I appreciated Kate’s thoughtful post on how painful it’s occasionally been to be a woman during this race. Having supported Clinton early on in the race, then switched over, I was disappointed that Obama made no mention of her run in his acceptance speech last night.
Still, it bears pointing out that, in fact, women did make some small steps forward yesterday. Namely, we now have more women than ever in Congress, adding one women on the Senate side (Jeanne Shaheen; Kay Hagan cancels out Elizabeth Dole) and ten women on the House side (two are still in closely contested races that haven’t been called yet), for a perhaps not especially grand total of 91. For someone who believes, as I do, that the path to progress is habituation, that sort of low-level, incremental change is heartening. If the mere fact of having black faces in the White House will do as much for race relations in America as I hope and imagine it will, the same effect must work on a smaller scale for the men across the country who just voted, for the first time, for a female leader. Several powerful women are also in the running for top administration posts, including Janet Napolitano for attorney general and Kathleen Sebelius for a variety of things. Perhaps we’ll look back on this election and see the Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin dramas as distractions from the gradual, on-the-ground changes that were happening all around us, so subtly that we barely noticed at the time.
In any case, I like to read Clinton’s troubles as the throes of a necessary bushwhacking; awkward, yes, and sometimes hard to watch, but she has certainly opened up a path for those who will follow.
Suzy Khimm is a senior editor at The New Republic.