Affirmative action in politics?

“Do it for your daughters – vote for Hillary,” urged my friend Nandini, arguing that the planets would not be aligned for a woman President in the US for next couple of centuries at least. “Think of possibilities a precedent like this will open up for little girls here at home & around the world? Think how this may possibly inspire a little girl in Afghanistan or South Africa to strive for public office and power.”

It’s tempting. It really is. As a woman, even I feel the sense that there will not be another woman who can make it up the grueling and cruel political ladder to the presidency for a long long time. But that argument also smacks of affirmative action. ‘Vote for Hillary because she is a woman’. Much as I may be doing an injustice to members of my sex, I cannot support this argument. If I ignore her gender, I am not convinced at all that she would be the right person for the job.

Gore Vidal has famously said –any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so. In a crowded field of candidates, there is no one who wants this job more than Hillary and the impression I get from media bombardment and presidential debates is that she will stop at nothing to get there. This last trait is actually considered an admirable quality by many Democratic voters who don’t want to see a repeat of 2000 and 2004 when the deserving candidate lacked the killer instinct and squandered their chances.

But a candidate who has not shown that she has any views that are not reflective of the current polls cannot be the right person to pull America out of the disastrous moral and political abyss it stands in now. We need a charismatic, ethical, courageous President who is not afraid to make the right decision even when it is unpopular. ( This is how the current President was marketed by his handlers, and why he got elected twice).

Luckily, the democratic field can boast of more than one alternative to Hillary, which is why I hope we women don’t get suckered into making a gender based decision on who ought to be President. Let’s just look at each candidate’s manifesto and his or her voting record on issues we care about. Everything else is smoke.

Let’s not get misguided by the chance to make history or the ‘winnability’ factor. If it means that a little girl does not have a rebuttal to the statement “Girls can’t grow up to be President,” I’m sorry, but that can’t be the criterion for making such a big decision. That little girl can just knock her tormentor in the teeth and prove him wrong by standing for class president!

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