Saturday, January 9, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Election

A little bit of context

     My father lived to see the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 but not in 2007.  My mother, my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, did not.  They were fans of varying degrees.  For completion, the Sox also won in 2013. 
When my husband and I were planning our wedding forty-five years ago, we wanted to have a rabbi and a priest conduct a joint service.  It didn't happen.  Turns out the Catholics had eased up but the Jews had clamped down.  I do understand this but that's not my topic.  One rabbi wrote in his response to my letter (45 yrs ago, email not so much, long distance calls expensive) that I should reconsider the marriage because a house divided against itself cannot long stand.  Well, yeah but here we are and we've only had one semi-major disagreement in all those years.  This topic is not one of them although some other family members will not be pleased with my bottom line.

My Historical Perspective

     I was pleased when we had our first non-Protestant president.   For those too young and not memorizing for Jeopardy, that was John  F Kennedy, a Catholic.   I was pleased when we had our first non-white president.  I was excited when we had a Jewish candidate and I'll be excited when we have a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim candidate.  But, to give you an idea where I'm heading, consider who makes up fifty per cent of the population of the country and of the planet!
     The first presidential election of which I was aware of was either 1952 or 1956 - Eisenhower vs Stevenson.  I may have had an "I like Ike!" button although I have no idea where I got it.  Sometime after college, I learned more about Adlai and have come to realize that I am a Stevenson Democrat.  I shocked one of my sisters when I finally could register [ah the sagas of not changing my name upon marriage], that I registered not as the traditional Heller Independent in Massachusetts nor it's pseudo-equivalent declines-to-state in California, but rather as a Democrat.  I expect anyone who pays attention to my writing had figured that out long ago!

The Candidates in my Lifetime

     In 1972, Shirley Chisholm ran for the Democratic candidacy. She didn't get anywhere near the support she ought to have received.   But she was the first woman and the first African American to run in a major political party.  In her several terms in Congress, she accomplished much.  Look her up on Wikipedia.  Here, I'm making it easy for you Shirley Chisholm

     The 1972 election had other significance.  I remember the Watergate story.  I know that it had "gate" at the end because that was the name of the building where the break-in occurred.  I know the song Arlo Guthrie considered writing and the one he actually did write.  I know that to a degree we did see Richard Nixon again.  And to be thorough, our first cats, Galileo and Archimedes cheered from the window sill when Nick and I went and danced in the parking lot when he resigned
     And more importantly, I know who was the hero (or as I'm fond of saying shero) of the hearings.  Barbara Jordan was an amazing congresswoman from Texas who sounded like she came from Boston.  She went to college there.  Here's her link on Wikipedia, Barbara Jordan - a lot of firsts.  She was elected to Congress in 1972.  She had a deep commanding voice and she cut through all the nonsense.  I heard her speak at a Brandeis graduation in 1976.  And I thought, oh wow, she could and should be president.  Alas, it was not to be.  She left politics, as I recall in part for health.  I was heartbroken.

     In 1984 - oops, minor tangent.  George Orwell named the book 1984 because he wrote it in 1948 and that sounded far enough away.  I think we all might take another or a first look because in some ways, he was right!
     In 1984,  Geraldine Ferraro, ran for vice-president when Walter Mondale ran for president.  Typical of the sexism that still exists in this country, the other presidential candidates wife (!) felt obligated to make public comments referring to Ferraro as a word "which rhymes with witch."    Again, read the bio, she was totally qualified, firsts, all that.  I was happy.

The Twenty-First Century

      By 2007 (it was a good year in many ways), I was well into my rather well-known obsession with the 1000plus mile dog race, the Iditarod.  When Lance Mackey won, they handed him the phone and said the governor wants to congratulate you.  Lance said something like, oh I can talk to him.  I was aware of the error but not the actual woman.   Sarah Palin was the youngest person and first woman to be elected governor of Alaska.  I've been there enough and know enough of the politics to realize how big that was.  A combination of factors, including sexism, got into her vice-presidential candidacy and I was disappointed. 

     So we come to eight years ago.   I was thrilled when Hilary Clinton entered the race.  I was torn when Barack Obama also entered.   It hasn't been fun waiting to see which would be stronger sexism or racism.   I am not surprised but do remain distressed about the amount of sexism surrounding  Hilary and the amount of racism surrounding the First Family.  While President Obama wasn't my first choice, he was my second.


     There are several reasons why I'm supporting Hillary Clinton.  She and I are both front edge Baby Boomers.  We graduated from small liberal arts colleges less than ten miles apart in the same year, probably the same month.   I know what challenges women like us faced growing up, I know what changes we've lived through and I know what we can accomplish.  POTUS needs to know how to get things done and she's learned that, often the hard way.  
     The President of the United States can get our country into war.  I want someone who will think long and carefully before doing that.  Someone who knows how the world works.  Secretary of State is a great qualifier for that.  I want someone who will calmly weigh the options, speak calmly, not get excited easily.  And a gentle sense of humor helps too!

   Susan B Anthony, another of my sheroes, tried unsuccessfully to vote in the 1872 presidential election, 100 years before I've started this saga.  She died before the nineteenth amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution.    A few days before she died, she said,  "There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!"

      I've heard that younger women do want a woman president and expect to see it in their lifetimes and are waiting for someone else.  Like Susan, I know that it will happen.  But,  I don't know exactly how much time I have left and  I've been waiting long enough.  I want a woman president now!    And that woman should be  Hillary R. Clinton. 
© 2016 Esther A. Heller