A beautiful thing happened on the way to a 2008 Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton obtained the feminist dream: She was treated equally.
Hillary may want you to believe something else. Commentators, Clinton supporters, maybe even John McCain will beg to differ.
It’s true that she wore yellow and got grief for it — but I promise you that if John McCain or Barack Obama show up somewhere in yellow pantsuits, they, too, will hear about it.
Women are different. Women look different. Women act different. But if a woman works as hard as any man, she can win the popular vote. She can be a viable candidate. She can even lose. (As Rush Limbaugh put it on Tuesday: “How can women demand a woman winner when they can’t tolerate a woman loser?”) These are beautiful things.
Carly Fiorina, once with Hewlett-Packard, now with the Republican National Committee, is more into victimhood, however. She told Portfolio’s Matt Cooper: “I have a lot of sympathy for what she’s gone through. A lot of women recognize she’s been treated differently, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.”
John McCain, now leader of the Republican party, thinks the v-word is what the women want, too. In his speech in New Orleans Tuesday night, he said: “As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach.”
Even some of my National Review Online colleagues might say the same. Lisa Schiffren, writing on “The Corner” Tuesday night, echoed Senator McCain.
But I have to tell you: When I was a ten-year-old girl a few decades ago, I wanted to be president of the United States. Parents who loved me, the example of George Washington and 30-some other, yes, men, and an elementary-school knowledge of the United States Constitution, worked for me. They were Americans. I am an American. Feminists may have been whining in the background for an equal-rights amendment but the Bill of Rights already seemed to have it all covered.
This would all just be silly and irrelevant if it didn’t hit at a core confidence problem in American politics today. When John Roberts was nominated to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, Colorado senator Ken Salazar wrote a letter of protest to President Bush. The freshman Democrat complained: “You and I both have two daughters. The profound message we should be giving to them is that their gender creates no limitations for them to live up to their God-given potential. Yet, I fear that with the loss of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor from the United States Supreme Court, we are sending the opposite message.”
If you did not shake your head, roll your eyes, laugh, or sigh, please read that again.
We live in the greatest nation in the world. Barack Obama doesn’t have to become the Democratic nominee or president of the United States for that to be the case.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t have to prevail for this to be a great nation for women to live in (ask the non-driving Saudi women, or sharia-suffering Iranians, or . . . if you have any doubts).
Many commentators, from MSNBC to NRO, praised the historic moment that happened Tuesday night. But we didn’t need Tuesday night. The opportunities were already there.
We need presidents who know it is precisely because we are a nation of talented people that we don’t need to pander with patronizing quotas.
We don’t need faux pioneers like Hillary Clinton. In her 2000 book, The Hillary Trap, Laura Ingraham wrote of Hillary Clinton: “If you think Hillary Clinton is a pioneer, if you think Hillary is a political genius, if you think Hillary is an innovator, you have been drawn into one big Clinton con job.” Ingraham wrote, “She wanted to be seen as the strong, assertive, mature feminist, but she advocated policies that were guaranteed to keep women as dependent on government, unions, and even the United Nations — as she was on Bill.”
We don’t need faux pioneers like Barack Obama. Tell me he’s a pioneer when he meets with Ward Connerly and embraces his Civil Rights Initiative movement, a successful effort to undo the damage big-government patronizing has done to civil rights. Tell me he’s a pioneer when he talks about the importance of the damage the welfare state has done in urban America, to the family. Tell me he’s a pioneer when he talks about protecting marriage. Tell me he’s a pioneer when he talks about the effects of abortion on blacks in America.
Americans need to be confident in American greatness — with its exceptional promise and opportunities. Hope is here, it’s not contingent on an Obama win in November. We need leaders who share this confidence — leaders who don’t need Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to make them believe.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.