2008 presidential elections, democratic primaries, Feminism, Hillary Rodham Clinton, HRC, Politics, US

On Why We Must Elect A Wife: President Rodham

The latest criticism against HRC is that she is, in comparison with Edwards and Obama, the establishment candidate. She has been there, she has done it all before (they have turned her ‘experience’ argument against her). America’s still the same; it hasn’t changed. So she won’t be able to change it in virtue of not having changed it so far. This charge is, obviously, the result of Hillary being Bill’s wife. She is history, because she belongs to Bill’s ‘90s in virtue of having been the first lady. So while the problem does not seem to be her being a woman, it still is her being a wife; the last Democratic President’s wife. It would have been different, those people criticizing her will concede, if she had been any other woman; if she only weren’t Bill’s wife, then she could have been elected despite her being a woman.

So America, according to these people, would be ready for a woman; but only for a new woman. It’s not ready for an old woman, a wife. Let’s get this right: the problem is obviously not, in itself, that Hillary is married: had she been married to someone else, she could have still been a new woman, a woman for change. Because, as far as politics would have been concerned, she then would not have been a wife. The problem is that she is married to the past. So Hillary isn’t just married – that would have been fine. She is politically married: she is a political wife, not just a wife. Worse: the implicit accusation is that she is only there – in it with a chance – because she is Bill’s wife.

So far, this is all very truistic. But it underestimates the gender – and therefore power – revolution represented by a woman in charge of the world. What would it mean? Why would it be so significant? Because it would be the ultimate liberation: the woman liberation movement will have finally completed its journey only when a woman will have taken the world’s top job. No woman will ever be fully liberated until it is demonstrated that a woman can take (and hold) the top job. That, and only that, will be mission accomplished for the woman liberation movement, and aging feminists will finally be able to go back to knitting.

But where did that journey of liberation began? It began with marriage: it began with making marriage an equal, consensual, free relationship (as free as love allows, that is). The journey began with liberating wives from their husbands. It has been wives who have always symbolized the exploited woman. Wives bending on the sink to wash dishes. Wives bending on their children to tie their shoelaces. Wives bending for their husbands. It is first and foremost through marriage that women have been exploited: so the exploited woman just is the wife.

And that’s why liberation will be complete only when we elect a wife. But, as we said, electing any wife will be, politically, just like electing a woman. We must elect someone who is a wife even from a political point of view; we must elect HRC. So that she can finally, as President, shed that ‘C’ and be just her own autonomous self: President Rodham. Only when we will have liberated the first lady from the President we will have achieved the full liberation of women, of all women (at least potentially). Electing any other wife would be electing a liberated woman. It is only by electing the wife that we will have achieved liberation; because, paradoxically, Hillary (being, necessarily, one of the most liberated women on earth) isn’t yet liberated because she has not yet been liberated from her husband, the President. It is only by becoming President herself – President Rodham, not President Clinton – that she will finally liberate herself.

That’s why, if the election of the first woman president must be the ultimate liberation, then we must elect the wife, the first lady. Once the fist lady liberates herself, then any woman can.

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14 thoughts on “On Why We Must Elect A Wife: President Rodham

  1. girl, i appreciate your rant, and i’m a male feminist. but you can’t vote by gender. check the issues. and when folks refer to her as the ‘establishment’ candidate, it’s not a criticism, it’s the truth; when you vote for hillary you vote for corporate power. don’t be fooled.

  2. riverbird,

    i’ve never been taken for a girl before; im kinda honoured, i suppose.

    my post argues exactly that, if electing Hillary will be the ultimate liberation, then you can vote on grounds of gender (at least with some restrictions – i probably would not have supported a GOP woman).

    so stating the opposite view than the one im puttin forwards can’t be enough: would you mind tellin me why one can’t vote by gender?

  3. >>why one can’t vote by gender?

    because it’s racist. i.e. “i’m voting for jesse jackson because he’s black”. please vote by the issues – and if she happens to be female, great. it’s like the redneck’s saying, “i’ never vote for a woman, n*GR, etc.

