Flowers: Candidate’s qualifications, not gender, are most important (column)
Special to the Daily
You know what I really resent? I resent it when someone tells me I should vote for — or support, or give a pass to — someone because it will be a “historic moment.”
In 2008, we were told a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for hope, change and a balancing of the playing field. The idea of electing the first black president was an intoxicating prospect for many, which is exactly why so many voted for the first-term senator from Illinois.
That would be the case with Hillary Clinton, this year’s flavor of historic. As in 2008, we are faced with the possibility of finally putting a woman in the Oval Office. There is something equally momentous about saying “Madame President” as there was about saying “Mr. First Black President.”
Just because I happen to be a conservative who shrinks in horror from the limiting label of “feminist,” I would still be delighted to see a woman head our government. Many other countries, including some actual democracies, have placed women in positions of supreme authority. My favorite is Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, but Israel’s Golda Meir comes in a very close second, tied with Germany’s Angela Merkel for my affections. The list continues, with Indira Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Corazon Aquino and Benazir Bhutto who, if you paid attention, was the prime minister of a Muslim country.
So, yes, it would be wonderful to have a woman take the oath of office in January. Not necessarily this January, but some future January. However, the idea that a candidate’s gender is an over-riding factor in deciding whether she’s qualified strikes me as ignorant.
In fact, it stinks.
Recently, the Philadelphia Daily News endorsed a particular candidate for U.S. Senate because she was a woman. Gender appears to be the factor that tipped the scale in the assessment: “We favor (Katie) McGinty for the biggest difference she would bring. She would help alter the serious gender gap in the Senate, where only 20 of the 100 members are female. And if you think that doesn’t matter or that we’re reaching for empty gestures of political correctness, we invite you to review the battles Congress has initiated over Planned Parenthood and women’s access to reproductive health care, including birth control.”
I picture myself in office, and I know I would fight Planned Parenthood like a warrior if given the chance. I am a woman, and I don’t think that having a uterus makes me a natural ally of abortion rights, which is what most progressives mean when they talk about reproductive health care.
Gender is a very poor barometer of how someone will vote, and it is insulting to believe that women vote in a bloc, just as it is insulting to suggest that all African-Americans support affirmative action or that all Latinos favor immigration reform.
With the Pennsylvania primary on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton has been in the state, fueling her campaign with that combustible gasoline that threatens to burn down (not “Bern” down) the patriarchy. She dismisses her critics as misogynists, even though she’s very skillful about not using that precise word. She simply talks about how important it is to empower women.
Except she’s not talking to women like me. That’s why this idea that we need to support her because of her gender is offensive, just as it is offensive to think that McGinty is unique because she has a vagina. Why should I vote for someone who looks like me when she represents every-thing I reject?
Grand, dramatic gestures are great when Tony Curtis makes them, but not at the polls.
There might be reasons to vote for Clinton, although I certainly can’t figure out what they are. There are many women who have portfolios as impressive (Elizabeth Warren on one end, Condoleezza Rice on the other), but who don’t have her baggage.
And I’m not talking Fendi.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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