If Sen. Clinton leaves the Senate to become Secretary of State, she leaves behind 16 fellow women Senators (among 82 men) and joins 25 women foreign ministers around the world (5 of whom also came to the post this year). Assuming the 180 or so country governments worldwide all have this position, Clinton leaves one boys club for another.
Forgive me for not being totally jazzed about this development…yet.
Like many former Clinton supporters, I was enjoying Clinton’s late- and post-primary aggressiveness on reproductive rights and economic justice. I fancied her hanging out in the Senate alongside Sen. Murray and other allies, fighting the good fight for women, children, families, the uninsured and those at risk for losing their homes and jobs. Count me in as one of many indulging in the idea that she’d be the next “liberal lion” of the Senate.
Turns out, Uncle Teddy isn’t quite ready to give up the title just yet, and she lacks the seniority (star power just doesn’t cut it, unless you’re Obama) to really rise to the occasion anyway. Bummer.
As I ponder the idea of Clinton in the SoS role, I picture her, of course, in pantsuits or culturally-appropriate clothing, but that’s about it for the displays of womanhood. The rest of the image is Clinton negotiating with men, or shaking the hands of men, or posing for photo ops with men, to eventually take back proposals hashed out with men to our President Obama. Surrounded by men. Men men men men men men men men. (Try singing it.)
Believe me, I realize Clinton and her sixteen women colleagues weren’t a monolith or a voting bloc, nor do I expect them to be strictly due to their gender. Duh. I also know that the US is no role model in terms of gender parity in politics, and that our SoS will conduct business in countries with far more impressive women’s representation than ours. It’s just…I was just getting used to Clinton in her new role as the prominent-elected-leader-with-nothing-to-lose-by-being-an-outspoken-powerhouse-for-women’s-rights-and-economic-security Senator from NY. Or some such vision. (YMMV.) I liked it.
But, in our new post-partisan domestic reality, it strikes me that Clinton needs a stronger foil than she’d find in Obama – what could be the equivalent of her partisan rancor towards Bush now? It’s hard for me to see a similar soapbox for Clinton in an Obama Administration, given how so many of her prominent senior male colleagues rallied around Obama (yes, Kennedy and Kerry, I’m talking to you). There’s no real space in the Obama-Biden 111th Congress for her to step out of line, if you will; I have no idea what the rules are for Dem attack dogs in the face of a small but hostile GOP minority, Rahmbo notwithstanding.
Despite her and Obama’s mutual calls for renewed diplomacy and engagement with the world, I have a hard time visualizing her not negotiating arms treaties (or withdrawals) or various strategies of aggression or other militiarized concerns. (Yes, foreign policy is not my area.) It will take time for me to wrap my head around her new job and its major issue areas and the new cohort of dudes she’ll be running in. But I do have faith that given her well-regarded work as a First Lady, her selection as SoS indicates women’s, children’s, and human development will be priorities in an Obama Administration. Which is a potential change in scope and focus that really excites me.
And as an added bonus for Sen. Clinton and President-Elect Obama, should she become SoS, she’s got that helpful wife spouse to support our diplomatic efforts via her his pet projects that showcase the plight of special populations around the world. Every elected leader should be so lucky!