Kent Bush: Clinton’s nomination a watershed moment in U.S. history
The year was 1992.
I was 21 years old and a political science and economics major at Oklahoma State University. A former teacher who played a big role in my academic success in high school had just asked me to manage her State Senate campaign.
That same year, Hillary Clinton was headed to the White House. Clinton was following a path dozens of other women had traveled as first lady. Now she is blazing her own trail as the candidate for one of America’s two major political parties in hopes of returning to the White House.
It has been 24 years and a lot of things have changed. That summer’s campaign gave me no reason to believe that a woman would have a chance to be elected President in America — at least not only 24 years later.
Working on behalf of a female candidate in 1992 was no small chore. She was a demonstrably superior candidate to the five men in the contest. To say it was an uphill fight is an understatement.
From the older women who didn’t think it was her place to run for a spot in the State Senate to the men who didn’t think a woman should be elected, there was a lot of resistance that had nothing to do with her education, work ethic or leadership skills.
But no woman has ever represented Senate District 23. Not before 1992 and not since.
I will never forget the anger that rose inside me on a hot evening in Tuttle, Oklahoma, when we were knocking on doors and trying to win votes. I stood on a porch in the southern part of the city and a man in his late 50s or early 60s opened the door. I would have a better guess at his age now, but I was 21 — everyone over 30 looked old.
I told the man what I was doing and how excited we were to be talking to people about the woman I was working for. His answer made me recoil.
“Why should I vote for a power hungry (word that rhymes with ditch but isn’t appropriate for a family friendly publication)?” he asked with a huff.
My first reaction was to get angry, but I had knocked on his door and interrupted his evening so I tried to keep my cool.
“Well, sir, I don’t think she is power hungry or a (deleted again),” I said. “In fact, she is running because she cares about people and wants to help.”
“Well, she should have saved her time and left politics to the men,” he said, shutting the door in my face. We have come a long way in the past 24 years. Now that guy would just not answer his door and say that stuff on Facebook or Twitter.
Everyone didn’t have mobile phones in 1992. I walked back to my Pontiac Sunbird and tried to process what had just happened. When the campaign began, I braced myself for people who would support another candidate, but somehow my idealism was still alive at that point — don’t worry, 22 years in the newspaper business has done a number on it.
I was entirely unprepared for that kind of venom in a local race.
Why do you think Sarah Palin could never get enough support to be a candidate herself? Do you remember how Hillary Clinton was treated as recently as 2008 when she shed a tear on the campaign trail? What about just this week? How many of the criticisms of her style are merely sexist dog whistles delivered in politically more appealing packages?
You don’t have to love Clinton. Some do. Some don’t. Some watch Wheel of Fortune and would have to buy a vowel to solve a puzzle with her name in it.
But Thursday’s formal acceptance of the presidential nomination from one of the two major parties in America was a watershed moment.
Women have legally been eligible for the Presidency. It has been possible.
But after Thursday night, every woman and girl in America can see that goal as truly achievable.
The glass ceiling is gone.
We have about 100 days until we find out if she will be the first female leader of the free world.
Regardless, Thursday night was historic and important.
Hopefully people from both sides of the political spectrum can appreciate that.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.