By ROBERT COCANOUGHER / Editor-in-Chief
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: my views tend to lean liberal. And I say lean because I am not so polarized that I am incapable of respecting a reasonable Republican. I agree immensely more with Hillary Clinton than I do Trump, and while I recognize her flaws, I believe she has a much more presidential character about her. But I’m not here to discuss the political binary, each candidate’s political views, or their general character. No, I’m here to discuss why Hillary should be president. And perhaps why she shouldn’t.
What I want to talk about is a simple matter of symbolism. Barring personal political views on the matter, one of the greatest reason I think Hillary should be president because of the massive precedent that it will set. Hillary Clinton has the opportunity to change the views of and on half of the population of America. I’m of course talking about women. Women in politics is a surprisingly controversial issue. Well, women doing anything that places them in a position of power tends to be a more sensitive topic than one would think it should be. But I digress.
Yes, there are women in politics. Yes, there are female leaders who have and do have incredible influence. Yes, there are women who have run for president in the past. Yes yes and yes to all of these things, I’m not doubting any greatness there nor am I necessarily saying that Hillary Clinton herself is better than any of them. But right now, a woman has the chance to become the leader of the most powerful and influential country in the world. Despite all that has happened in the past, there’s the potential for not a step forward, but a leap. We just have to be willing to move.
There’s a story I like that’s brought up every once in a while about Bill Gates. He’s giving a conference in Saudi Arabia. The men and women are sectioned off for this event, split down the middle with a curtain. One person (a man, of course) asks if he Gates believes that Saudi Arabia will be able to become one of the most influential economies in the world. Bill Gates states simply that “if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the top.”
Now, I’m not saying that women’s rights in America are as bad as in Saudi Arabia, but we’re not perfect either. Despite the occasional, even powerful female politician here and there, politics is still what it’s largely always been: a boys club. But a woman ascending to the highest position in the country would be immensely inspiring to so many women, young and old, to tell them that there’s this great thing that they can achieve. We’d finally utilize that ever silenced though often wise and incredibly useful voice of half of our society. For as long as she is around, and even after Hillary is out of office, people will be able to look back at her presidency and say “well she did it, so can I.”
Now I’m not shallow enough to say that Hillary should be president solely because she is a woman. If she were any less respectable, I’d turn on her and wait another four years. But she’s certainly not the worst presidential candidate to ever come about, nor is she the worst of the presidential choices for this round…
But again, I must digress. As I promised, here why I believe Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president: tokenism.
When Barack Obama was elected, and especially after he was elected a second time, it seemed to be seen as a solution to the racial problems plaguing our nation. People would ask “is America racist anymore?” and the response is “no! How could we be? We elected a black guy for president twice.” The conversation doesn’t always go like this, but I feel like a lot of people hold the sentiment. And this sentiment led us to ignoring or disregarding the deep and damaging racial relations that are flaring up more and more. In the same way, I am afraid of a woman being elected president not because I fear powerful women, but because I fear that people will take it to mean that we have resolved deep gender divides in our society. Here I want you to be aware that I feel it is still a step in the right direction and could indeed help resolve these issues, but we can’t use Hillary’s presidency as an excuse to ignore the still wide and agonizing gender divide.
But it goes another step beyond this. You see, Hillary wouldn’t just be a token female president. No, until the next woman is elected to the office she will be the token. Indeed, her presidency could determine whether or not another woman is elected again, or at least how the next female president will be treated. You see, if Obama’s presidency had gone poorly, I would be willing to bet that it would have been used against the idea of a black man ever being elected president again (I would love to be wrong on that, but my cynicism informs me otherwise). But instead, Obama’s presidency has been alright, if not pretty well. He hasn’t been the greatest president ever, but he’s certainly proven himself worthy of the position. And so, he has helped normalize the idea of someone who’s not an old white guy being in office.
Just so, Hillary just needs to do ok. She doesn’t need to go above and beyond, she doesn’t need to be legendary. She just needs to do alright. That’s it. Granted, if Congress stays as it is, it’ll be an uphill battle for her to even do that. And if her presidency crashes and burns, or even if she does anything less than alright, I’m almost positive that she’ll be held up as an example to the idea that women should not hold the highest office in the country. Maybe not that explicitly, but maybe so. Either way, going into the presidency will mean that Hillary is entering dangerous territory. Territory that perhaps her time as Secretary of State has prepared her for. But then again, perhaps territory that nothing could properly prepare her for.
As an aside, perhaps this is a good reason for Trump to be elected. If Hillary wins (which let’s face it, is rather likely) he’ll probably keep on shouting from the sidelines. But if he gets elected and if his presidency crashes and burns, it would be fun to watch him eat his own words. Although, I don’t much like that precedent either as a failed presidency on his part could be held up as an example of why you don’t vote for someone outside the realm of politics. If it weren’t the welfare of our country we are gambling with, I might actually consider letting him have a go at it. No less, if he does by some chance obtain the office and do well, then for the sake of our country, I will be happy to be proven wrong.
In any case, here’s how I feel explicitly: Hillary ought to be president. She will be a fantastic and empowering symbol to women everywhere. But, in this symbolic position, she must take great care. Perhaps then, tokenism is not a reason that she shouldn’t be elected, but simply a very important issue that she and her supporters need to be aware of and take under consideration as she continues fighting under the boys club that is politics.