Former presidential candidate and current U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., reinforced her position as the Republican Party scapegoat, saying in an interview last week that many Americans “aren’t ready” for a female president, while commenting on her perception of Hillary Clinton’s chances to claim the Oval Office in 2016 (apparently conditions aren’t favorable). And if that wasn’t hard-hitting enough, Bachmann also seized the opportunity to pinpoint, once and for all, the prime reason that President Barack Obama was able to become the nation’s commander-in-chief: guilt. “I think there was a cachet about having an African-American president because of guilt,” she said. “People don’t hold guilt for a woman.”
So basically, a main point of Bachmann’s argument is that the desire for nationalized and publicized affirmative action was enough to get Obama into the White House — twice. However, due to Clinton’s status as a white woman, voters are less likely to make an attempt to compensate for the blatant misogyny and discrimination suffered by the generations of women that came before her (including confining gender roles and norms, lack of equal rights, denial of suffrage, wage inequality and the glass ceiling, among other issues).
In addition to being able to use the color of his skin as one of the main support beams of his campaign, Obama had the added advantage of being “new and different” (in the words of Bachmann). Clinton, a familiar face around Washington, has neither of these benefits before her, and will thus easily be crippled on the race to the presidency by a white middle-aged counterpart, likely someone that also fails to match her years of political experience.
Despite Bachmann’s claims, there is no basis for an assertion that a woman would not be able to become president in two years time due to an unprepared America. Although that point is only one of many in her attempts to discredit Clinton (the others being her role in the Benghazi attack and Clinton 2016 would be equivalent to Obama 2016), it is definitely the one that was most striking. Furthermore, while the election of a black president may be something of a novelty for certain voters, one would think that the possibility of electing the first female president would conjure up similar, if not equivalent, feelings of exhilaration. This is due to the sense that participants in the electoral process are an active part of history and progress, helping to show the discontinuity between “old America” and the 21st century United States. Obviously voters don’t simply elect a candidate based on that individual’s race or sex, but denying the prevalence of these factors in a country that has historically brought to office individuals that fit essentially one mold is silly.
Although there may not be “pent-up desire” for a female president, it’s definitely not fair to declare that an American woman wouldn’t be able to claim the presidency in the current day and age, especially considering that, ironically, the source of this allegation had such high political aspirations not too long ago. Maybe Bachmann wouldn’t have lost if she was black and not a woman….
And we haven’t even gotten into true politics yet.
Briana Reilly ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in international studies and journalism.