A Few Thoughts on The Clintons, Politics, and Choice

Hillary Clinton has yet to actually announce her intention to run for the presidency in the 2016 elections, but DC has been abuzz with rumors about it for some time now.  Recently, her daughter Chelsea announced that she is expecting a child, igniting a new media storm surrounding the Clinton family.

It’s not surprising that a Clinton grandchild would receive media attention.  After all, Bill was a popular president, and Hillary a famous and respected first lady, senator, and Secretary of State.  Hillary received notable youth support during the primaries leading up to the 2008 election, and was one of the most prominent women in the country during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Many of her supporters were thrilled to see her stand up for women’s rights and handle the events which transpired at Benghazi with grace and professionalism.  The idea of her running for president again inspired the formation of Ready for Hillary, a PAC that has been raising money from grassroots donors who want to support her candidacy, even without its formal announcement.  The Clinton Foundation is renowned for its work on global health, and Chelsea Clinton’s advocacy regarding HIV/AIDS has been notable as well.  In a country where we can’t have a royal baby, we’ll certainly settle for the next in the Clinton line.

That said, there have been two major issues surrounding the pregnancy announcement, and I want to talk about those.

First, the media has started to ask questions about how this baby might impact a 2016 presidential run by Hillary Clinton.  It’s even been suggested that Chelsea timed this pregnancy to help her mother’s political career.  A couple of problems: 1) pregnancy is not a button you just push, getting pregnant takes time, and 2) the “political ramifications of Hillary Clinton’s grandmotherhood” is a silly issue based in sexist assumptions.

“Now we’re going to see her as a grandmother and for somebody who’s thinking of running for president its hard to imagine a more sympathetic role than that,” said POLITICO’s Alexander Burns.  But why?  Why are grandmothers more sympathetic than grandfathers?

Mitt Romney had a large number of grandchildren, but no one made an issue of it during the 2012 presidential campaign.  The analysis that perceptions of Hillary will be “softened” by the addition of a grandchild to her life just don’t carry over to our conversations about other candidates, namely male candidates.  Perhaps, yes, the addition of a baby will be of interest to people who have followed the family, but so are other significant things, like Hillary’s own accomplishments.

The greater issue is that older women are considered sweet, grandmotherly, nurturing, and older men are considered strong, wise, and experienced.  Hillary may well be all of those latter things, but the media won’t draw attention to them if they focus on her grandmother status, something they have not focused any attention on, not only with Mitt Romney but with former president George W. Bush, as well as other older candidates for office.  The reality is, the media talks about different things when it discusses female candidates, and it does so in a way that reinforces the political glass ceiling.

The second issue, of course, is the strange backlash against the Clintons because they are pro-choice but Chelsea is having a baby.  This is pretty clearly silly.  Pro-choice individuals do have children-~-it’s their choice, after all.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t jive with the anti-choice movement’s narrative that women who support abortion are anti-baby and have no respect for human life.  The reality that the majority of women who have abortions already have a child when they decide they need the procedure defies this narrative as well, and is often overlooked by the movement.

What the pro-choice movement would generally say, however, is that pro-choice of course isn’t anti-baby, it’s about supporting individuals’ rights to access their bodily autonomy and make their own medical decisions.  Being pro-choice isn’t about a lack of respect for life, it’s about recognizing that the lives of the people who can become pregnant matter as well, and that bringing a child into this world who will have a terrible life, who will not be able to access their rights, who will not be safe or able to pursue happiness, is not doing right by that child.

At the end of the day, the reality is this: having this child was the choice of Chelsea Clinton and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky.  It was a choice, and one that we all should respect.  Bringing a child into the world is an incredible thing, and an incredible responsibility to undertake, and to treat this as a political ploy instead of the intensely personal experience this will be for Chelsea Clinton is silly.  Yes, I am sure we will all “oooh” and “awww” over pictures of the baby once it is born, but until then, let’s just all sit back, wait for Clinton to announce, and bask in the fact that finally we can talk about Hillary in relation to something other than Benghazi.



~ by Randi Saunders on April 23, 2014.

One Response to “A Few Thoughts on The Clintons, Politics, and Choice”

  1. Nice post! The British press painted Kate Middleton as a hyper-ideal, virgin bride/mother. We never learned about her aspirations or hopes for the future unless they involved the future king. The patriarchy, as illustrated in the media, still longs for the perfect mum.

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