First Lady Watch

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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…

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3 thoughts on “First Lady Watch

  1. Hi Marjorie:Loved the column today. Speaking for one segment of the male for sale population, may I recommend the Dahle’s Big & Tall catalog for a truly lovable selection 🙂As far as potential female presidential candidates, I was very impressed with Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius when she made an Obama campaign swing through GJ a few months back. She’s been mentioned as a possible Obama running mate. Take care..John

  2. I particularly loathe the double standard between mature men and mature women. So loathsome that a 69 year old woman would be dismissed as irrelevant because of her age while age is a non-issue for a 72 year old male presidential candidate! ARGH!!!Sexism is alive and well in America, and we need look no further for proof than what Hillary Clinton dealt with on the campaign trail.Excellent, thoughtful post, Marjorie! 🙂

  3. Dear <>John<>, thanks for the comment re: my column! Yeah, I had sooo much fun writing that. Love the Big & Tall mention — which I’d thought of that!!Ooo, hadn’t thought about Sebelius. I will have to keep an eye out for her. Remember when there was talk a few days (seems like ages) ago when HRC was batted around as a potential running mate? I wonder where that’s heading…Dear <>Thomma Lyn<>, greetings! Yeah, it’s very, very frustrating that we’re in the 21st century and still have to deal with that crap. I’m hoping that, if nothing else, HRC’s campaign awakened any latent feminist tendencies among female voters. The misogyny of the race was appalling, made even more so by the fact that few people called on it. Any hint of racism against Obama was immediately shot down, but even HRC’s own Democratic allies engaged in some nasty anti-women rhetoric. I’m hoping that it galvanized enough women and opened up their eyes to the sexism still widespread in out society.By the way, in case you’re interested, I wrote a < HREF="http://www.gjfreepress.com/article/20080521/OPINION/880907759/-1/opinion01" REL="nofollow">column<> on that just issue for the local paper a few weeks ago. Thanks again for the compliment!Cheers,Marjorie

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