Are women like Hillary Clinton finally emerging at the top because men don’t want to take the blame for the fallout and impending failures of the nation-states.
By RA Monaco
There’s wide acceptance that gender will introduce an energizing dynamic—the so-called “third-wave” feminism—into Hillary’s yet to be announced 2016 candidacy for president. A pent-up social movement that’s not completely dissimilar to the movement that elected the first African-American president in 2008.
Although gender and race aren’t indicators of a lack of leadership, America has been slow to warm to that reality. More troubling though, is that some Americans may have already forgotten Madam Hillary’s meek acquiescence as a senator while President George Bush was running roughshod over the nation pushing through his radical right agenda—the Patriot Act, wars, drones, torture, renditions and so on.
The president she served, the president she married and the president she might become is the unfolding story of Hillary Clinton—an evolving narrative that will continue to capture the attention of the entire world. What does her probable trifecta-in-life tell us about the kind of world leader Madam Hillary might become?
Nobody can articulate exactly why they’re willing to support her
Writing for The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza described attending a recent week long Ready for Hillary—super PAC—event at the Sheraton on Fifty-third Street in New York, where a series of panels were given by well-known Clinton-world personalities. “Everyone in the [Democratic] party seems to be supporting her, and yet nobody can articulate exactly why,” Lizza observed, underscoring the fact that Hillary has yet to say what she might want to do as President.
In contrast—present circumstances being much different—I recall leading up to President Bill Clinton’s declared candidacy that he was very specific—even detailed—about framing his presidential agenda. In fairness, that was a different era and those were the early days of the 24/7 cable news cycle.
The opinions of professional women
While struggling working-class and pink-collar women sort through the dense information surrounding Hillary’s public life, the opinions of two professional women—one, a California physician Cole Fulwider, M.D. and the other a lawyer, Samer Hathout a Los Angeles County prosecutor graciously shared their impressions on the subject.
At this early stage, the idea generally was to hear from professional women who could identify with the “glass ceiling” of a career and wrestled up close and personal with the struggles of American life. They are American women others might understand, identify with and respect.
The entirety of those interviews follows this piece. In sum, both said that they would support Hillary over the current crop of GOP candidates. Interestingly, when asked if they’d prefer a different democratic nominee they each responded Elizabeth Warren—citing her willingness to challenge the “financial kings of Wall Street” and “fight against the power elite.”
Shouldering the Record of Her Husband
Asking for more on her take about whether Hillary’s campaign would have to shoulder the record of President Bill Clinton—a record where the President and Republicans aimed only at social services and joined together against big government—Dr. Fulwider responded with an unqualified, “No, not at all. Particularly because I think of her as a one termer…more free to be progressive.”
Only one term, really? What did this well read, politically engaged professional woman—having lived as an adult through the entirety of Hillary’s very public career—see that brought her to the conclusion that Hillary would be “more free to be progressive?” Her use of the word “progressive” left me wondering—as a member of the other sex—what clues I had missed that suggested Hillary would ever be progressive.
“It’s about time we stop blaming the poor and seek to help rather than exploit them like revenue hungry municipalities are presently doing,” lamented Dr. Fulwider.
Was America waiting for a Madam President to break the two hundred year cycle of a government that has continued to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful—land to railroads, tax breaks to oil corporations, and using its armed forces to suppress strikes, rebellions and now domestic protests?
Are Today’s Women Leaders Just Figureheads
Both Samer Hathout and Dr. Fulwider’s responses left me pondering a larger question—the answer likely to be the same for men and women—are today’s women leader’s just figureheads? The response of Ms. Hathout continues to resonate, “Our country is not run as much by our elected leaders as we think it is.” If given the chance, would Hillary be a leader at all—or just left to manage the 99 percent pitted against their common interests.
Although politicians and their nation-states seem more constrained than ever, the records of individual women leaders like Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany suggest—for better or worse—they’re a potent force.
On the other hand, author Naomi Wolf who, as an advocate of “power feminism”—which holds that women must assert themselves politically to achieve their goals—questions whether women like Hillary are being called-in when the ship is sinking?
Having advised the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Naomi Wolf noted, “The sad irony is that women are finding their moment in the political sun at a time when the nation-states they are leading are finding their ability to forge national solutions to their problems extremely limited.”
Private Actors Taking the Place of Governments
Most disconcerting—in these moments—is the growing trend driving international trade treaties, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that allows private actors to take the place of governments, legislatures, and heads of state in setting policy. Given Bill Clinton’s record of having fostered and endorsed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and recent fast-track efforts during the Obama Administration driving the TPP—policies that would essentially neuter the voices of the American people, even our own Congress—it seems fair to question whether Hillary and other women are emerging at the top because men do not want to take the blame for the fallout and impending failures of the nation-states.
While Madam Hillary has endorsed president Obama’s executive authority to prevent the deportation of as many as five million undocumented immigrants, she hasn’t said what she thinks about his proposed National Security Agency reforms. Also, even though she was in charge of the process that will eventually lead to a decision about whether the Obama Administration would allow TransCanada to build its pipeline transporting crude from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico—a defining issue for environmentalists—Hillary has been conspicuously silent about the Keystone XL pipeline, leaving little doubt about her cautious political calculations.
Our Short-Term-Oriented Political System
The idea that Dr. Fulwider already saw Hillary “as a one termer,” highlights our short-term-oriented political system which hasn’t been very good—read terrible—at addressing long-term problems. Is it a consequence of the influence on our leaders and the “capitalist enterprises that keep them in power” as suggested by Ms. Hathout?
America needs a leader with a substantive plan to bring back the middle class which has seen its share of the nation’s income decline since 1970. Considering all of the recent Census data, The Economist reported that, “The most unequal country in the rich world is thus becoming even more so.”
President Obama’s education secretary has said that “our education system hasn’t done enough to help Americans compete” in the global economy. A new study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development supports the observation.
Also, it’s hard to put an economic price tag on a worse-case scenario that could follow if we were to continue to sit on our “climate change” hands—a topic that is apparently beyond our society’s ability to address. Americans seem to think that the scientific community is divided on the cause of global warming despite that since 1991, “roughly 97 percent of all published scientific papers that take a position on the question agree that humans are warming the planet,” that’s according to a piece earlier this year in The Washington Post.
In a worst case scenario, avoiding human extinction might depend upon our finding someone other than a figurehead—an actual leader. Someone not “beholden to the system” as Ms. Hathout suggested—willing to “fight against the power elite.” Or, as Dr. Fulwider mentioned, would “rein in the financial kings of Wall Street.”
The Legal System and the Legitimacy of the Market
Without real leadership our domestic economy is destined to continue to suffer the side effects of these failures which are likely to last a long time. At risk is losing our trust in the legal system and the legitimacy of the market—fairness is central to our incredible history of cooperation as a nation and the human species.
The issue is not just that the U.S. is one election or financial crisis or a few percentage points of income concentration away from becoming an ungovernable state. Rather, our leaders don’t seem to understand our social structure well enough to manipulate it for the greater good.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not easy to feel optimistic about America’s economic future. Without a real leader—not “beholden to the system” with a credible plan—the seriousness of these long-term trends should signal alarm.
America may have reached that breakthrough moment when gender is no longer the most important issue—which for Hillary could grow into a social movement. However, the important question at this moment isn’t where we’re being led, but will Hillary lead?