America Doesn't Get To Decide If It's "Ready" For Two Women On A Ticket
Now that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has passed the delegate threshold and wears the shiny new crown of “presumptive presidential nominee,” the speculation about her VP pick has already begun to skyrocket. Erstwhile Democratic candidate Lincoln Chafee even rose from political obscurity for a moment to give his very important thoughts on the matter. Sanders would be a “fabulous" running mate, he told CNN on Tuesday, while Elizabeth Warren is less fabulous because of her "relatively brief electoral experience." It's no surprise that Chafee at least commented on Warren's vice presidential prospects. Despite the fact that the Massachusetts senator, reigning Trump-destroyer, and all-around liberal darling has yet to endorse Clinton, her name is thrown into the VP ring pretty much daily.
There are some strong reasons it would be unlikely for Clinton to tap Warren. Aside from the fact that Warren is the only female Democratic U.S. senator who hasn't endorsed Clinton, she represents a state with a Republican governor, which means that if she vacated her seat, Gov. Charlie Baker would probably choose a fellow Republican to fill her spot. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has already made it clear that he is not okay with such a prospect. Still, buzz about Warren feeds interest and debate over having two women head a major political party's ticket in the general election.
On Tuesday, ABC News' David Muir asked Clinton whether America was “ready for two women” to lead it. He referenced Montana Sen. John Tester's remarks on a Clinton-Warren ticket. ("Is the country ready for two women? I don’t know.") The refrain “Are we ready?” is a common one when the nation is on the brink of doing something unprecedented, but which probably should have happened a long time ago. People like this question. They find that it means well and speaks encouragingly to how far we have come as a society. I think it is a festering pile of garbage that does not deserve to be asked, because it feeds into a self-congratulatory false premise that really needs to stop.
In this particular instance, Clinton, in my opinion, punted in her answer: “I think at some point. Maybe this time, maybe in the future. But we’re going to be looking for the most qualified person to become president should something happen to me, if I’m fortunate enough to be the president." Maybe you were hoping for more specifics. But her answer is kind of expected, and much less annoying than the question itself.
Asking “Are we ready?” is not helpful. It is not progressive. It does not illustrate our culture’s noble climb toward equality or a progressive utopia. Remember when the St. Louis Rams drafted Michael Sam, and everyone was all, “Oh, is America ready for an openly gay NFL player?” The NFL had no right, no business declaring itself “ready” or “not ready” for gay players. America has no business deliberating whether or not it’s “ready” to be led by two women. It had no business pondering whether it was “ready” for a black leader in 2008.
People are qualified when they’re qualified. It is not the job of any institution or government to deign to bestow some kind of blessing. We don’t have the right to be “ready,” because we never had the right to be “not ready” in the first place. Who are we to declare that equal opportunity may now go ahead and happen, because we have all given it serious thought and decided we are finally okay with it? We can’t grant a marginalized person permission to now be a fully functioning member of our society; that was never ours to withhold. None of us has that kind of moral authority. Yet, not only do we believe that we do, but we also frame it in a way that smugly pats ourselves on the back for our wisely evolved, newfound generosity.
I’m not saying the question isn’t important. It is important in the sense of asking, "Is the collective mood of the nation in a place where we can successfully put two women on the ticket, or will that move alone hand the election to Donald Trump?” If it's the latter, we should be sorely disappointed on ourselves as a country, and far graver national introspection is needed than "Are we ready?" Maybe Clinton will choose a female running mate; likely, she will not. But it doesn't matter if we're "ready."
Image: Bustle/Caroline Wurtzel