Here’s Why I’m Hoping Hillary Can Pull It Off

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Hillary Clinton in Lorain, Ohio, during 2008 presidential campaign

Credit: Rona Proudfoot on Flickr, under Creative Commons

Hillary Clinton in Lorain, Ohio, during 2008 presidential campaign

(WOMENSENEWS)– My fingers are crossed and my questions will remain unanswered for now.

Maybe Hillary can pull it off and become the first female president of the United States and, if she does, how good will that be for U.S. women?

Hillary Rodham Clinton and I are of the same age, born months apart. I interviewed her for the first time in 1991, when I was a reporter for the National Law Journal and she was one of three spouses of presidential candidates who were also attorneys. I reached her at the Children’s Defense Fund, where she was chair of the board. A fan of the fund, I was delighted that a potential First Lady knew so much about poverty.

I have followed the arc of her career since and have been deeply disappointed and elated at different moments in the last quarter-century. In fact, I hoped against all reason that she would decide not to run for the presidency of the United States.

Her pluses are plain to see. She actually has a good chance of winning and we would have a female chief of state. Yeehaw!

She is a name brand candidate with strong financial backing who, it is expected, will boost women’s turnout in the 2016 general election, always a good thing for Democrats.

At the 1995 international women’s rights conference in Beijing she made headlines by declaring "women’s rights are human rights" and throughout her tenure as secretary of state she incorporated that stance in her global work. She went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to address the extraordinary level of violence against women in that enduring civil conflict. To raise the profile of women’s rights globally, she also appointed Melanne Verveer as the first U.S. ambassador for global women’s issues.

Does Her Homework

She always does her homework. When she ran for the Senate in New York State, she undertook a "listening tour" and became the first New York Senate candidate to visit every county. When she served in the Senate, she quickly developed a reputation for working "across the aisle" and reaching agreements with leading Republicans, as well as Democrats who did not agree with her.

My reservations are her apparent unwillingness to articulate a strong women’s rights agenda for the U.S. in her campaigns to date.

The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developing nations which is directly tied to the lack of quality reproductive health care. Women are still clustered in low-wage jobs, violence against women shows no sign of abating and HIV-AIDS is a major women’s disease, just to highlight a few items.

I am also a little skeptical of her promise to unstack the deck for the top 1 percent in wealth and champion "everyday" Americans. I wonder whom she has in mind and if that includes single mothers, the poorest of the poor?

And there is the doctrine of unintended consequences. The U.S. election of an African-American did not prove we did not have a race problem. Far from it. By raising expectations, Barak Obama’s election may have opened the door for this generation to challenge the institutional racial bias throughout our nation. It is quite possible if Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the primary and general elections, this generation of women will become even more energized to change the status quo. But who knows what impact it will have?

Finally, having lived through the Republican-led attacks on her when she was First Lady, I am confident that she will be even more of a target of vitriolic, unceasing and often wildly untrue allegations. Frankly, I would hate to see her go through that again. And we know how she reacts to criticism: She shuts down. That may be what her advisers push for, but as a journalist and a big fan of transparency, I believe it is poor policy.

I have a motto: It won’t be as good as we hope or as bad as we fear. I am betting that Clinton’s candidacy will provide all us lots of good and heaps of bad.

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