‘I’m in and I’m in to win,’ said New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton last week, announcing the formation of a presidential exploratory committee for the 2008 presidential election. Her long-anticipated entry into the presidential campaign could make her the first female president in the nation’s history and the only former first lady to follow her husband to the White House.
Her announcement was strategically timed to come shortly before President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address in order to offer a contrast to the administration’s poor record. One must also wonder if the fact that Barack Obama announced the formation of his presidential exploratory committee just three days earlier had compelled Clinton to do the same.
It seems that almost everyone has a very strong opinion either for or against Clinton. In order to decide if she would be a good or bad candidate, one must look at her history. Her track record as first lady was both successful and controversial, and her recent years in the Senate have also brought her into the limelight.
The thing is, whether you love or hate her, it’s hard to deny that she has come a long way and learned a lot about politics since her first few years as first lady. She was put in charge of former President Bill Clinton’s Task Force on National Health Care Reform in 1993. The plan to offer universal health care to all Americans seemed like a good idea, but conservatives, along with the insurance industry, successfully campaigned against it. Sometimes referred to as ‘Hillary Care,’ this attempt at major health care reform was shot down by Congress in 1994 and never reached the floor for a vote. When both houses lost their Democratic majority to the Republicans in 1996, all hope was lost for another attempt, and many blamed Hillary.
Though she took part in many nonpolitical activities as first lady, controversy soon caught up to her. In 1996, she became the first first lady to be subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in connection with the Whitewater affair (for which she never faced criminal charges), among other legal battles.
Yet Hillary fought on, supporting women’s rights and children’s issues. She was one of the few international figures at the time who spoke out against the treatment of Afghani women by the Islamist fundamentalist Taliban that had seized control of Afghanistan. One of the programs she helped create was Vital Voices, a United States-sponsored initiative to promote the participation of women worldwide in their nations’ political processes.
She was by far the strongest and most active first lady in many years. That being said, there’s a long way to go from first lady or senator to president. Although I hold nothing against her, I do not believe America is ready for her to become president. The biggest reason for this is that she comes with a lot of baggage.
First and foremost, she is a woman. This isn’t sexist, it’s just a plain fact. There are many who would not trust our country in the hands of a woman no matter how politically strong she is. Women face the stereotypes of being emotional and unable to make strong decisions. The next biggest issue is that she would come into her office with Bill by her side. Even though he was a strong president in many ways, he had controversies of his own. There is no doubt that if Hillary were to become president, her husband would play a large role in the White House as well. There are a lot of people out there who couldn’t stand Bill Clinton being back in the White House.
As a U.S. senator, she has been known to keep a low public profile. But to show as a strong candidate, she has to be personable. She isn’t a great speaker, and this works against her. She will walk a thin line between making the effort to build a good reputation as a strong political figure and not being seen as an overly emotional.
Her biggest opponents for the Democratic nomination are Obama, John Edwards, who gained a lot of support as John Kerry’s running mate in 2004 and Dennis Kucinich, who had the second-highest number of votes at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Though she has a lot working against her, Hillary still has a shot at nailing the Democratic nomination. In order to prove herself ready for the presidency, Hillary has to be more careful than ever. She has to finish her term strong, taking part in any issues she can in order to show the American people her stance on the biggest issues today. She must also be careful to stay away from the stereotype of the emotional woman.
Whoever follows Bush in the Oval Office will surely face quite a struggle trying to clean up the mess that his administration has made. The next president will have to handle not only the Iraq War, but also things like Social Security, the economy and privacy issues. Hillary Clinton might think she is ready to take these on, but America is not ready for a female president. She can either accept it, or fight it. As a woman, I hope she fights this stereotype, because a win from her would definitely change this county in many, many ways.
Priya Arora is a first-year psychology and social behavior major.
Filed Under: Opinion