Of Course I Want to See a Woman President. But Pete’s Time is Now.
“Joyce, I just want to say something to you.”
Uh-oh. Whenever my good friend Phil (not his real name) starts a sentence that way, I know that brutal honesty follows. I am grateful for his forthrightness, and I have grown to trust that anything divulged in the name of truthfulness will never stress the solid fabric of our friendship.
“To be honest,” he began. “I am surprised that you are supporting Pete Buttigieg for President. I mean, Pete’s solid and all — don’t get me wrong — and I’m sure he’ll make a great President one day. But of all the people I know, I would have expected you to use your voice to get behind electing a woman. Don’t you think it’s about time this country finally had a woman president?”
In the seconds that followed, an atypical, uncomfortable silence hung between us. I did not know quite how to formulate my answer to him — someone with whom, by the way, I have always shared fundamental political ideologies.
Then, he added, “And you have granddaughters!”
“I do,” I answered. “And that’s why I am supporting Pete all the way to the White House.”
“What?” he said, a puzzled look on his face. “Tell me you’re kidding — please.”
“I’m not,” I answered. “I could not be more serious.”
He shook his head, gave me an ever-so-slight eye roll, and looked towards the window…silent again.
“Phil,” I said. “Look, I would really love to witness the inauguration of America’s first female president. I would love to stand there in the shadow of the Capitol, holding my granddaughters’ hands, and watch together as the first woman officially becomes Madame President. It would be awesome. But I think they’d be equally enthralled and inspired to watch the inauguration of a man who would be a formidable champion for all of their dreams as well.”
I went on to explain to Phil that in my opinion, there is no 2020 candidate, male or female, that comes close to the brilliance, hope and promise of Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy. And my job — as a voter, a patriot, a humanitarian, a woman, a mother, and a grandmother — is not to make an assessment of any candidate by gender alone. It is to work to support the candidate who, in my view, will bring my granddaughters and grandsons a much, much better world than the one into which they had been born. Our democracy is imperiled, and if 45 is re-elected, it may actually perish.
Months ago, I set out to read all I could about the candidates as each announced their intention to run — trying to see if any among them had the full constellation of skills necessary to rescue a democracy nearly on life-support. When I read about Pete, watched his videos, and then read some more, my heart literally raced. He checked every single box. Every single one: A convener. A deep understanding of — and respect for — the American Constitution. Humble. Brilliant. A brave veteran. An astute student of foreign policy. Compassionate. Ethical. A humanitarian. A visionary for the future. A loving husband.
As I spoke to Phil that day, I thought about my mom, Shirley Kamen — my grandchildren’s great-grandmother — who was always politically opinionated…and fiercely so. She was passionate about the issues that mattered most to her: Healthcare, a candidate’s reverence for human life, gun control, and equal rights.
My mother was born only five years after the 19th amendment — passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920 — granted women the right to vote. It is not lost on me that the 100th anniversary of that momentous moment in American history will occur only several weeks before the 2020 presidential election. “There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers,” Susan B. Anthony, the famed pioneer crusader for the woman suffrage movement in the U.S. once said. Today, women DO make laws and we DO elect lawmakers. I believe I — and millions of other women throughout this nation — honor the struggle of the early suffragettes when we raise our voices in the nation’s political processes to help to deliver the most qualified candidates to address the myriad challenges we face.
“Phil,” I began. “I do not deny for a moment that electing a woman as the United States president would send a powerful message of empowerment to women and girls throughout the nation and the world.”
But then, I reminded him that though female Supreme Court justices, Cabinet secretaries, senators, representatives, ambassadors and have inspired Americans for years — Pete’s unbelievably outstanding qualifications make him the only 2020 candidate that could rise to meet the staggering tests ahead.
“Have you done a deep enough dive on Pete to know what I am saying?” I asked.
“Well, no, not exactly,” answered Phil. “I’ve done some reading on him..not a lot though…because I just think it’s time for a woman to take her seat in the Oval Office. It’s that simple.”
“OK, Phil. But given Pete’s candidacy, I just don’t think that time is now. But I will say that the person I would love to see as his Vice-President happens to be a woman, whose experience, political acumen and policy positions make her my first choice. Does that help?”
By the look on his face, I could tell that Phil was about to be brutally honest again. “Joyce, you and I are just not going to agree here. But that’s OK…because I know Pete must be one helluva guy if you’re so strong on him. So I’ll do my thing, and you do yours. But either way, getting that idiot out of the White House will be a win for us both.”
“Yes, let’s win the era,” I replied.
“Agreed,” he responded.