Chelsea Clinton thinks America should elect her mother president because she’s a woman, or at least that’s what I gather from the former First Kid’s interview with Elle Magazine. As Chelsea explained, “[W]hen you ask about the importance of having a woman president, absolutely it’s important, for, yes, symbolic reasons — symbols are important…[O]ne of our core values in this country is that we are the land of equal opportunity, but when equal hasn’t yet included gender, there is a fundamental challenge there that, I believe, having our first woman president — whenever that is— will help resolve.”
Yeah, “whenever that is.” Translation: Vote for my mom because she’s a chick and it’s getting a little embarrassing that we haven’t had one of those in the Oval Office yet.
As campaign slogans go, it’s a dud; but I’ll give her an “A” for effort because I see what she’s doing and it’s really quite clever. She’s setting the tone for the next presidential election, making it about gender when it should really be about issues. Her mother employed very much the same tactic in 2008 when she tried to make her seemingly inevitable election into a historic “first” for women. Her hopes were dashed when a (half) black guy hijacked the oppression narrative and ran away with the nomination. His blackness trumped her femininity.
What Clinton was trying to do in 2008 was to demonstrate what a hard row she had to hoe with all of those sexist men out there trying to preserve the presidency as a boys’ club. In New Hampshire, a group of supposed male chauvinists heckled her with shouts of “Iron my shirt!” Without missing a beat, Clinton retorted, “Ah, the remnants of sexism—alive and well,” which elicited cheers from the crowd. After the applause had died down, she added: “As I think has just been abundantly demonstrated, I am also running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling.”
You go, girl!
How convenient it was to have a few foot soldiers in the #waronwomen right there in the audience to illustrate her point. Almost too convenient. A New York Daily News reporter followed the two hecklers, later revealed to be Nick Gemelli and Adolfo Gonzalez, to their cars. Shockingly, Gemelli’s ride sported a “Hillary for President” bumper sticker, which he was at a loss to explain. The two young men were actually interns at a Boston radio station and they passed the incident off as some kind of radio prank.
Gemelli and Gonzalez were obviously plants. The whole thing was stage-managed to make Hillary Clinton appear to be a feminist warrior battling heroically against the forces of reactionary sexism.
Which is what these electoral “firsts” are always about. They are products manufactured by campaigns and marketed by the news media. If that sounds kind of redundant it’s because the media and the Democratic Party are so interwoven that they sometimes appear to be the same thing.
Allow me to explain how electoral “firsts” work. The modus operandi here is for the media to constantly harp on the fact that their preferred candidate suffers a handicap because he or she is different, which naturally requires them to malign America as a very dark place, full of sexism, racism, this “-ism,” and that “-ism.” Then the media ask if we’re “ready” for someone who’s a little different to serve in a particular office.
The implication is that if the media’s preferred candidate is rejected at the polls then only the residual prejudices of yesteryear can be blamed. As an added bonus, it also forces the opposing candidate’s supporters to constantly explain that they aren’t motivated by bigotry.
I’ve noticed that the media’s concern for “firsts” seems a little lacking when the “first” is a Republican. Considering the media’s fixation on race and racism, it’s a little odd that they aren’t more interested in the one and a half Hispanics now running for president—Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. But they’re Republicans, and while I fully expect the media soon to ask if they’re too brown for the GOP, they will never portray either of them as racial trailblazers struggling against bigotry the way Obama was portrayed during his two presidential campaigns.
Why not? Isn’t our willingness to elect people of various backgrounds the yardstick by which we measure progress? Oh, that depends.
In 2008, the media asked if America was too racist to elect a black president but we elected one despite the fact that he couldn’t assemble a coherent sentence without a teleprompter. So America has been acquitted, right? Not so fast. In 2012, the media asked if America was too racist to reelect a black president.
Did they miss 2012’s other potential electoral “first”? We had never had a Mormon in the White House, and still haven’t. So where was the pressure campaign to elect a Mormon?
Apples and oranges, some will say, because Mormons haven’t endured quite the same suffering in this country as blacks. Okay. Of course, Mormons were never enslaved but they were forcibly driven from a few US states and it was legal to murder them in Missouri until 1976. But let’s not lose focus on the more important question—which group faces a steeper climb to elected office?
Mormons, hands down. Blacks have already demonstrated that they will vote as an enthusiastic bloc for any black Democrat, including the crack-smoking Marion Berry for crying out loud. Also, there are more blacks in the US than there are Mormons in the entire world. Mormons also face more prejudice among the electorate. A 2007 Gallup poll found that only five percent of Americans said that they would categorically oppose any black candidate, while 24 percent said they would never vote for a Mormon. A 2012 poll found that the percentage opposed to Mormons had fallen by two percentage points. Opposition to Mormon candidates is therefore four to five times greater than opposition to black candidates.
Granted, some voters might be too reticent to openly admit their racism, but that raises another question—why do people feel comfortable telling a pollster that they would never vote for a Mormon but feel too much embarrassment to admit the same thing about a black candidate? Could it be that prejudice against Mormons is socially acceptable? I say yes.
These silly games we play with “firsts” are really the worst kind of politics. If we want to realize the country that Chelsea Clinton claims to want—one in which equal opportunity is the rule—we have to dispense with all of the stupid jockeying for victimhood. Look at how shameless it’s become—Hillary Clinton actually perpetrated a hoax against herself to make it appear that she, a political titan, was actually the lovable underdog, and for no other reason than because she’s a woman. The proper way to create the equal opportunity that Chelsea Clinton claims to want is to make elections about issues rather than race or gender.