Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
— BY CALLAN SHERIDAN, Class of 2017
Clinton is running for office again.
No, not him. Her.
After nearly two years of speculation, Hillary Clinton officially announced on April 12, 2015 that she would indeed be running for president of the United States in 2016.
Although there is plenty of time from now until the election, Clinton currently stands alone as an official Democratic candidate. Her competition comprises a slew of Republican candidates including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.
In her campaign announcement video, Clinton promises to be “a champion of the everyday American.” She plans to fight for a position that many still don’t see as belonging to her. While her resilience is strong, Clinton’s candidacy raises many questions for the future of American politics. What her presidency would mean for the country is a question that will only truly be answered after the fact. What her candidacy means for America is something being felt right now.
“I think she’s becoming an inspiration for a lot of younger generations, for our generation, to inspire other females to get into politics, because we are so underrepresented in the government,” says Saint Peter’s University sophomore Maria Santacruz, “Even if she doesn’t win. Like, the first time she ran against Obama it was still like, ‘whoa, look, it’s a black president and a female candidate,’ so it’s just a good inspiration for the youth. She’s changing lives.”
Saint Peter’s University student Krystal Nurse agrees. “People know that she’s a very strong powerful person…She knows how to assert her dominance if needed.”
“She can give women the voice, she can be the voice of women [when] in the office… when you actually have the president saying [something], then that means that something has to be done.”
So why has it taken so long for the United States, supposedly a country of equality, to elect a female president?
As of 2013, females made up over half of the nation’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And yet, according to a study done by FairVote’s “Representation 2020” project, women make up only 17.8% of the House of Representatives and just 20% of the Senate. That ranks the United States 95th worldwide for female representation in the national government.
This is because of the United States’ election system, according to Dr. Alain Sanders, professor of Political Science at Saint Peter’s University.
“Our election system is one that works against women, because it’s a winner-take-all system, and therefore, all kinds of prejudices and obstacles and excuses…come into such a system because you’ve got to win a majority of the people. Prime ministers, on the other hand, are not selected directly by the people. They’re selected by the legislative branch, which means they’re selected by political insiders.”
According to Sanders, countries whose leaders are elected by the “political elite” carry an advantage for women, because they only have to prove themselves to the people who matter. For example, in India, (and various government systems around the world), the prime minister is elected by the majority party of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament, which is equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“[Women] have learned to use the ropes of power just as men have. In a general election, where you’re relying on voters to get to the top job, as opposed to political insiders, there are more obstacles to overcome, and one of those obstacles is discriminatory beliefs by many people.”
Those discriminatory beliefs are not unique to the male sex. A female Texas CEO recently put forth her feelings that she does not support a female president. In a Facebook post, Cheryl Rios cited “hormones” as an issue for a woman in office, and stated that “being the president, that should be left to a man, a good, strong, honorable man.”
However, according to a recent survey done by the Pew Research Center, Americans’ willingness to see a woman in the presidency has more to do with party affiliation than gender. Sixty-nine percent of Democratic women and 46 percent of Democratic men hope the U.S. will elect a female president in their lifetime; this is compared to 20 percent of Republican women and 16 percent of Republican men who wish the same thing.
Dr. Anna Brown, professor of Political Science at Saint Peter’s University, believes the power associated with being president may change women in a negative way. She fears a woman in the face of a patriarchal society will in fact tend to be more aggressive.
“One of the things that concerns me is that in order to get to the top you have to keep repeating the same patterns of the past, and so you have to prove that you’re actually not an impish woman by waging war, or being tough on the poor, or, whatever it is that we think men need to do, ‘strong men.’”
“[What] do we expect… [that] women are more empathetic, more gentle? No, I think she’d be willing to wage a war just as much as men would be willing to wage a war. It’s not like we’re going to have balloon fights as opposed to military fights.”
The effects of a female president may not be as drastic as balloon fights, but they will be noticeable.
“I think it would change dramatically all kinds of things,” Sanders asserts. “It would change dramatically people’s perception of women and the role of women, it would change perceptively the attitude that other countries have towards our country and towards women. I think it would be very important for the symbolism and for the political policies that emerge from her.”
Christopher Flores agrees that should Clinton be elected, a new perspective will be shone on women. “From a historical standpoint, I think it’s pretty amazing to have a female candidate who has an actual chance of becoming president. I think people would see that women could actually be leaders and successful leaders.”
So will she win?
“If things look the way they do now, which is a big if, because lots of things can happen between now and November 2016…there’s a volatile Middle East, there’s still all kinds of political issues that need to be debated and argued…but assuming the framework doesn’t change dramatically, I think she is the favorite,” says Sanders
“Looking at all the candidates that say they’re running for president, I think she’s the most progressive choice in terms of women’s rights, gay rights, immigration reform. She has some points that I don’t agree with, but, out of all of them, she’s probably the best choice,” said Santacruz.
Win or lose, Hillary Clinton is certainly making waves in every aspect of American life. Her campaign and involvement in the political world marks historical steps for women everywhere.