Last night, Hillary Clinton officially accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency. By doing so, she becomes the first female presidential nominee from a major party (sorry, Jill Stein and others).
Yet there are some, from the left and from the right, who downplay this accomplishment. There are some who say, “Well, people are just voting for her because she’s a woman,” as if Hillary Clinton didn’t have much to offer to the nation other than a vagina.
Now, first of all, this is just laughably untrue. Whatever your opinion of Hillary Clinton’s politics may be, it is plainly evident that she has a truly remarkable record of being involved in policymaking at the highest level. She is administratively ultra-competent (e-mail scandal aside). She has been involved in battles for the rights of the downtrodden and disenfranchised from the beginning of her career. There are many reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton on her own merits, and this is coming from somebody who’s still sad that Bernie Sanders didn’t win the Democratic primary.
But, secondly, this made me think. What if, I asked myself, there were literally zero differences between the two major candidates, other than that one was a man and the other was a woman? What if the only criteria for our decision was the candidates’ gender?
Let’s imagine a hypothetical universe where the Republicans haven’t gone off of the deep end and nominated a man whose massive ego seems to have devoured whatever part of the brain is meant to be used for empathy. Let’s imagine that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, and somebody named Jiminy Crickton is the Republican choice for president. Somehow, even those these two individuals come from two different political parties, they have very similar temperaments, backgrounds, and political views. They both have some skeletons in the closet, but nothing disqualifying. They both have impressive records of public service. Would you vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman? (Let’s also imagine that somehow, no credible third-party candidate is challenging these two stunningly similar individuals.)
My answer is yes, I absolutely would. This may seem unfair to poor Mr. Crickton, but representation matters. In our 229 years as a nation, we have never, ever, even come close to having a female leader. As a man, it is impossible for me to actually realize the impact that seeing a woman in the highest office of the land can have on the psychology, the ambition, the well-being of my countrywomen.
But as I see tears stream down the cheeks of female delegates at the Democratic convention, and as I read reactions such as the ones in this brief Vox article, it is hard to deny that because of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and nomination, many women in the US feel more powerful, more hopeful, and more vindicated than ever before. Sexism will not go away with the election of Hillary Clinton, just as racism never left us after the election of President Obama. We may even see a sexist backlash akin to the ugly racist politics of some on the right-wing over the last eight years. But having our president finally be a woman would be a real, legitimate step forward. We shouldn’t overstate that, but I think it’s important not to understate it either.
So, with sincere apologies to our imaginary Mr. Crickton, I say without regret that I would vote for a woman only because she was a woman, all else being equal. The Clinton vs. Crickton choice is not one we find ourselves in this year, though. I would not vote for a Trump-like candidate whether they were a man or a woman, and I would be willing to vote for a male or female Clinton (the 22nd Amendment still exists though, Bill). Clinton, though not my ideal candidate, is mostly acceptable whereas Trump is the least acceptable major nominee during my lifetime. I don’t view Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or anybody else as a practical alternative to Clinton either. I do not find the choice this election to be a tough one. #ImWithHer