14 February 2008

Oh, That's Why I Don't Care

I've been pondering why I'm basically indifferent to Clinton's billing as the first female president of the U.S. - why her being a woman, and were she elected how that might be "historically momentous" - doesn't factor at all into my thoughts on the campaign. Is it because I'm a bad feminist? (That's probably the case, but it's not why I don't care for this particular spin on her candidacy). Is it because affectively though not rationally I am excited about electing (or rather, watching the election of) the first black president? (I am, but that still doesn't explain my indifference to Clinton's historical potential). Is it because her history, image, and policies turn me off her campaign? (To a slight degree, I am turned off her campaign, but again this doesn't answer the question of why her historical potential is not a factor).

None of these is the case; rather, it seems to me that viewed outside the lens of American exceptionalism, patriotism, group-self-love, etc., a Clinton presidency would not be historically unprecedented by any means. America has been dreadfully slow at electing its first female head of state, and may have to wait decades to do so - this is unsurprising, as this country is otherwise so generally regressive/unprogressive. But America's peers - its social group, its "like-minded allies," its cultural brethren, whatever you want to call them - have already taken this historically "unprecedented" turn. The UK had Thatcher in 1979, Germany elected Merkel in 2005. Even prudish Canada gloried in the brief rule of Kim Campbell in 1993.*

In other words, "it's been done." Outside the parochial lens of U.S. domestic politics, electing female leaders is rare but certainly not unprecedented. But to my knowledge, no Western liberal democracy has been headed by a member of a visible minority ethnic or racial group, much less a historically oppressed one. Maybe that's why I have an irrational affective positive disposition towards Barack Obama. Please correct me if I'm wrong, because then maybe I can approach this election with cool calculation (or at least then we can debate about what counts as "Western," "liberal," and "democratic" as I try to cling to my irrational position...).

*On top of this, Among other Western liberal democracies, current and past female heads of government have led Bulgaria, Finland, France, Lithuania (as a transitional democracy), Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland (also arguably transitional), and Portugal. Heads of state excluding monarchs: Iceland (1980-1996), Ireland (1990-1997), Latvia (1999-2007), and latecomer-to-full-suffrage Switzerland (2003 onward).


Luke said...

And Chile! Don't forget about Chile!

Aldous said...

I was going to leave Latin America out of the Liberal-o-sphere.

Luke said...

Don't be prejudiced against Southern Hemispherical social democracies!