Despite defeat, Clinton broke the ‘glass ceiling’
by RUSS STEWART
By losing the election, Hillary Clinton conclusively debunked the enduring political myth of the "glass ceiling," which posits that America will not elect a woman to high office, especially to the presidency.
In her concession speech Clinton lamented that there won’t be a woman president, apologized for not breaking the ceiling, and predicted that it would be broken one day soon. Clinton is wrong. America in 2016 clearly had the opportunity to elect a woman as president, as opposed to a "woman president," and voters decided that Clinton was not to be that president. Clinton lost because she was Clinton, not because of her gender, and not because of some glass ceiling.
Clinton is right that a woman will be elected president "one day soon," with "soon" meaning 2020 if the Trump Administration is a failure, but 2024, 2028 or even later if it’s not. Clinton spent her entire adult life aspiring to the presidency, and her ambition crystallized in 1992 when Bill Clinton was elected and she became the first lady. She created her own identity when she became a New York senator in 2000 and revived the Clinton network and money machine in 2008, but she blew it to Barack Obama, became secretary of state, and then spent 4 years running for president, raising $1 billion. That’s 24 years of her life building credibility and an aura of inevitability.
The media and her advisers fueled that aura. Political strategists and prognosticators are simplistic, lazy, uninquisitive and unchallenging of the norm, and they believe that what they read is what will occur. The media create what is called "conventional wisdom," and the political elites expect it to happen. The "rule of white men" is over in America, pompously proclaimed film director Michael Moore, that great oracle of political insight. (Moore now blames "angry white men" for Clinton’s defeat and says that he "saw it coming." Sure.) After 8 years of an African-American president and the perceived clamoring of female Baby Boomers for a woman in the White House in their lifetime, Clinton’s election was thought to be inevitable. They concluded that the time was ripe for a female president and that 2016 would be another "Year of the Woman," like 1992. The "Clinton Nation" was about to emerge. That didn’t happen, and 2016 was the "Year of the White Male."
As the 2016 election cycle began, there were six women as governors, 20 as senators and 80 as U.S. representatives. That’s 12 percent, 20 percent and 18.3 percent, respectively. After Nov. 8 there are five women as governors (which will drop to four in 2017 when Nikki Haley of South Carolina becomes the United Nations ambassador), 21 as senators, and 76 as U.S. representatives. That’s stagnation, not progress. The much hyped "women’s vote," which Clinton was supposed to ignite and spur to the polls and which supposedly longed for a female president, and who presumably would vote for every other woman on the ballot, didn’t materialize.
In fact, according to exit polls, lots of white women voted for Donald Trump and for white male congressional Republicans. By a margin of at least 55-45 percent, white women rejected the notion that they should vote for a woman because she’s a woman and rejected Clinton and, by extrapolation, Obama. White men went for Trump by about 62-38 percent, and some of that vote probably was misogynistic. Minority women, especially black women, went almost unanimously for Clinton because she represented Obama’s third term and would continue his income-redistributionist policies, not because of her gender.
In statewide races, where it was a Republican man versus a Democratic woman, the female candidates faltered, losing Senate races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina, the governor’s race in Vermont, and the Senate primary in Maryland. The only victories by women, where Clinton’s candidacy had an effect, were in the Illinois and Nevada Senate races. That was not much different from 2014, when Democratic women lost to Republican men in the Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky Senate contests, for governor in Massachusetts, Texas and Wisconsin, and in the Democratic Pennsylvania governor primary.
There were 15 selected 2016 man-versus-woman U.S. House races, in which feminist special interest political action committees and the pro-choice EMILY’s List invested heavily. The Republican man won in the following districts: Colorado’s 4th, Maine’s 2nd, Iowa’s 1st and 3rd, New York’s 1st, 19th and 24th, Kansas’ 3rd, Michigan’s 7th and 8th, Minnesota’s 2nd, Pennsylvania’s 16th and Wisconsin’s 6th. That’s 12, or 80 percent. Only in Delaware’s at large seat, Florida’s 7th and New Hampshire’s 2nd did a Democratic woman beat a man.
