I’m disappointed, albeit not bitterly so, that HRC will not be the Democratic presidential candidate. I’ve been longing for her to run for president since the waning days of Bill’s own administration, and it seemed only a matter of time before she did so. (Although I was sure that she wouldn’t do it until 2012, but then again, that would’ve meant possibly running against a Democratic incumbent.)
Now that it’s fairly clear that she won’t be standing onstage with Bill and Chelsea in Denver this August (unless it’s as veep, and that’s a big IF), I turn my sights to the only other prominent woman in this race: Michelle Obama. As a woman of color myself and a staunch advocate and admirer of other WOC’s with successful professional careers and a strong sense of self, I find myself cheering Mrs. Obama on despite my ambivalence about her husband’s ability to preside over a fractured society, a faltering economy and a world that seems eager to embrace the post-American Empire future.
Still, I can’t help but wonder: will we ever have the opportunity to see a woman in the Oval Office in a role other than the occupant’s helpmate? Will Americans always be content to view its women — regardless of their professional and political credentials — as being qualified for no higher office than First Lady?
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Obama ultimately triumphed over HRC. Black men officially received the right to vote long before women did, so it shouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to believe that a well-spoken, well-educated black man (especially one who is racially ambiguous to begin with) is likely to be nominated than an equally qualified white woman.
But if Obama were to win the presidency, that would potentially mean another eight years — 2016 — before women get another shot at the office. I would be surprised if HRC were to run then, as she’ll be 69 that year. That’s three years younger than John McCain is now, but who are we kidding? An older woman has enough trouble being taken seriously as a person in our society, much less as president of the United States. Older men can take on the role of “distinguished statesman,” but older women simply disappear behind an impenetrable wall of ageism and sexism.
Assuming that 2016 is the next opportunity for a woman candidate, now is the time to begin grooming possible candidates, and no later. Obama shot to national prominence during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, but women will need a far longer lead time. (Again, remembering that old saw about how women need to work twice as hard to be taken seriously as men are.) Many of the prominent female politicians on the national and regional stage are HRC’s age or only slightly younger. Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona has a growing national reputation, while Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska has her share of admirers. (Palin, however, is a Republican, and you couldn’t pay me enough to vote for the GOP. Still, I’d be surprised if her party isn’t at least chatting with her informally about her political ambitions. She’s very attractive, young and dynamic. The old white men clinging to the reins at the GOP must surely be looking around for someone to shake off the image of the party as being a musty old crowd of seniors pumped up on Viagra.)
I’d love to see a Hispanic or Asian woman at least make a serious run for the presidency. Nina Vaca is the first person to come to mind, although I don’t think I’ve ever heard her even mention the possibility of entering the political fray. She’s the founder and CEO of Dallas-based Pinnacle Technologies, and I heard her speak once at a conference back home. Energetic, attractive, whip-smart, and very personable, she’s the same age I am (36/37) and has been named National Hispanic Businesswoman of the Year twice. Her background is similar to that of millions of others in the United States — the daughter of immigrants (Ecuador), she’s been a working girl helping to support her family since she was a teenager — and is reflective of the changing nature of American society. She’s happily married with a husband and four (!!!) kids and is heavily involved in philanthropic efforts around education.
I’ve never been a big fan of business executives taking on political positions — and Dubya has only reinforced that bias — but I’d be willing to take a chance on Ms. Vaca. Here’s hoping…