"Combined with her very detailed policy proposals on matters ranging from childcare, to systematic racism, criminal justice and autism, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is no Margret “There is no such thing as society” Thatcher."
Hillary Clinton’s nomination as the Democratic Party’s official nominee would likely have been the story that would have dominated the narrative of the 2016 US Presidential election, much like when Barack Obama became the first African-American to win the Presidential Nomination from a major party back in 2008.
However that was before Donald Trump decided to run on a surprisingly successful campaign that involved shattering decades of political norms in matters of public conduct and in discussions about race and immigration, the consequences of which will doubtlessly play out for years to come.
However, after the progressive surge that was crystallised by the campaign of Bernie Sanders – an independent Democratic Socialist senator from Vermont who rose his campaign funds through small donors, eschewing donations from corporations – many on the left feel underwhelmed by the nomination of a long-established and well-connected candidate, with a history of press scandals, messy political compromises, and with no reluctance in accepting donations from corporations.
This might describe the lack of excitement around Hillary Clinton’s historic achievement, compared to that of Obama eight years ago.
However, make no mistake about it, Hillary Clinton’s nomination is very significant, both on a symbolic and on a policy level.
While it is clear that sexism has definitely not gone away, and that there are still very different societal expectations placed on women that are often contradictory, even the fact that a major position of power (could) be held by a woman in itself has proven to have beneficial effects.
One of the best studies done on the benefits of merely having female political leaders was published in the journal Science, in 2012.
The study was conducted in West Bengal, India, which mandated a certain number of positions of "pradhan" (essentially city council chief) be given to women.
Each election cycle, a certain number of villages would be chosen, at random, to fill this quota.
By comparing cities where girls grew up with female leaders to those where they didn’t, the researchers found notable results about how the communities in the former category started to view other women in fundamentally different ways.
In villages assigned female pradhans, the fraction of parents who believed that a daughter’s occupation (but not a son’s) should be determined by her in-laws declined from 76 percent to 65 percent.
Adolescent girls in those areas were less likely to want to be housewives too. The number of minutes young girls spent on housework declined 18 minutes in the areas with female representatives — and the gap in educational attainment of young boys and girls completely closed. That didn’t happen in the areas that weren’t assigned female pradhans.
In this particular study, there wasn’t any evidence that these pradhans legislated differently; they didn’t pass new educational programs for girls, for example.
Instead, as the researchers put it, "It is their presence as positive role models for the younger generation that seems to underlie observed changes in aspirations and educational outcomes of adolescent girls."
However, in the US, there are examples about how male and female legislators in the US congress legislate differently.
Female legislators were not only more likely to move legislation on areas with more direct effects on women (such as violence against women, family leave policy, etc.), but in general, tended to have more of their bills passed into legislation than the average male senator.
On average, they even brought back more federal dollars to their constituents than their male counterparts.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule that women politicians always have a beneficial impact that could help other women lower down the line – the prime example of this being Margret Thatcher, whose neo-liberal economic policies and her virtually all-male cabinets did not do a lot to advance the position of women in the United Kingdom, and left a lot of other venerable communities in the cold.
However, it would be quite a stretch to suggest that Clinton is another Thatcher.
Even before she got elected as a New York Senator in 2000, Clinton had a long record of involvement in public service, filing reports on matters relating to juvenile sentencing and disabled rights, and as First Lady during her husband’s time as Governor of Arkansas, was influential in the establishment of a highly-regarded preschool system in that state.
Combined with her very detailed policy proposals on matters ranging from childcare, to systematic racism, criminal justice and autism, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is no Margret “There is no such thing as society” Thatcher.
While people will inevitably point to countless other stains on her record, some of it – giving paid speeches, accepting corporate donations, and having adopted outdated positions in the past – are all flaws that are often present in much more popular American politicians, and all of the various “scandals” relating to her emails have led to a dead-end.
It is unclear why any of the above would counteract Mrs. Clinton’s long track record of adopting policies that have had beneficial impacts on the poorest in society – especially since she will now have a strong progressive wing in the Democratic party and grassroots to pressure her on these issues – as, believe it or not, it is possible to introduce progressive policies in the US, even if you take on donations from corporations.
Obama’s Healthcare reforms were introduced despite this, after all.
Hillary Clinton has had a much longer political track record than Obama does, and has proven to have both the temperament to provide both a good role model for women in the future, and the policies to provide them the means to do so… or at least, better policies than the alternative candidate.