  4. gender is not a race. so voting by gender can’t be racist. it might be discriminatory, but im not convinced that it is, just like im not convinced that affirmative action is discriminatory. if we stand for affirmative action – and many democrats do – then we can’t object on voting by gender or, indeed, race (for obama, i.e. – i wonder why you used jesse jackson rather than obama as an example).

    it might be that there is a continuing discrimination, and that electing a woman would contribute to a fight against that discrimianation. so that one votes by gender as a means to ending that discrimination (or at least ‘against’ that discrimination. as you saw from the post, that’s exactly why i think we must elect HRC. if electing HRC is a way of fighting persisting gender discrimination all over the world, then im not convinced that voting for her on grounds that she is a woman is discriminatory. or, at least, the discrimination against other candidates on grounds that they are not women is compensated by fightin the discrimination against all women

    also, i might agree that if i said that, no matter what any candidate might say, i will vote for a woman candidate, that might be discriminatory. but what im saying is only that, given the pool of democrats we are offered, the fact that hillary is a woman gives her an edge.

  5. i will not vote for hillary, and it has nothing to do that she is a woman. she is part of the corporate establishment, MSM included. we need to go beyond gender politics, beyond race politics and start looking at real issues. if we as democrats or progressives are going to pick one issue to be discriminatory about, let it be class.

  6. i dont really have much to object with the idea that she is part of the establishment: she is bill’s wife, for gods sake. the only thing is that, apart from the fact that as i say in the post i think her being bill’s wife is crucial, you really can’t argue that someone like obama, with the money he has received, is anti-establishment. or, even better, than the MSM is against him. it was so much for him to get into these embarassing NH predictions

    i think the anti-establishment argument is a no starter. if you get where people like obama and hillary got, you are NOT going to be anti-establishment. look at kerry last time around, for example. hard to think of a lesser insider.

    anyway, once the establishment thing is out of the way, i dont understand your talk of issues as opposed to race and gender. race and gender are huge fuckin issue: they divide the world, they split communities, preventing them for developin and gettin along fairly and justly.

    when one looks at hillary as a woman first and foremost, one is looking at one of the longest-lasting progressive issues ever

  7. James Stanhope says:

    Speaking as a conservative Republican, it is simply nutty to vote for any candidate of any party except on the issues. The GOP is currently morally and strategically crippled by the fact that it explicitly presents itself as the White Male Christian Party, especially in the Deep South. To vote on anything but the issues is to vote for identity politics. Given how identity politics have destroyed the GOP, Democrats would be well advised to put gender on the back burner and concentrate on the issues. It’s not as though Hillary and Obama can’t make a strong case on the issues.

  8. James,

    I’m not proposing to disregard the issues. As I said, I could for example not vote for a Republican because of, say, abortion – even if she was a woman, even if all what I said above about Hillary applied to said Republican.

    I’m not even sure that this has to do with identity politics. I’m not encouraging women to vote for her; I’m encouraging everybody to vote for her on grounds of women liberation which, I think, is still a fundamental issue the world over. As you see, it is about the issues, after all.

    p.s. im not american, so i might have misunderstood what you meant by ‘identity politics’ crippling the Democratic Party as it did to the GOP. But if your example is the White Male Christian party, then I don’t think the gender vote im advocating runs that risk

  9. James Stanhope says:

    Yucca:

    I may not have fully understood your reply. The first objection that I have to your point about women’s liberation is that, in 2008, a vote on the basis of women’s liberation is merely a vote for symbolism, and it doesn’t even have much value as a symbolic vote, since a woman will inevitably be elected sooner or later to the White House. Gender is simply no longer the hurdle that it was over a generation ago. So a vote on the basis of women’s liberation doesn’t have that much value.

    A far more serious concern for me is the current psychology of too many American voters and their persistent attraction to identity politics. By “identity politics,” I don’t mean issue or policy-oriented politics (e.g., abortion, affirmative action, etc.) as much as an implicit appeal to the ethnic, class, and gender tribalism that unfortunately still influences too many American voters. So far, it is the GOP that has most exploited “tribal” voting patterns — in 1972, Senator Jesse Helms’s successful campaign to be elected as a Republican senator from North Carolina included the slogan “He’s one of us” — but by this point, in 2008, American voters in general are repeatedly voting along “tribal” lines. That’s why, in the U.S. in 2008, a vote for Hillary on the grounds of women’s liberation appeals too much to what has become a dangerously irrational element in the psychology of the American voter. It could be that I’m looking at American politics too much through the lens of voting patterns in the Deep South, where I live, where appeals to voters are almost overtly tribal in their language.

