Carol Moseley Braun became the first African American woman to be elected to the United States Senate in 1992. This was also year that Bill Clinton was elected President introducing us to First Lady Hillary Clinton. In 1992 sixty million women voted electing 24 new woman to the House of Representatives and increasing the number of women in the Senate from two to five. Many assert that the travesty of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings galvanized woman to organize, register and vote in 1992. Reports state that the down side of 1992 came in 1994 when sixteen million women decided not to vote. Ironically, this was called the year of the “angry white male” and Republican took control of both the House and Senate.
Earlier this month former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton secured enough delegates to become the first woman to head a major party ticket. Rumors quickly emerged stating that Senator Elizabeth Warren could possibly be Clinton’s running mate. In 2008 Hillary had to concede victory for the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. In conceding she famously stated that the glass ceiling now has thousands of cracks. The question today is whether that ceiling has finally shattered. We know all too well that the election of Barack Obama did not mean an end of racism in America. More than likely, should Hillary Clinton go on to be elected President, sexism, gender bias, and misogyny will come to an end either. Yet, such a historic first would be welcomed. Although Hillary Clinton is now the first woman to head a major party ticket, other women have tapped on that glass ceiling. Shirley Chisholm ran for President in 1972 to become the first woman to make a serious run for the White House. In 1968 Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to Congress. Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to become a Vice Presidential running mate in 1984 when she was chosen by Walter Mondale as his running mate. Since that time John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.
Women heads of state, though rare, are not new to the world. In 1980, Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister of India. Benazir Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1993. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became President of Liberia in 2006. She still holds that office to date. Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1979 and held office until 1990. Dilma Rousseff became the 36th President of Brazil when she assumed office in 2011. However, she was impeached and removed from office earlier this year. Sadly, both Gandhi and Bhutto were assassinated. Based on this list it seems that America has some catching up to do when it comes to women political leaders. For those who say that America is not ready for a woman to lead the country, one must ask when will be the right time. More than likely, there are distractors who will say that it is not the place of a woman to be a political leader. Such thinking is not only less than progressive, it is primitive.
The question remains can 2016 truly become the year of the woman again. Women were galvanized by the treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1992. In 2016 there is a great deal of misogynist rhetoric emanating from the Republican presumptive nominee. There is also a great deal of misogynist legislation in which is proposed and enacted by the Republican Party. Irrespective of these realities the Republican Party still has a great deal of support from women. Perhaps this is because the Republican Party gave us the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court and the first woman National Security Advisor who also became the African American woman to be Secretary of State. There are still some women who see redeemable potential in the Republican Party. One must also realize that women, like all other groups, are not monolithic in their opinions. For example, the strongest resistance to the Women’s Movement during the 1960s came from a woman by the name of Phyllis Schlafly. One could argue that she single handedly defeated the Equal Rights Amendment which failed to be ratified by the states.
In order for 2016 to become the year of the woman again, those 60 million woman from 1992 will have come to the polls once again and cast their votes for Hillary Clinton. No woman needs to apologize for voting for Hillary. No males apologized in 1994 for voting for males in the Republican takeover of Congress. As a matter of fact, just as President Obama has stated, no one in recent years has been more qualified to be President than Hillary Clinton. Consequently, I believe it is time for America to follow the lead of India, Pakistan, Great Britain, Liberia, and Brazil in placing a woman as head of state for no other reason that this woman is immensely qualified to be President of the United States.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”