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96 years ago, Americans wrote women’s right to vote into our Constitution. Last night, a woman finally won the Presidential nomination of a major political party.
It has taken that long. Perhaps no form of polity better preserves the customs of a people more effectively than universal suffrage democracy. We have it, and if you examine voting patterns, you quickly see that America’s political sentiments have barely changed at all since after the Civil War. The two parties have almost completely exchanged constituencies, but the divisions of 1896, for example, are the same divisions today. Thus it is that no Black candidate won the Presidency until 133 years after the adoption of Civil Rights Amendments. Likewise, 96 years stand between women achieving the vote and staking a major Presidential nomination.
Yet the America that Hillary Clinton seeks to lead has more female voters than male : 52 percent, enough to claim victory, were gender the only factor. My own view is that the three women who now dominate American political discourse — Elizabeth warren, Michelle Obama, and Mrs. Clinton — would merit their dominance even if women were a minority of voters; leading the majority, however, their three voices command every voter’s attention.
So what do Clinton, Warren, and Obama want ? Because what they want, we are very likely to get :
First, all three are Democrats. There are significant women in the Republican party — Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina comes to mind — but none yet dominates the nation.
Second, all three women embrace the America of today and tomorrow : civil rights for gay people and transgender, reproductive rights for women, respect for languages and cultures (call it “e pluribus unum,” a phrase that ought to find its way into our coinage) and for the immigrants who come to us in many such guises; an America of pay equity in which every working person can spend into the discretionary economy and in which people living o9n the margins need not feel marginalized; an America where excellent education for all kids is a priority for the Federal government as well as local jurisdictions.
Third, a nation that refuses to tolerate health care denials; that values healthy lives in the workplace; that sees addiction as a health issue, not a criminal doing.
Fourth, the principles of motherhood and sisterhood : love before hate, caring before you’re-on-your-own, fierce defenses of home and community, a hatred of violence and weaponry, an understanding that togetherness is strength, not cowardice.
Lastly, the three women’s dominance represents on behalf of other constituencies in America who feel less than fully listened to : people of color, Hispanic voters, immigrants from all nations, low-wage workers, the uninsured; the homeless and the addict in recovery.
You may disagree with these positions and be skeptical of these values, but they cannot be denied or dismissed as not relevant. At last !
As the three women hold major values in common, so they voice them very differently. Senator Warren is the forensic accuser, a female Charles Sumner (whose Massachusetts Senate seat she holds) as single-minded about financial abuses as Sumner was about slavery. Michelle Obama avatars world-wide women’s rights, with eloquence and elegance, just as did her predecessor First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Clinton is the tough, resolute, manipulative politico, a female version of Richard Nixon (who, as most of us fo9rgfet,k was one of the most effective, liberal Republican presidents ever as well as a foreign policy innovator).
I can’t think of a single male politician right now, other than the outgoing President, Barack Obama, who thus dominates the nation’s political future, although I can think of one who seeks loudly to stop it from happening.
This is not to say that America does not have, or value, male politicians with much of the future in their hands. Several Senators and Governors come to mind, even a few mayors, and a couple dozen Congressmen. Yet for now, the future shape of America is being voiced, and thus molded, by a trio of outstanding political women. Of whom the Democratic nominee for President is the one we’re all now paying attention to.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere