Guest columnist Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer and mother of three. She primarily writes about parenting, family life and teen issues. Her work has appeared in many online and print publications including Teen Life, Your Teen, Scary Mommy, SheKnows and Grown and Flown.
In April 2015, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she would officially seek the democratic nomination for president of the United States in the 2016 election.
Clinton ran previously in 2007 and lost the party nomination to Barack Obama. If she wins the nomination this time, she will be the first woman to run for president of the United States and if elected, the first female president.
How does this historic run for the highest government office impact young adult voters?
Why haven’t we ever had a woman president in the United States?
This is the question that author Marianne Schnall was asked by her then eight year old daughter which prompted her to write her book, What Will It Take to Make A Woman President? Schnall states, “Whether it is subliminal or overt, women candidates are held to different standards then men and we’ve seen that already with this campaign.” Schnall points out that women are judged differently than men and there is a tendency to label them as “too hard” or “too soft” based in part on a subliminal gender bias.
Both Clinton’s 2007 and current runs for the nomination, as well as the 2016 campaigns of Carly Fiorina (republican) and Jill Stein (green party) can definitely be seen as steps in a positive direction for women.
Says Schnall, “Currently less than 20% of congress is made up of woman and just 6 state governors are female. Seeing woman pursue leadership positions in politics as well as other arenas such as corporate America sends an important message to young woman about gender equality and what they can achieve.”
If Clinton Gets the Nomination …
Ruth B, Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, says, “For 18 and 19 year olds, this will be the first time they are voting in a presidential election. Just having the opportunity to vote for a woman will be something they will never forget. It would have an historic impact similar to the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first African American president.”
For young woman, the allure of voting for the first female president may not be monumental as it is for older generations. Schnall explains, “Many young women do not see limits on their own potential, which is a positive. They may feel that at some point in time there will be a female president, so it does not have to be now. Older voters may be more inclined to vote based on gender, believing this may be their only opportunity to see a female president in their lifetime.” Adds Mandel, “The gender barrier is only broken when it happens. Saying a woman can be president is not the same as a woman actually being president.”
More than Gender
Mandel explains it may be hard to get away from discussing Clinton’s gender and the historic impact of her nomination, but it is important to evaluate her and the other candidates based on their resumes. Mandel says, “The Clintons introduced our country to a new kind of generation of young married couples. Yes, she served as First Lady of the United States, but hers is not the story of a stay-at-home wife tossing off her apron to run for president. She was always a politically active woman of achievement.”
In addition to being first lady, Clinton has served as secretary of state, New York state senator, and first lady of Arkansas. She has been a practicing lawyer and law professor. Says Mandel, “No one can argue that she is not a qualified candidate. Still, the question arises – must a woman be smarter, wittier and more capable than any man running to win the presidency?”
Know the Candidates and Vote
Whether this is a young adult’s first presidential election or they are seasoned voters, the most important thing is to get educated about all the candidates. There is a great deal young voters can learn about the candidates from political and news websites, reading articles, watching the debates and television interviews, and even late night talk shows. Mandel suggests young people make a list of each candidate’s position on the topics that matter most to them. Says Schnall, “Young adults need to understand that their voices matter and their votes matter. They need to be involved, informed, engaged citizens.”
For more info – check out www.presidentialgenderwatch.org