A Woman for President: Is the U.S. Ready?

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There are a lot of discussions about whether Hillary Clinton should run for president. Her age is sometimes cited as an obstacle, as is her husband, her history as secretary of state, and of course, inevitably, her gender. It’s been discussed in two distinct ways – there’s the “Are we ready for a female president as a nation?” question, and then there’s the Fox News-Bill O’Reilly version: “There’s got to be some downside to having a female president, right?” We’ll address the first question; the second doesn’t merit a response other than the one he was given in the video below.

The former question is one that a long list of politicians and political figureheads have addressed, sometimes to very different tunes, though opinions tend to fall upon partisan lines, and even objective polls have their own biases. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is one person who has recently voiced her opinion on whether the nation is prepared to vote a woman into office, saying that Americans “aren’t ready.”

“I don’t think there is a pent-up desire,” she said, per Politico. “I think there was a cachet about having an African-American president because of guilt. People don’t hold guilt for a woman.” She also touched on Hillary Clinton specifically as a candidate. “If a person reads the Senate Intelligence report and the House Foreign Affairs report released [last] week, it is damning for Hillary Clinton,” said Bachmann, emphasizing Clinton’s stance on the Affordable Care Act. Bachmann added that Hillary is “the godmother of Obamacare,” and that “effectively she would be Obama’s third and fourth term in office.”

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may have had a bumpy start to their relationship in Washington, but once the election was said and done, the relationship smoothed back to a working one. “Hillary and I, we’re buddies,” said Obama, per Politico. “I think because we ran in the longest primary in history, and our staffs were doing battle politically, the perception was this was always a marriage of convenience when she came in as secretary of state. I’ve always admired her. As soon as she got here, she couldn’t have been more effective, more loyal.”

This appears to remain the sentiment despite some brief criticism of the administration mentioned in Clinton’s recent book, Hard Choice. “It would have been strange if she wrote a book in which she agreed with every single thing we did. On the broad thrust of our foreign policy, she was fully on board. There are also going to places where she is gong to have differences,” said Ben Rhodes, a national security adviser to Obama, according to Politico.

Michelle Obama, for her part, directly discussed the possibility of a female president, clearly referencing Clinton, though never directly stating her name. At the White House Working Families Summit on Monday, Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America asked the first lady her thoughts on when a woman president should be be elected. “That should happen as soon as possible,” said Michelle Obama. “I think this country is ready.”

The polls also have their own input on how much Hillary Clinton’s gender would affect her chances in a presidential election in 2016, should she ultimately decide to run — an announcement expected in early 2015. The Pew Research Center released the results of an April survey last month that looked at presidential traits and how they would positively or adversely affect the chances of a candidate.

The two worst traits turned out to be atheism, with 53 percent of respondents saying it would make them less likely to vote for an individual, and having never held office, at 52 percent. Being a woman was reported as more of an advantage than a disadvantage, at 19 percent and 9 percent, respectively, and 71 percent of respondents polled said that it would make no difference.

In a June Gallup poll, Hillary’s approval numbers were showing continued decreases, especially among independent respondents, with Democrats and Republicans tending to remain the same. Compared to the 64 percent favorability rating seen in April, June showed a 58 percent rating. According to a March Gallup poll, her gender was actually one of her biggest advantages, with 18 percent saying the “most positive thing about a Hillary Clinton presidency” was that she would be the first female to take the executive office.

It’s important to point out that this is likely skewed by those respondents who would not choose to vote for her based on her politics. As for Clinton herself, she’s called the presidency the “highest, hardest glass ceiling,” according to The Guardian. “I’m hoping that we get it cracked, because it’s past time, but it’s going to be difficult,” she said.

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