The Democratic National Convention reminded me that I’m a sucker for “firsts.” The first this, the first that. Broken barriers. Pioneers who take the arrows because they’re brave enough to lead the way.
Let’s hear it for the first Latino to break into the top tier of the Cabinet and serve as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales. Let’s have a round of applause for the first African-American on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall. Let’s pay our respects to the first American woman in space, Sally Ride.
The first person through the door never has it easy. People don’t know what to make of you, because they’re used to something different. And so they tend to show their ignorance frequently. But barriers need to be knocked down, and there is nothing wrong with showing pride when they crumble and honoring those who swung the hammer and sent the pieces flying.
And when we’re talking about elective office or government appointments, it’s also appropriate to heap a little scorn on those across the aisle who played it safe and missed the chance to make history.
For instance, when I think about the fact that President Ronald Reagan made history when he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to sit on the Supreme Court, I can’t help but feel some contempt toward Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon for not breaking that barrier first. What stopped them?
And now that Democrats have made history by nominating the first woman from a major party to be president, it’s fair to ask why the GOP didn’t get there first. Republican Elizabeth Dole ran for president in 2000, Michele Bachmann in 2012, and Carly Fiorina in 2016. None of these women could get any real traction in her own party.
So, on one level, I give the Democrats a lot of credit for what they’ve done. Their hearts are in the right place. I’m just not sure, at the moment, where their heads are.
Because in addition to being “Never Trump,” I’m also “Never Hillary.” I think the Democratic nominee can’t be trusted to tell the truth any more than she could be trusted with top secret material in emails transmitted through her private server.
Still, the four-day event in Philadelphia produced some really terrific moments. I especially liked the part where Donald Trump was put in his place by both President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama when they reminded him that America doesn’t need to be made great – because it already is great. I also enjoyed former President Bill Clinton’s charming admission that his life “really took off when I met and fell in love with that girl.”
Yet, for me, as the father of two young girls who I want to see go as far as their gifts and grit will take them, the best part was Tuesday night’s theme of shattering the glass ceiling – and what it would mean for Clinton to become the first female president in the 240-year history of this country.
At the risk of raining on what the Democratic National Committee intended to be a coronation, it’s worth taking a minute to acknowledge what it doesn’t mean.
It doesn’t mean that, magically, girls won’t have to put up with being tracked in our public schools away from math and science and toward language arts. It doesn’t mean that young women will be any safer on college campuses where sexual assault has become much too prevalent. It doesn’t mean that women entering the workforce will no longer have to put up with sexual harassment or salary disparities or job discrimination. And it doesn’t mean that there will be a truce in the “mommy wars” and that professional women will stop feeling as though they’re being torn apart by trying to have it all both at home and in the workplace.
Electing Clinton will spare the country from the calamity of a Donald Trump presidency, and perhaps that is enough. But it won’t spare millions of American women from the challenges they face, the indignities they endure, and the obstacles they must overcome. For most women in this country, even with a woman serving as president, life won’t change.
Having said that, it’s time for this barrier to be broken. Look at American history, and the state of the world. Men have done enough damage, don’t you think? It’s why I’m eager to vote for a woman for president. Just not this woman.
Contact Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.