Hillary has (just) triumphed in Iowa – but who remembers Shirley?

Hillary has (just) triumphed in Iowa – but who remembers Shirley?

2016-01-04 09.51.27On our recent USA road trip holiday, we drove nearly 2,000 miles across four states – but I only saw ONE Vote for Hillary car bumper sticker (just about pictured here – and no, I wasn’t driving when I took this photo). Due to the curiously American habit of using one’s vehicle as a mobile billboard to proclaim various relationships, allegiances or preferences (“I Brake for a Double Latte” being a great example of the latter) I was able to monitor the growing tide of public support for assorted potential Presidential candidates as we drove around – and can say that, based on what we saw, Ted Cruz was doing pretty well amongst SUV drivers, shortly followed by Donald Trump.

(As an aside, I think it’s an interesting metric-cum-weather-vane as to how a state’s voters think when you look at their bumper stickers – so I wonder which US state is currently leading the pack with regard to Hillary support on cars? Has anyone ever measured this?!)

I’m a huge fan of the work of journalist and author Nicholas Kristof, co-author with his wife Sheryl WuDunn of books “Half the Sky” and “A Path Appears” as well as a roving op-ed columnist for the New York Times. He sends out a regular e-newsletter related to his columns and a recent edition referred to Hillary Clinton’s changed approach to referencing her feminism, commenting that:

“It’s a measure of how much the country has changed that these days Clinton is running as a feminist, after decades of skirting the issue. In 2008 she barely mentioned her gender; now it’s a refrain.

“This really comes down to whether I can encourage and mobilize women to vote for the first woman president,” Time quoted her as saying. She even said she’d be open to choosing a woman as her running mate.

Kristof expanded on this in the newsletter, opening up with:

“One gauge of this election’s weirdness: It may result in a female president, or in a president (Trump) who has been a champion of sexism. And on the sidelines, President Obama has weighed in with a call for a tax break for tampons. Women increasingly are affecting the national conversation, and change is afoot.

“I didn’t have space to get into it in the column, but there’s interesting research on the extent to which women leaders matter. For “Half the Sky,” Sheryl WuDunn and I examined female presidents and prime ministers around the world, and we found no impact on such metrics as maternal mortality, girls’ education or access to family planning. But there’s also an argument that the first woman leader in a country (think Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir) is often particularly tough and less focused on women’s issues, but that later women will be. There’s also evidence, particularly from India, that women leaders matter at the grassroots: Female village leaders are less corrupt and more focused on women’s concerns than male village leaders. And there’s some evidence that women in power create role models who change expectations about what leadership can be.”

Kristof also notes that:

“Conversely, maybe it’s also a sign of progress that young women aren’t particularly inclined to support Clinton: They’re less likely to see their space defined by glass ceilings.”

– and I wonder if that’s because, if you’re of a certain age,  the idea that a woman could be Secretary of State, or a CEO, just doesn’t seem so impossible?  I’m certain that this is a measure of a progress and a good thing,  but this recent article on the BBC about Shirley Chisholm,  who ran for the Democratic Presidential ticket in 1972 and is now somehow almost forgotten in American history,  was a reminder about how far we’ve come, but how far we still have to go.

“She was a pioneer for her generation, a woman of many firsts – the first African American congresswoman. The first African American to run for president. The first woman to run for president.” Shirley Chisholm_1972

Back to today: I’m glad to see that Kristof’s paper, the New York Times, has come out and endorsed Hillary for the Democratic nomination and I look forward to seeing how she does in the campaign.

(This link will allow you to sign up for Kristof’s newsletter, if you’re interested).

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