. And some of them will also put themselves through it because having been well and truly sickened by the 'iron my shirts' moments, they'll do what women did in 1992 after watching Anita Hill endure outrageous nuts-and-sluts treatment at the hands of an all-male Senate judiciary committee. They'll swarm government."

I hope she's right.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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