This is an outdated post that was written during the 2016 U.S. presidential primaries, albeit not previously published. Its principal message, however, is still relevant.
Back in 1968, the late senator Bobby Kennedy predicted that in 40 years it was a realistic possibility that a black man could be elected president. I wonder what would have been the reaction if someone had suggested that in 40 years a woman might also become president. Laughing hysterically? Sneers and jeers? Dumbfounded silence? But no, wait, that never would have happened. No one would have ever even thought of the possibility that a human being who had the capacity to give birth could be president of the United States. It would have been laughable, unthinkable.
So, picture this: a female senator, age 74, decides to run for president on the democratic ticket against Hillary Clinton. We’ll call her Bernice Sandman. Senator Sandman has always been an Independent, but changed her affiliation to give herself a realistic shot at being elected. She shows up at debates and campaign events without giving a lot of attention to her appearance, describes herself as a “democratic socialist” (despite the fact that many people have no idea what that means), and runs on a platform of providing free college tuition, free universal healthcare, and other progressive agenda items. If Senator Sandman stood at the podium, waving her arms, pointing her fingers, and calling for a revolution, I doubt she would ever have been considered a viable candidate. As a matter of fact, I don’t think she would have stood a chance. Actually, there is a somewhat similar candidate, although she is only in her mid-60s. Her name is Dr. Jill Stein and she is running as the Green Party candidate. And I don’t think she has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the election.
I realize that it is de rigueur these days to protest that gender no longer has any influence on who can win a presidential election. But I think Bernie’s camp can get away with things that a female candidate never could. Bernie’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders said in an interview with Huffington Post that, “75 is the new 55”. Hardly. I am 20 years younger than Bernie and I certainly feel different in my 50s than I did in my 30s. And I suspect I will feel quite a bit longer in the tooth as well when I reach my 70s. And Sanders has described himself as an “honorary woman”–a tag given to him by iconic feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Uh, no, Senator Sanders is only male. The only time I’ve ever heard the term “honorary man”* is when Queen Elizabeth II traveled to Saudi Arabia as the head of Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries.
I also see that the electorate has been changed in Ohio and that now 17 years old will be allowed to vote. Changing the voting age in one state which clearly plays to the demographic of Sanders’ voting bloc comes across to me as cheating. Ohio is a state that has long been favored as a Clinton win. I wonder what the reaction would be if voting rights in, say, a state like Pennsylvania were also changed. Let’s say all women in the Keystone state, age 60 and older, who had been active in feminist causes, were allowed 2 votes. Gee, I wonder who would win then.
I’ll agree that things have certainly changed for the better. But today’s politically correct attitude that gender no longer matters in politics, that it’s only the candidate’s background and qualifications that count, is suspect, in my opinion. And by the way, when did that happen? Did thousands of years of discrimination against women go away just because Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique fifty years ago?
So this brings me to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who most of Bernie’s supporters are certain could be the first woman president. But a) Senator Warren is not actually running for president (although there is plenty of speculation that she may be Sanders’ running mate). And b) if she did decide to run in 4 years or 8 years, she would be 70 or 74 years old, respectively. A man may be able to get away with being that old, but a woman would almost certainly face insurmountable double discrimination. Senator Warren would probably also be ‘disqualified’ for having limited experience, for actually having been a Republican until only about 20 years ago, and for allegedly misrepresenting her Native American background. Besides, I believe whichever male candidate would run against Elizabeth would have a greater chance of winning the nomination anyway.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like Bernie and I respect him. At this point, I have likes and dislikes about both democratic candidates. But as a woman, I find it insulting that so many people suggest that sexism has been eliminated from the political arena. And that it is somehow “sexist” to put the fact that Hillary is a woman in one’s plus column when analyzing the candidates. Actually, what is sexist is the fact that in 228 years of American history every single one of the 44 American presidents has been male. A woman’s place in the first family is being the first lady. And for the record, I do like Michelle Obama and I think she does an admirable job. But like all first ladies, she represents our country without having any real power. Since time began, the world has fought tooth and nail to keep women from having power, and continues to do so.
The image most people have of the commander-in-chief, the leader of the free world, whether conscious or subconscious, is still male. So, saying that a woman’s chance of becoming president is equal to a man’s…well, I have to call bullshit on that. There has never been, and there still isn’t, a level playing field when it comes to running for the highest office in the land. As a matter of fact, given the enormous uphill battle women have had to fight, I find it remarkable that women have come as far in politics as they have. And if this race was between a “Henry” Clinton and a Bernice Sandman, I don’t believe it would be anywhere near as close as it is. Because the bottom line is, the real reason a woman has never been the president of the United States is because of her gender.
* For more information on why this designation was necessary, please see any of the highly readable and enlightening “Princess” series of books by American author Jean Sasson.