What it would mean to have a woman in the White House

Aw, shucks.
Aw, shucks.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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Hillary Clinton this week became the first woman ever to clinch the nomination of a major US political party in a presidential election. One the one hand, that this should be treated as unusual is slightly ridiculous; after all, to borrow a sentiment from Canada’s Justin Trudeau, it’s 2016. On the other hand, I, no doubt like many other American women, never felt fully confident I would see this in my lifetime. So when I watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination this week, I sobbed.

Beyond the symbolism, though, what would it mean to have a woman in the White House? What would she get done? The easy argument: Not much. Congressional Republicans have now spent eight years honing their talent at obstructing efforts of a Democrat-held White House. They could see fit to block any of her attempts to introduce reforms, including those that bring women more equal treatment in society and the workplace. But as a legislator, Clinton had a record of reaching across the aisle, especially to her female peers in the Senate, and frequently succeeded in finding bipartisan compromises. Who’s to say she couldn’t do the same from a perch at the White House?

The first time a major US party put a woman in any spot on the ticket was 1984, when Democrat Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro as his vice-presidential running mate. I was only nine, but watching the news and overhearing the grown-ups’ discussions, I could sense how transgressive it all seemed, as though the women’s movement in the US had somehow gotten ahead of itself. Even the American feminist Gloria Steinem was said to be shocked. As of this week, there finally is a woman at the very top of a major party ticket. And the shock is only that it took this long.

This essay was published as part of the Quartz Weekend Brief. Sign up for our newsletters here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.