Being an observer to Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential nomination means a lot to me. Here’s why.
At one of our recent Pints & Politics events, I was discussing how, beyond the political horserace and never-ending public policy debate, being at a convention where, presumably, a major American political party would nominate a women as president for the first time in history was significant, when Iowa Public Radio host Ben Keiffer interrupted to ask if felt the same about Joni Ernst breaking Iowa’s congressional glass ceiling.
The question caught me off guard, not because I couldn’t answer it, but because I hold a great deal of respect for Ben as well as for James Q. Lynch and Todd Dorman, who share the Pints & Politics stage with me. I needed a moment to search for a respectful way to communicate how that question is nearly always posed by a man. Perhaps that’s too harsh. Let me rephrase: People who generally believe the demographic composition of elected bodies should reflect the composition of the represented population wouldn’t ask that question.
The type of political punditry that permeates cable news stations. forever pitting Big D against Big R, is a luxury reserved for those who already have adequate representation. In America, that’s statistically overrepresented white males. We can argue about the how and why, but the fact remains that most elected officials are white men. I believe that’s why men are typically so eager to skip ahead and dive directly into policy discussions while those who are focused on representation are still trying to make the point of detrimental, systemic imbalance.
I was reminded of this exchange while interviewing Democratic National Convention delegate and Davenport business woman Michelle Magyar. I asked her to tell me what being a national delegate to this convention meant to her “as an Iowan, a business owner, as a woman” or whatever framing she wished to choose.
“You want me to say that because I’m a woman, supporting a woman, that this is important to me. I’m not going to say that,” she responded. “It has no bearing whatsoever on why I would support her.”
Extremely clear, right? But in the next breath she said, “What this means for me, personally, is that I’m traveling back to Philadelphia where I grew upon the south side in a row house. I’m coming back and will be one of about 2,300 people who will cast a ballot not only for our next president but the first nominee of a major political party who is a woman. That is significant …”
At first blush, it may seem disjointed. But what is happening is two separate points of reference. The first is support, or sharing a political ideology or persuasion. The other is affirming that the government is becoming more representative of the people it serves. It is a nod to not only ourselves, but to our daughters, that they have one more potential role model that looks like them.
Celebrating that accomplishment doesn’t require me to automatically adopt or condone the policy positions expressed by Hillary Clinton or Joni Ernst, because I believe the simple fact that more women are running for and being elected to public office is significant in and of itself.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on July 25, 2016. Photo credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters