Leading from the Left

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2008: Will My Grandmother be Proved Right?

I'm wondering if my grandmother's prediction--made in the early 1980's--will come true....

Tonight is the Iowa caucus, and the most recent polls show Barack Obama with momentum and moving into the lead. While it's a tight race, and any of the three front runners could conceivably win, a third place finish seems possible for presumed front runner Clinton.

I've been troubled the past few months by statements I've heard from liberal women, women who might be considered feminists. Too many of them have described Hillary to me in, frankly, sexist terms: "too ambitious," "too conniving," and "power-hungry." Honestly, the women I know have been far harsher about Hillary than men. What's that about? Why are otherwise forward-thinking women describing Hillary in terms that harken back to the pre-feminist era?

Let's cut to the chase, by definition someone running for president is ambitious. Really, would a male candidate be described as 'too ambitious?' What male presidential candidate would be described as 'power-hungry?' We assume men running for president or other high office want power, and we don't fault them for it. Without power a leader can't implement his or her agenda: health care reform, ending the war, tax relief, addressing climate change.

A good leader, in a democratic republic, understands that power is pursued for a purpose, and that purpose is to do the will of the people. An objective reading of the three leading Democratic candidates should lead one to believe that all three are pursuing power and the office of the presidency because they want to implement changes to improve the country and the lives of average Americans.

So why, in the year 2008, do so many otherwise thoughtful women apply a different standard to a female candidate than they do a male? Why is a male, one term former Senator like John Edwards thought of as driven and strong, while Hillary is described as "power hungry?" Why is she viewed by some as "too ambitious" while a male Senator in the middle of his first term in office--Barack Obama--is just thought of as pursing his goals as a public servant?

I don't know the answer to these questions. But I recalled last week a statement my grandmother (a feminist through-and-through)made to me back when I was in my late teens. She said "I believe we'll elect a black man as president before we elect a woman." She may have understood something about racism and feminism that I, even today, don't fully appreciate. I guess I'm about to find out if she was right.