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Thoughts on a Hillary Presidency

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August 1, 2007

BERLIN — I’m walking down a street in what used to be the communist part of this city, when my companion points to a couple of police officers strolling in front of an otherwise ordinary-looking doorstep. He explains to me that this is the apartment of Angela Merkel, head of the German government. (Rather charmingly, it’s next door to a shop called “The Empire of Art”).

Merkel’s official title is chancellor, but the office she holds is more like that of an English prime minister rather than an American president. Prime ministers can live in ordinary-looking apartments: a president, who both runs the executive branch of our government and is supposed to somewhat mystically embody the nation as our official head of state, is required to inhabit a pseudo-palace that uneasily blends democratic ideology with royalist trappings.

All this makes me think of the rather startling fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton is fairly likely to become the next president of the United States. Precisely because the president in a sense embodies the nation, a woman president is a considerably more radical innovation than a female prime minister.

Of course, a number of traditional societies have been ruled by queens, but in a genuine monarchy royal persons are thought to belong to what is almost a different species. For example, it’s telling that Cleopatra, the heir to a throne held by god-kings, could rule over ancient Egypt, while in the world’s first democracy (Athens), women were allowed no role whatsoever in public life.

In ancient times, women could be monarchs; in the modern world, they have slowly won the right to be politicians. The American presidency, which has become both a political office and a kind of imperial throne, combines both roles. (Consider the increasingly elaborate pomp and circumstance that surrounds presidents, with their retinues of courtiers, their summer palaces and their pharaonic memorial libraries.)

This helps explain, I think, why the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency causes so many people to start foaming at the mouth. It’s almost impossible to find a more mainstream politician than Clinton, yet there are apparently millions of Americans who are convinced she’s some sort of Maoist lesbian hippie, who on the day she’s inaugurated will stop shaving her legs, and start turning the White House into a patchouli-scented commune, where she will plan a cultural revolution in which hackysack, artificial insemination and vegan tofu salad will replace baseball, motherhood and apple pie.

The problem, you see, is that despite her impeccably middle-of-the-road voting record, her longtime support for the Iraq war and her general lack of anything resembling, even loosely speaking, liberal political credentials, Clinton is a girl. And girls, as modern science has recently confirmed, have cooties.

To put it another way, like so many other things in American political life, it all goes back to the 1960s. The ’60s (or, more accurately, the 11 years between the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show and the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon) really did represent a kind of cultural revolution in American life.

That revolution gave birth to many things, including the backlash politics that resulted in the past quarter-century of mostly Republican rule. It also created the possibility of a woman president: something that was unthinkable in 1963, and which is now one of the likely outcomes of the backlash to the GOP backlash.

It’s almost compulsory for people across the political spectrum to assume that gender is no longer a particularly big deal when it comes to something like running for president. I suspect that over the next year and a half we will learn just how false that assumption is.

(Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado and can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)Colorado.edu.)

3 Responses to Thoughts on a Hillary Presidency

  1. JoyfulC

    August 1, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Good insight. (And too funny!)

    I have no doubt Hilary could become president, and frankly, I think we could do a lot worse.

    But as we’ve seen on this very site, there are some people who hate the Clintons so much that it’s doubtful they’d ever allow her to actually be an effective president. These are people so selfish and short-sighted that they’d rather bring the whole country down around all our ears than for them to have to be adult about having someone in office that they don’t like.

    Who knows what the real reasons are for the Clinton hatred. I don’t buy the stated reasons because all too often, when we scratch the surface, we find that other politicians and social leaders are just as guilty of the same behaviour.

    No, I’m sure it’s not that, but I don’t know what. I often wonder if it isn’t a case of a bastard from the wrong side of the tracks having the uppity audacity to outshine those whose pedigrees are their greatest asset. But then, I don’t know. Maybe I read to much leCarré.

    History will have much to say about this, I’m sure. In the meantime, I wish the Clintons would put their efforts towards leadership on the world stage — Americans simply don’t seem to be ready for them yet. There’s certainly a great need.

    (Cooties! Hehehe!!)

  2. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    August 1, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Hillary is taking copious amounts of money from
    the pharmaceutical industry. I have to get my mothers
    Zocor from Canada because of the greed of drug makers that sabotage any effort to allow Medicare to directly negotiate reasonable drug prices, so I don’t like to be characterized as selfish when ‘Go Girl Go!’ Hillary Clinton is coveting big bucks from the pharmaceutical industry.

    Then there is Hillary’s duplicity on the Iraq war. During the initital debate on war authorization, there was plenty of information that Bush’s assertions of WMD in Iraq was cooked up by Dougy Fieth
    in the office of special planning in the Pentagon. Hillary did nothing. Political expediency was the name of the game for ‘Go Girl Go!’ Hillary. Her excuse was, “If I knew then what I knew now” she would not have authorized Bush to go to war.

    ‘Huh’ -Senator Robert Byrd voted against authorization to go to war in Iraq and enumerated this exact information about the cooked evidence to go to war; Hillary now claiming ignorance on this matter makes her full of crap like a Christmas Turkey.

    And it just wasn’t Senator Byrd, there was many other reliable alternative media sources that were de-bunking the cooked-book information that Dougy Fieth got from scumbag Ahmed Chalabi who was on the Bush Administration payroll.

    I don’t like Hillary because of herself, but by her track record; ‘Go Girl Go’ Hillary’s legacy is
    political expediency.

    Quit reading leCarré novels and deal with reality.

    If ‘Go Girl Go’ Hillary wins the Democratic candidacy
    we are going to get all the Whitewater baggage that followed her like the plague. Whitwater was a red herring, but we don’t need a double helping of that.

    I liked Bill Clinton, but even he did some damaging things while president when he passed the 1996 Telecomunications bill that made it easier for corparate media mergers which has resulted in alternative media being squashed by the likes of
    Rupert Murdoch.

    My message to Hillary is: “Do Not Go Girl Go!”

  3. SEAL

    August 1, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Obama’s surprising support is proof of the amount of anti-Clinton feeling. The Dems should run anyone but her if for no other reason than she is the most unellectable candidate they have. Either Obama or Edwards could win easily.