Can Voters Resist the Urge to “Make History”?
Leery of turning her campaign into a one-note battle to break the glass ceiling, Hillary Clinton has downplayed the fact that she would be the first female president if elected in November. After being swamped with criticism for using that point to draw a distinction between herself and President Obama in one of the early debates, Hillary mostly avoided the subject for the remainder of the Democratic primaries.
That changed Tuesday night, when she used a speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to officially claim victory over Bernie Sanders.
“We are all standing under a glass ceiling right now, but don’t worry, we’re not smashing this one,” she said. “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone: the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee. Tonight’s victory is not about one person; it belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”
Going into the general election as one of the least-liked candidates in the modern era, Hillary Clinton may attempt to make this contest less about herself and more about the call of history. As a singular individual, her flaws are nearly insurmountable. A lifetime of scandal, an inability to connect with voters on a human level, an extremely shaky history of foreign policy flubs, and an ongoing FBI investigation do not a winning candidate make. But if she can convince voters to come out and make history in November – if she can play to that innate human desire to witness a true “first” in American politics – she could win despite all of that baggage.
It will be Donald Trump’s job to remind Americans that they are voting for a president this fall, not a symbol of women’s progress. He must remind them that while it may feel good to see Hillary achieve the unprecedented, that achievement won’t bring jobs back to our communities. It won’t save us from the cloistered political establishment that has ignored the will of the people for so long. It won’t, in fact, do anything to improve the lives of women in the United States – anymore than Barack Obama’s historic win did anything to improve the lives of African-Americans. Her victory may look nice in the history books, but we should be much more concerned about what’s really good for our country.