Hillary Clinton has officially announced her candidacy in the 2016 Presidential election. In her announcement video (above), Clinton claims that “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top (1:41-4).” It is hard to argue with her, given that she is the wife of a former President. Insofar as U.S. voters are resentful of dynastic wealth and power, perhaps Clinton’s best hope for winning the election would be for her Republican opponent to be Jeb Bush.
Obama’s candidacy in 2008 in many ways became a referendum, if not on the political power of African-Americans, then on the readiness of the average (white) American voter to accept a black candidate. Clinton will likely face the same impediment to her candidacy that Obama faced–approximately 5% of the population categorically rejecting them. Gallup polls actually suggest that the idea of a woman President is marginally more offensive to Americans than a black one. Pew polls, however, suggest that twice as many Americans view a hypothetical woman candidate’s gender as a positive than view it as a negative. Gallup polls actually suggest that Clinton’s supporters consider her gender to be far and away her best quality.
The symbolic nature of a potential Clinton victory, however, is not analogous to the symbolism surrounding Obama’s victory. Barak Obama may be a relatively light-skinned son of one Harvard educated Kenyan bureaucrat and one white American academic, but was nevertheless a relatively random well-off black man in the eyes of most Americans, carrying with him all the negative baggage typically associated with that demographic status. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is not a random well-off woman, but the wife of a former President. While the wife of a President has never formally held executive power in the United States–though Edith Wilson essentially became the executive after Woodrow’s stroke–the precedent for wives, daughters, and mothers of former male heads of state to succeed them is rampant throughout history.
Thus, while Obama’s presidential platform was clearly not to combat white supremacy, his popularity with the electorate was symbolic of the ongoing and deepening struggle against white supremacy. Clinton’s candidacy, on the other hand, not only lacks a radical feminist platform, but isn’t even symbolically anti-patriarchal. Clinton’s candidacy, the viability of which is inextricably tethered to her relational status, is a core function of patriarchy.