Opinions - 28.07.2016 - 00:00 

US elections 2016: Clinton’s stage win

In Philadelphia, the birthplace of the American constitution, the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton as their official presidential candidate. In spite of all the unpleasant background noises, this was a victory for the history books. An op-ed by Dr. Claudia Franziska Brühwiler.

29 July 2016. In March 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, who was a co-author of the Declaration of Independence and was to become the second President of the United States that she had one hope above all in the revolutionaries: "…I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors." As is well known, American women had to exercise patience until 1919 before a constitutional amendment enfranchised them. And now, more than three hundred years after Mrs Adams wrote those lines, a woman was able to announce in the very city in which the famous Liberty Bell tolled: "When there are no ceilings, the sky is the limit." It is in this spirit that she, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is the first woman to enter the race for the US Presidency for one of the two big parties.

Unpleasant background noises

Of course many things that happened at the Democrats’ party convention could be picked up for discussion and flogged to death: the inglorious exit of Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her attempts to torpedo Bernie Sanders’s campaign, the unforgiving attitude of the latter’s followers and the man’s own greatness to back his erstwhile adversary, the prominent support and the incumbent President’s stinging verbal missives aimed at Donald Trump. The history book will ultimately only be interested in one thing, and that is the nomination of the former First Lady, ex-senator, ex-secretary of state, grandmother of two grandchildren and – as it self-mockingly says on her Twitter profile – pantsuit aficionado.

A historical success
Hillary Clinton is not the first woman to dare to break through the so-called highest glass ceiling. Thus Victoria C. Woodhull tried her luck as early as 1872, before women even had the right to vote. In contrast to Clinton, however, the first woman stockbroker stood for a micro-party, the Equal Rights Party, and thus did not stand a chance of victory. More promising was the position of Margaret Chase Smith, who contended for the party nomination as Republican senator of Maine in 1964 and was only defeated by Barry Goldwater. At the time, the social barriers were still too high for her: in the year of her candidature, Americans first saw the idea of a Madam President on the silver screen in the film entitled Kisses for My President. However, the fictitious president resigns from office when she becomes pregnant and realises that otherwise she would be neglecting her family.

A stage victory for Clinton
In today’s popular culture, people have become used to the idea of a woman in the White House to some extent, for instance in the TV series 24 or Commander in Chief. But according to a survey, it is still women Democrats who would like a Madam President, whereas even in Clinton’s own party, fewer than 50% of men would. Thus Philadelphia is only a stage victory for Clinton, who is facing an unpredictable opponent in this decidedly heated election campaign. Superficially, her gender will play less of a role than her negligent dealings with e-mails, the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi or the failed healthcare reform during her husband’s presidency. In view of past comments on women by Trump, however, we may not only expect attacks ad personam but also ad feminam. Women will wonder how Hillary Clinton will parry them so that on 8 November, people may possibly say: "Yes, she can!"

Dr. rer. publ. Claudia Franziska Brühwiler is a political scientist with special focus on American Studies.

photo: Family Business /

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