Sunday, May 11, 2008

Next in line?

By all appearances, America will hit its 236th birthday without having had a woman president*. Hillary Clinton certainly came close, closer than any woman before. Many other states have had multiple woman leaders. For what it's worth, in that time the Philippines and New Zealand have had two heads of government (Aquino and Marcapagal, Shipley and Clark), Pakistan and Indonesia -- two Muslim nations -- one each (Bhutto and Sukarnoputri).

Below I've included five prominent women in American politics who may someday give the United States its first woman leader.

  • Condoleezza Rice (Former Secretary of State). Pros: Of recent and prominent vintage. As a minority and a woman, could chip away at some Democratic blocs while carrying much of the GOP vote. Cons: Closely identified with Iraq. No political experience, evidence that she can run for office.
    Elizabeth Dole (Senator of North Carolina). Pros: Well known last name. Cons: Scant electoral and policy record, possibly will not keep her Senate seat in 2008.
  • Janet Napolitano (Governor of Arizona). Pros: Popular in the Southwest and among Hispanics, two electoral keys. Smart on the immigration issue. Cons: Not well known outside of the region, strong personality and lack of a spouse foster rumors that she is homosexual.
  • Kathleen Sebelius (Governor of Kansas). Pros: A smart executive with much experience who can clearly reach out to the center -- half her cabinet seems to be former Republicans. Cons: Possibly too far to the right for the Dem primary, and her style may not carry well.
  • Hillary Clinton (Senator for New York). Pros: A deep understanding of policy and strong experience record. Tough campaign style and a proven ability to reach out to centrist voters. Cons: Loathed by the right, and the Democratic far left. Already has lost once.
  • Oprah Winfrey (TV host) Pros: Loved by a crowd of slavishly devoted Americans. Sassy. Cons: High-strung. Debate performance when dieting could be scary.

It's a scant list. I believe I've forgotten some people, but I've reviewed lists of women in Congress and statewide offices, and few people stand out for me. Some intriguing figures, such as Christine Gregoire, Sarah Palin, and Claire McCaskill still have some steps to walk before getting there.

* I remain convinced that at that point we will not have had our first president from an ethnic or racial minority.

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