Monday 7 November 2016

I am not a Hillary fangirl but

As a little girl growing up I briefly hated Helen Clark because I realised she would likely be NZ's first female prime minister and beat me to it.  I disliked Jenny Shipley for a lot longer, before, during and after her stint as PM, for her policies and limited view of society, not least the odious Code of Social Responsibility (which by the way is largely in place these days from what I can see).

When Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee of a major political party in the USA I was a bit excited, although Bernie was closer to my politics and had Larry David as his SNL impersonator.  Could this actually happen?  A woman in the White House not as First Lady or a staffer or a visitor, but as the President?  In the flood of anti-Hillary outpourings that washed over us all, even here on the other side of the world and dateline, over the next few months that excitement was quickly extinguished.

And then for a long time now we have been watching Trump.  This election is all about Trump, much like a real reality TV show (and what an absurd phrase).  I can't believe it has come to this, that what seemed like a joke or a play for attention is now coming to an endgame that could put someone in control of the USA with no political experience or understanding, a seemingly compulsive liar who is racist and sexist (and anti-abortion) and no doubt lots of other awful things I have missed because to pay close attention to this is to take a wound to the heart every five minutes.  I could pepper this paragraph with links to The Awfulness but surely it's accepted by now, despite his  often nonsensical denials, that he has done and said and downright IS these terrible things.

So he's not fit to be President, not fit to be a politician from my point of view.  Like Paul Henry times ten.*

Thus it's quite possible to support Hillary on the basis she is the lesser of two evils, and I take on board the views of the many many people who tell me that's so.  She's quite a long way less surely most people outside the USA can objectively see that, but putting that to one side, she is, as we all are, a flawed human being.  Will she be as good as Obama (himself not perfect, eg the extra judicial execution of Osama Bin Laden)?  Time will tell.  Her championing of Black Lives Matter, an unapologetic pro-choice position, supporting marriage equality all point to a capability to lead on tough national issues that her country seems very divided over from all this distance away, filtered through CNN, Last Week Tonight, and Fox.  The capacity for an inclusive, optimistic, hopeful leader is there.

As a feminist I don't support Hillary because she is a woman.  I support her because she is a feminist woman, a woman with the skills and life experience, a woman who has handled a truly bizarre and hurtful campaign with grace including being stalked around the debate stage by a large man who has encouraged people to shoot her supporters and wants to put her in jail.  I support her because the idea that a woman can be a political leader is still anathema to some, as I see myself in my own political life sadly.

Part of me looks forward to the awkwardness that will ensue.  Bill can't be First Lady.  How often will Hillary accidentally be called "Mister President"?   How much outcry can we look forward to if she refers to founding mothers?  It will be hard for her, and it will be hard for women, to see that everyday sexism happen, but it will also hopefully be a catalyst for change, for realisation by some of those who haven't understood to date.

Clinton is not the perfect feminist left wing presidential candidate.  She's also not Thatcher.  The US Democrats aren't even a particularly left wing party by NZ or European standards, just in comparison to the small minded small government zealots of the Republicans.

Hillary will be the first female president of the USA, and as I did when Obama became the first African American to hold that role, I suspect I may shed a few tears Wednesday afternoon NZ time.

* I originally wrote million, then scaled it down to a thousand, but really seems like they possibly aren't that different.  You get the idea.