Women politicians make history in 2008 election

The 2008 presidential election is one that will forever be remembered in history. Not only was an African-American male elected president, but female politicians made great strides, and showed that the possibility of having a woman as president or vice-president was not a far-fetched idea. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska may have changed the course of female politicians everywhere by inspiring a nation and showing that America is indeed ready for change.

Clinton’s campaign became a strong contender for the White House during the Democratic primaries. According to nytimes.com, she captured 22 battleground states and won 1,920 delegates. For much of the race, Clinton was the front-runner, but she wasn’t able to thwart the success of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

When it became evident that she would not be the Democratic nominee for president, she bowed out and encouraged her supporters to rally behind Obama so the Democrats could take back the White House.

Palin rose to political notoriety by being U.S. Sen. John McCain’s running mate for the Republican nomination. Not since 1984, when U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York was chosen as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate with Walter Mondale, a woman had not served on a presidential ticket. Palin made political history in her own right by becoming the first woman on a GOP presidential ticket.

Throughout the campaign, Palin’s knowledge of foreign policy and the Bush Doctrine were called into question on two occasions after her televised interviews with
network TV journalists Charlie Gibson of ABC and Katie Couric of CBS.

In an interview with Gibson on Sept. 11, Palin described the Bush doctrine as President Bush wanting to “rid the country of Islamic extremists who want to destroy the country,” when in actuality it says that the United States has the right of anticipatory self-defense, and America has the right to strike against any country that may want to attack.

When asked about foreign policy, Palin said that Russia is a neighboring country with Alaska, and can be seen from Alaska’s land.

During an interview with Couric Sept. 25, Palin defended her statement by saying she meant that Alaska had a very narrow maritime border with a foreign country which is Russia, and has a boundary with Canada.

Despite Palin’s foreign and political knowledge being criticized, she and Clinton were able to add a female presence to this year’s presidential election.

Was the glass ceiling shatterd?

Now, with Clinton being selected as Secretary of State by Obama, it causes many to wonder just how far women can now go in politics and if the glass ceiling has really been shattered.

“I think it’s strategic in the sense that it gives her something to do,” says Erica Woods-Warrior, a political science and philosophy professor at Hampton University, on whether it was a wise choice to make Clinton the Secretary of State. “I think Americans don’t trust her because of the campaign backstabbing.

“That’s not to say that she can’t be effective.”

Gene Moore, a fellow Hampton political science professor, had a different perspective:
“It’s a good idea. Obama is his own man. Hillary Clinton won a lot of rapport internationally. She has a good reputation.”

Ken Barton, a junior political science major from Alpharetta, Ga., agreed with Moore:
“I’m pretty happy [Clinton will be Secretary of State]. She made me angry during the primary, but Barack recognized her strengths, so I think she will represent the country well.”

During this election, never before had America seen two female candidates almost make it to the White House. Clinton’s and Palin’s campaigns may have served as inspirations for other female politicians to someday want to seek residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

“I think Clinton’s campaign inspired women,” Barton said. “I think women were taken advantage of when Sarah Palin was nominated. They chose her because she was a woman and not qualified.”

“Without a doubt Clinton’s campaign was inspiring,” Moore said. “Palin was an embarrassment. When she talks, Palin and Clinton aren’t in the same league. Just those two being nominated will make a difference. Twenty five years ago, there weren’t that many women in the Senate.”

Woods-Warrior believes that women have always wanted to be president, regardless of the campaigns of Clinton and Palin. “Sarah Palin is the Al Sharpton of politicians. Hillary Clinton is more effective in terms of mobilizing women. Nobody knew who Sarah Palin was before this election and we still don’t.”

Ready for a woman president?

At this moment, Americans are witnessing history in the making with the first black president being elected. Because of this, America may now be ready for a female president, right?

“We’re not ready for females in the military,” says Woods-Warrior. “We’re not ready for an African-American president, but Barack came at the right time. We still have race relations issues and gender issues. I don’t think we’re ready for a female vice-president either. A woman would have prepared us for an African-American president, and an African-American president would have prepared us for a female president. This presidential administration will prepare us for that [a female president].”

Barton, a staunch Barack Obama supporter, is putting all his faith in Clinton that she will be president one day: “Hillary Clinton will be president. I don’t know what can pop up in 10 years. We didn’t know who Barack Obama was five years ago. We don’t know who’s going to pop up. It could be one of our senators or governors.”

Moore agrees. “Hillary Clinton came close to winning,” he said. “The next could be a female. I thought both of them [Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton] could have won.”

Female politicians came a long way this political season. They proved to be serious contenders among the male candidates and were even predicted to win. Who knows, there may just be a Ms. President taking up residency at the White House in a few years.

The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.