Today, Hillary Clinton is expected to call in her presidential candidacy from a plane flying from New York to Iowa. Social media will carry the main thrust of the news. This is an intentionally silent announcement and I, for one, am grateful for this nod to our collective sensibilities. Having watched both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul deliver announcement speeches that were so cloying it made me sink into my TV chair with embarrassment, I think it shows more grace to have a quietly dignified announcement. Hillary has had us dangling for years, so I think making a big fuss now would look quite wrong.
The press are weighing in with the first stories and most of them are remarking about what a surprise this announcement is not. One writer pronounces that Hillary may not do all that well because a few individual Iowan Democrats are offended that she hasn’t kept in touch. (Honestly, I was put off by this complaint. It seems narcissistic. Do these folks really feel the race for the Presidency of the United States is, in the final analysis, all about them? Like, they wanted her to call them on their birthday in exchange for support?)
The report that is most unexpected, though, is the one from The Economist, an opinion that is rippling through links from the rest of the press. Their take is this: we don’t know what Hillary Clinton stands for. Is she a hawk? In bed with Wall Street? Merely a very intelligent and competent leader who does her homework so she can understand issues? (Merely?) A cog in the powerful Clinton machine? (As the Guardian puts it, is she a power candidate or a complex policy wonk?) What and who is she?
I was surprised by this expression of quandary. I don’t have any inside link to Hillary Clinton, though she has been very active in the space where I work—that is, international economic development for women. But I do feel I know one thing quite clearly and that is where she stands on women. I do not believe that, as President, Hillary Clinton would sacrifice the rights and needs of others for the sake of women. And, really, as a general principle, she should not do that. But I do think she will always have her eye on where women sit with regard to any given issue (health care, education, etc.) and I think she will always consider how a decision might affect women differently. In short, I think she knows how to use a gender lens.
This is more than we have ever had in any other head of state—of any nation, anywhere. And it is a big deal. Women are not a special interest group, but instead comprise fully half the citizens Clinton would be sworn to uphold and protect. Yet no other leader has ever paid much attention to that very large group of constituents. It will be a momentous change.
I also believe (actually, I feel I know this) that Hillary can grasp the international landscape from a gender perspective. I think a President Hillary Clinton would figure in ways to better accommodate women into her foreign policy. Thus, I believe a Clinton presidency could be a boon to the poor women in developing countries. And they really need an advocate. Having spent so much time traveling among women around the world during the past ten years, I really do feel many of those women also know this about Hillary and will be hoping and praying for her to win.
The race before us is historic because it very well could bring America the first President who is a woman. But it could also bring us the first President who stands for women. And that is why women need to stand for her in return.