Why We Should Care That Hillary Ran

I usually try to avoid non-food/farm politics here, even though I’m usually more than willing to discuss them in person. And I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t vote in this year’s presidential primary because here in Washington state you have to pick a party and can only vote in their primary. Due to new rules this year, the Democratic primary was decided by caucus and not ballot and the caucus happened on a day that I was traveling for work.

So I’ve been watching the Hillary / Obama campaigns from the sidelines with much interest. Both of them are candidates that I could get behind, for vastly different reasons. I listed to their speeches on the radio, I was made teary eyed by both of them at different times. I waited to see if and when Hillary would give up once it began to seem inevitable that Obama would get the votes needed to secure the nomination. I listened to her speech on Tuesday night where she said she would make no decisions.

And I thought about what it meant to me that a woman had run for president and made it all the way to the end of the primary season. That while as a child I was always told that I could be and do anything, that I never really thought this country would elect a woman. And that that was too bad. Women often bring a different point of view to the table than men, something I’ve seen over and over again working in male dominated industries. Maybe it’s compassion, maybe it’s the ability to see both sides, maybe it’s that we’re less focused on “winning” and more on “how we play the game”. Doesn’t matter what it is, it just is.

Gail Collins over at the New York Times said in her op-ed today what I’ve been trying to articulate all week in various conversations with other women and men and myself.

Nobody is ever again going to question whether it’s possible for a woman to go toe-to-toe with the toughest male candidate in a race for president of the United States. Or whether a woman could be strong enough to serve as commander in chief.

Her campaign didn’t resolve whether a woman who seems tough enough to run the military can also seem likable enough to get elected. But she helped pave the way. So many battles against prejudice are won when people get used to seeing women and minorities in roles that only white men had held before. By the end of those 54 primaries and caucuses, Hillary had made a woman running for president seem normal.

That’s why you should care that Hillary ran for president whether you liked her, supported her, agreed with her, or not. She did something that no other woman in this country has ever done. And she did it while rarely focusing on the fact that she was a woman. She made it seem completely normal that she should be a contender, she made it about her qualifications and her beliefs, not about what’s underneath her clothes. And that makes this election historic in more ways than one.