The paucity of women holding congressional seats outside the East Coast, New England and the West Coast is remarkable. For example, there are a combined 47 House districts in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all politically marginal states, of which 34 are held by Republicans — all white men. Of the 18 Pennsylvanians, none are women and 13 are Republicans, and there is one black Democrat. Of the 16 Ohioans, three are women (two black) and 12 are Republicans. Of the 13 Michiganders, two are women (one black) and nine are Republicans, and there is one black male Democrat. Three of Illinois’ 18 members are women.
Why did that happen? The enduring excuse is that they are not politically ambitious enough, that they don’t start a political career young enough, or that they are not independently wealthy enough. In short, few women resolve in their 20s or early 30s to make politics their lifelong career. They are more focused on their family or their business career.
There is, in the jargon of politics, a "bench." That means that state and local party organizations recruit, groom, elect and promote viable candidates. Someone wins a municipal or county office and then runs for the state legislature, then runs for Congress and then for senator, or moves from the legislature to lower statewide office such as attorney general, treasurer or lieutenant governor, then governor. It’s a long, risky process, requiring great patience and even greater luck, and "bench time" is obligatory. In short, men "play the game" earlier, longer and, arguably, better. There are more men on the bench.
Of course, not everyone comes off the bench. There are wealthy lawyers, farmers and business entrepreneurs who can self-fund and who don’t need the party (or are needed by the party). There are those with military, clergy or medical backgrounds or who are media celebrities with built-in name non-political networks, and there are the operatives, 20-something guys who work almost 24/7 during campaigns and who want to eventually succeed their bosses.
A role model for women is Tammy Duckworth, Illinois’ new senator. She was born in Thailand, settled in Illinois, joined the Army Reserve/Illinois National Guard, where she served from 1991 to 2014, was deployed to Afghanistan, and lost part of three limbs when her helicopter was shot down. She was recruited by Dick Durbin to run for Congress in 2006 and lost, but she then got a state job, a federal job in Washington and a congressional district made for her in 2012, and then moved up the Senate in November. She had her first baby in 2014, at age 46. How many women want to go through that?
In 2018, female Republican governors in Oklahoma and New Mexico will be termed out, but a woman could win in Minnesota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine.
Here’s a scouting report on the Democratic female presidential bench, in no particular order:
Ellen Warren, Massachusetts senator, age 67 . . . the scourge of Wall Street and banks . . . former law professor . . . heir to Bernie Sanders’ leftist coalition . . . advocates major income redistribution and more taxes on wealthy . . . not charismatic but very credible . . . would be last candidate of Baby Boomer generation . . . 2020 candidacy a near certainty, but needs Trump presidency to be polarizing and an economic failure.
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York senator, age 53 . . . totally unknown . . . liberal but not a firebrand . . . occupant of Clinton’s seat since 2009 and faces re-election in 2018, so can’t spend 4 years campaigning nationwide . . . biggest impediment is Governor Andrew Cuomo, who wants to run in 2020 and who would corral New York support and money . . . great future.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Miami congresswoman, age 50 . . . was Democratic chairman, so has nationwide contacts and pipeline into Jewish donor base . . . articulate, good on television . . . was Democrats’ attack dog during 2014-15 . . . really wants to be U.S. House speaker, but Nancy Pelosi won’t quit . . . presidential run, if unsuccessful, would enhance future options . . . party insider and prolific fund raiser . . . despised by Sanders’ crowd for her pro-Clinton bias.
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator, age 56 . . . lawyer . . . was on Obama short list for next U.S. Supreme Court appointment, which won’t happen if she has to wait until mid-2020s . . . a presidential race would position her for vice president, but only if a man were nominated.
Others include senators Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is lesbian and who would attract money from the gay community, and Maria Cantwell of Washington.
Women of the future include Kamala Harris, a San Francisco liberal just elected California’s senator with 63 percent of the vote, and Gwen Graham, the daughter of a Florida senator and governor who is running for governor in 2018.
Democratic men for 2020 include Cuomo, the New York governor since 2010, and Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Watch Booker, the former black mayor of Newark who talks like a Republican on crime and school choice but who appeals to black voters who dominate Democratic primaries. The 2020 election looms as a replay of 2008, with Warren in the role of Clinton. Identity politics, meaning race, always trumps ideological politics in a Democratic primary.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.