Hillary Clinton — Crafting a New Political Role

Fri, August 8, 2008

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While everyone else is talking about Barack Obama and VP roulette, I’m going to talk about Hillary! (You’re SO surprised, right?)

Hillary Clinton is poking her toe back into the political waters, now that she’s taken sometime off to get her head around the fact that she will not be moving back into the White House in January. Seeing Hillary in the news is a good thing. I know there are lots of you who disagree, but as Maureen McGovern once sang, there’s got to be a morning after. And for me, that means making sure we all acknowledge and focus on how momentous this political race has been and where we, as women, go from here.

First, the convention. Should Hillary’s supporters make sure that there is a way to put her name up for a floor vote at the convention as a sign of respect, as was common in the “olden days?”

Regardless of whether this symbolic show of support takes place, others are going to be in Denver to keep her profile up — rallies and marches are planned supporting her and her failed candidacy. That says a lot about the passion that is still out there among her loyalists.

But as Gloria Feldt pointed out recently recently at her blog, HeartFeldt Politics, Hillary seems to have a new focus, even if she is angling for a little “me” time at the Democratic convention:

Hillary’s post-primary awakening led her to embrace her leadership role as a woman and on behalf of other women. Throughout the campaign, she downplayed the importance of her gender … Since the campaign, she has been much quicker to champion women’s rights. For example, she led the charge to challenge the Bush administration’s proposed new regulations … that would redefine many birth control methods as abortion and allow medical providers to refuse to provide them. She seems to have learned a lesson about being her true self; other women will take courage from that.

She could be a champion not only for issues that have traditionally been described as “women’s issues,” but could also be an active voice in fighting against one of the things (no, not the only thing) that led to her defeat — sexism in the media, according to guest poster Deb Della Piana at The Political Voices of Women:

In nearly every article I read, the author was quick to point out that it wasn’t the media’s horrible treatment of Hillary Clinton that caused her to lose. It was Hillary herself. I agree for the most part. However, the reporters and pundits who had a field day attacking Hillary Clinton on personal grounds rather than policy issues do not get a bye on this one. Maybe they can justify their actions in their own small minds, but I do not think we should. Women, in particular, should view this as part of a broader attack on our participation in government.

This is where Hillary Clinton and her legions could really make a difference — calling out the media and not letting them get a pass on their coverage. At the Women’s Media Center blog, Barbara Cohn Schlachet wonders:

In the aftermath of the primary season, I’ve been puzzling over the lack of reaction, on almost every front, to the degree of overt sexism that was pervasive in the media during this time. With the exception of organizations and websites that supported Hillary Rodham Clinton, and those that are specifically oriented towards the rights of women and the portrayal of women in the media, there has been a deafening silence from the candidates and their campaign organizations, from the mainstream media, from the DNC, the RNC and from the public at large, both male and female.

Had this overt misogyny been any other form of bigotry, there would have been justified outrage. Had MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson said, instead of “Every time she [Clinton] comes on TV, I involuntarily cross my legs,” “Every time he [Obama] comes on TV, I involuntarily check for my wallet,” more than a public apology would have been demanded. So, why is sexism different? Why does it fly under the radar, even when it’s overt? Why are the media and the public so willing to accept it?

So why not look to Hillary as a true force of nature and take this time to adjust what we expect from the “first viable woman candidate for president” in her post-campaign role? The real leadership opportunity for her now is the chance to rally women — no matter which presidential candidate they support — around the idea of being taken more seriously in the process and by the media.

There are going to be plenty of chances to see that effort in action at the Democratic Convention with groups like the Women’s Campaign Forum, EMILY’s List and N.O.W. holding events to promote women running for office and participating more in politics.

Hillary is uniquely situated to be the one we look to, whether we are Democrats or Republicans or Independents or Libertarians or politically unaffiliated, to change the tone of how all women are portrayed, especially women politicians.

I hope she doesn’t pass it up.

Cross-posted from BlogHer, where PunditMom is a Politics & News Contributing Editor.

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4 Responses to “Hillary Clinton — Crafting a New Political Role”

  1. anniegirl1138 Says:

    Sexism will always be “okay” until women start calling it out and not playing along with the gender role assignments/expectations. We are our own worst enemies sometimes.

  2. Shonda Little Says:

    First off all, I had to go through a mild mourning when I realized Hill wasn’t going to get our nod. To be honest, I did the same thing with John Edwards dropped out of the race, too. I was really excited about several of our candidates this time around and Hillary was at the top of that list.
    That said, I don’t think the party should do a floor vote simply because part of the dirty Bush team has boarded the “Straight Talk Express.” I think John McCain is already going to try to exploit the long, but healthy Democratic primary as a sign that Barack’s nomination is questionable. After watching gut-wrenched as Dubya stole, ur, won two elections, I really want to win this one.
    What I found most astounding about the sexism that Hillary faced was from the female journalist and new people. Don’t get me wrong, Sean Hannity and other news pricks were infuriating, but it was worse when it came from the women, many of whom have served their own ambition.

  3. Sharon Says:

    I think there’s potential for Hillary to do great things outside the White House – if she continues to work on behalf of women and stays true to herself. I agree that sexism will be okay until women call it out every single time it is an issue because that is the only way it will diminish.

  4. Karoli Says:

    My friend and NewsGang moderator Steve Gillmor will be crushed if she is not his running-mate. He insists that without Hillary Clinton, Obama will lose.

    He makes some pretty compelling arguments, and the noise flying around in the past week has been interesting, to say the least. She wants, she doesn’t want, she’s interested, she’s pissed that it isn’t a done deal, she’s going to challenge, not challenge, etc.

    I don’t agree with Steve but I’m not dumb enough to rule it out, because he’s one guy who is almost always right, either about the outcome or the argument. His gut is nearly infallible.

    I don’t think we should discount the possibility.


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