‘We Are Preparing to Shatter the Highest Glass Ceiling in Our Country,’ Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader finds the nomination of the first female U.S. presidential candidate bittersweet:

What Hillary Clinton has done is no different than what women in Pakistan [Benazir Bhutto], India [Indira Gandhi], Bangladesh [Khaleda Zia], and Argentina [Cristina Fernández de Kirchner] have done: follow their fathers or husbands into politics, and use their family name to become head of state. All of those countries got there first. How are they doing, overall, on women’s rights?

There is little correlation between the election of women in those countries and the lives of average women there. So it will be here. If Hillary Clinton’s story gives you a vicarious thrill, enjoy it. But that’s about all you’ll get. Whether it’s George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton, the selection of leaders who owe quite a bit to their families’ political history is a sign of parties bereft of ideas and a weakening democracy.

I would dearly love for a woman to be president. But it would be more meaningful if her political resume didn’t begin with someone else’s. Elizabeth Warren is a far better example to America’s young women that anyone can rise from average beginnings to become a leader.

Your thoughts? Drop us a note. Update from two readers who defend Clinton. Here’s Rebecca:

Here in Maine, we have another example, a woman much like Hillary: GOP Senator Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman elected to the Senate—an earlier glass ceiling. (Chase Smith also ran for president [in 1964], but her first in the Senate is more to my point here.) Smith was appointed and then elected to her husband’s legislative seat prior to running for and winning her seat in the Senate on her own merits. As a freshman Senator, she stood up to McCarthy. Her accomplishments paved the paths of [Maine Senators] Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Like Chase Smith, Clinton follows in her husband’s footsteps: active in her husband’s campaigns. And like Chase Smith, Clinton has proved herself a capable, dedicated public servant. In both cases, the experiences working with their husbands provided some of the best on-the-job training imaginable.

Given that glass ceilings exist, most of history shut women out, and the only paths to leadership were through coattails of men. So it galls me to hear the knowledge that Clinton gained as wife of a governor and president is devalued because it’s from another era. Neither Bill nor Hillary inherited a family dynasty; through their strengths and despite their weaknesses, they built it together.

Last night, it seemed like Bill was saying, loud and clear, that Hillary deserves a good share of credit for his successes. I’m delighted that he’s a big-enough man to let her have her own.

And I remain amazed that she’s kept on going, stood tall, despite the diligence put into crafting her cartoon persona. That persona, so carefully built on the taxpayer’s dime, is a prime example of a party bereft of ideas, and that is weakening democracy. That cartoon makes it difficult to have a real critique of Clinton’s actions and her policy proposals and her judgement.

I’m proud to vote for her and grateful she brings the experience of being Bill’s partner to the job. Our next president is going to need to have her wits about her, and her deep well of experience is an incredible asset.

Another reader, Irene:

I haven’t been a longtime fan of Hillary Clinton’s.  I wish I were more enthusiastic about some of her policies, but I’m not. However, I was offended by the reader’s statement that her path to the Democratic nomination was nothing special or different than riding on the coat tails of a husband. To believe that you have to ignore what she has accomplished since 2000 both as a senator and a secretary of state. It is insulting to claim that those independent accomplishments are meaningless.  She is not a clone of her husband; her policies are not a clone of her husband’s. In fact, it’s quite plausible to wonder if her path was made harder because she is married to Bill Clinton and that she stuck with him.