It’s 33 months until anyone starts voting for the next president of the United States, but many people are already talking about it. What’s really interesting is that a lot of them think the next president will be Hillary Clinton.
It’s understandable that Arkansas people who liked and admired the wife of their former governor and president would like to see her elected. However, they aren’t alone. Many of the network TV talkers I see and the political columnists around the nation that I read think of her as a winner. What interested me was that John Brummett, the best political reporter I know, had to say about her in his Arkansas News syndicated column.
He says a person gets a party’s nomination by “star power, money, momentum and appeal to the base.” Then the person gets elected “by high-tailing it from those things and straddling the political center.” That’s what George W. Bush did, even though 48 percent considered him unfit to be president. Clinton did likewise and got elected, even though the polls showed that more voters were opposed to him.
“Keep those things in mind the next time someone pooh-poohs the notion that the next president of these United States will be Hillary Clinton,” wrote Brummett. “Keep them in mind when they say she’s too much a lightning rod and too widely and fervently hated ever to be accepted as what they call the leader of the free world. Right now I like her chances because she’s getting her stuff together and the Republicans aren’t.”
Brummett may be right, but I find it hard to believe that Americans are ready to choose a woman to be president. Men want to be in charge. Most of the bosses in this country are men who think that women workers shouldn’t be paid as much as men, and there are a majority of members of Congress who don’t believe it is up to a pregnant woman to decide whether to have a child or not.
Remember that American men didn’t even let American women vote until 1920. There are now 100 members of the Senate — 86 men, only 14 women. There are 435 members of the House, but only 70 of them are women. Arkansas began sending senators and House members to Washington in 1819. Since then for all those years, only five of them were women, four of them widows of husbands who had held the office. Sen. Blanche Lincoln is the only one who came to office solely on her own ability. She was elected to the House in 1992 and to the Senate in 1998. One or two of her campaigns — always against men — were close, but she got 62 percent of the votes in one of the elections.
President George Washington was inaugurated in 1789. No one who has followed him has been a woman. In fact, none of the presidents really ever had to compete seriously with a female candidate. The first woman to try was Victoria Claflin Woodhull, an adventuress from Ohio who was nominated in 1872 by what was then called the Equal Rights Party. Second was Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood of New York, the first woman admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court, who was nominated by the National Women’s Equal Rights Party in 1884 and 1888. The party was small and 99 percent female, and few paid any attention to its candidates.
The most serious effort made by a major party to elect a woman was in 1964 when the Republican Party considered the nomination of Margaret Chase Smith at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. She had served 24 years in Congress, the first woman to be elected to serve in both the House and the Senate. She got 205,000 votes in the Illinois primary, but didn’t draw many votes in primaries in other states. She stepped aside and let Sen. Barry Goldwater become the Republican candidate. He lost to Sen. Lyndon Johnson of Texas, the Democratic candidate.
Frankly, I think neither the major parties nor most American voters have changed to the point that they would elect a female for president. But I want to say that because of the males, Republican and Democrat, who so far have started angling for president, I would be glad to vote for Hillary Clinton and say that Brummett was right.
President Bush signed the Energy Bill this week, and one effect of that is that Daylight Saving Time will be extended by two months, starting the first Sunday of March and ending the last Sunday of November. Candy makers wanted it because kids would have more time to collect more of their Halloween candy. But some kids didn’t like the idea because another hour in November will make them have to wait for their school buses in the dark. Also, farmers say that their animals don’t take to the change.
There are always arguments about changing the clock. However, it really doesn’t seem to bother most Americans because, according to an A.C. Nielsen poll, 34 percent of Americans don’t go to bed until after midnight no matter what. Incidentally, 74 percent of the Portuguese stay up that late.