    It’s also true that the gender vote that you’re advocating does not run the immediate risk of turning the Democratic Party into a tribal party like the GOP. But as I said, it is less your proposal that I’m concerned about, than the current psychology of American voters. It’s important to keep in mind that not only Hillary’s political competitors (Jesse Jackson, Jr., speaking for Barack Obama, and William Kristol speaking for the GOP) insisted that Hillary’s “tearful moment” in New Hampshire won her the Democratic primary election, but even a spokesman for Hillary’s campaign claimed that Hillary’s “tears” in that coffee shop turned the election in her favor (in that it influenced women voters to vote for Hillary). That by itself is not too concerning, but it shouldn’t be encouraged as an electoral strategy, simply because, at this point, too many American voters are voting irrationally as it is (I’m obviously speaking from the example of certain GOP voters in the Deep South).

    I acknowledge that you’re not proposing to disregard the issues. But since Democratic candidates can, for probably nearly all voters, make a winning case on the issues, there’s no need to appeal to an issue (women’s liberation) that in the U.S. is not quite as drastically compelling as it would have been over a generation ago and at this point is mostly symbolic in value. Since the GOP since 1980 has exploited cultural issues (abortion, homophobia) that actually have no more than symbolic importance, precisely in order to distract voters from more compelling issues like economics and foreign policy, it would help Democrats not to go down the same path.

    Sorry for the long post.

  10. James,


    The first objection that I have to your point about women’s liberation is that, in 2008, a vote on the basis of women’s liberation is merely a vote for symbolism, and it doesn’t even have much value as a symbolic vote, since a woman will inevitably be elected sooner or later to the White House.

    i would not underrate the power of symbols, especially given that in this day and age the US President is not just in charge of the US, but is also the most powerful (or at least perceived as) politician in the world. there is a sense in which the US elects the world leader. and electing a woman world leader is still as significant, for the world, as it was a generation ago – even though it might be less significant in the US (which, by the way, im not even so sure about)

    on the rest: i understand your concern for identity politics. two things: as i said before, i think this concern would be more justified if hillary appealed to women in particular or used identity politics. but i dont think she is doing that. second: if anything, it is obama who’s the dem to use identity politics. so, if anything, such concern for identity politics is a reason to choose hillary over obama (obviously that does not apply to you since you are a Republican)

    i notice now that, near the end, you use ‘symbolic importance’ as opposed to ‘real or political importance’. well, i think that the election of a woman would be symbolically paramount exactly because gender discrimination is still such a politically important issue

    p.s. which Republican candidate are you supporting?

  11. James Stanhope says:

    Yucca:

    On your point that you “would not underrate the power of symbols”: I’ll simply agree to disagree on that. It could be that I’m looking at politics too much through the lens of politics in the Deep South.

    On the issue of what I called “identity politics”: So far, neither Obama nor Hillary Clinton play the identity card beyond levels that I find tolerable. So, at this point, both Obama and Hillary Clinton as individual candidates are still exempt from my concerns about identity politics. Hillary does not overplay the gender card, and so far Obama plays the identity issue very, very lightly. It would be odd if Obama did not, from time to time, allude to his race. But he doesn’t overplay it. Again, it could be that I’m projecting onto the entire country a degree of tribalism that might be valid only for the Deep South, where I live. But because of my experience with Southern politics, tribalism and symbolic politics drive me up the wall, and even a hint that voters should make a symbolic vote leaves me a little paranoid. But outside the Deep South my paranoia might not be warranted.

    On my preferred Republican candidate: If McCain is nominated, I’ll consider voting for him. I won’t vote for Giuliani because he’s been shown to be too corrupt. I wouldn’t consider voting for any other Republican. Huckabee drives me nuts. If McCain isn’t nominated, I might not vote at all.

  12. It seems to me that Obama links himself to the civil rights movement more than Hillary does with feminism. But that might just be the effect of news coverage which is full of civil rights talk and Obama being an african-american, while there is very little about feminism and Hillary being a woman (bar, i will concede, the crying thing)

    on mcain: i too think he is the best republican candidate, and the one with more chances against the Dems which, anyhow, will start the presidential race with an advantage that i think is independent from which two candidates get there.

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