A grandmother for president [Commentary]

The newest qualifier for leadership

April 23, 2014|Susan Reimer

Now there are two.

Two smart, tough and articulate women who could be president.

Thirty years after Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman on the presidential ticket of a major party, we have two women who could easily lead that ticket in 2016. Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. It is almost an embarrassment of riches.

Ms. Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who has made a populist name for herself fighting banks and Wall Street, just released the requisite autobiography, "A Fighting Chance." It is the kind of folksy manifesto that will introduce her to the rest of the nation. Her book tour has lots of stops inside her home state, but plenty across the country, too.

She keeps repeating that she is not running for president, but, as others have been quick to point out, she keeps using the present tense. She says she wants to work instead to change the rules so that middle class families have a chance to succeed in the face of all the money and power lined up against them. The first title she considered for her book was "Rigged."

Ms. Clinton continues to be coy about any plans to run for president, but the conventional wisdom is that the nomination — indeed, the White House — is hers if she wants it.

A Clinton presidency or a Warren presidency would be remarkable for the obvious reason of their sex. But I'd like to suggest another reason why either woman would change the nature of leadership in this country: They are both grandmothers — or will be. Chelsea Clinton announced last week that she was pregnant with the Clintons' first grandchild, an event her parents have very publicly craved.

Both women carved out legal careers in the midst of having children. Although Ms. Warren, from the account in her book, appears to have had a rougher go of it, no woman who has tried to fashion a career out of what is left after the kids take their share would say she had it easy.

But the kids are launched. Chelsea has multiple degrees and works with her parents in the Clinton Global Initiative. Ms. Warren has two children and has co-authored two books with her daughter, who has given her three grandchildren.

Bill Clinton's election to the presidency was the first for our generation, the post-World War II babies who came of age during the Vietnam War. And Barack Obama's presidency pushed the Baby Boomers off the stage and broke the hold white men held on the office.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Elizabeth Warren would be a youth candidate — both are in their 60s — but either woman would bring a subtle new dimension to the presidency: a ferocious love for the children who represent the future and a determination to protect that future for them.

Admit it: You might not get along swimmingly with your kids, but if you are lucky enough to have grandchildren, you adore them. And while raising your own meant pressures and decisions that could leave you sleepless, you are just far enough removed from parenting to see those grandchildren and their future with an uncluttered mind.

There is also a fresh energy that ignites a working mother after the kids are grown, and it allows her to focus the attention that has been splintered for so long. But she still has the muscle memory to multi-task like mad. Hillary Clinton would never take all that time mulling decisions as her husband was famous for doing. She spent years knowing she had to get the fixings for the birthday party on the way home from work. There is no time in the life of a working mother for over-thinking.

It is interesting to me that the Fox talking heads wondered aloud if Chelsea's long-awaited pregnancy might mean Ms. Clinton would not run for president, and the likes of Comedy Central's Jon Stewart immediately reacted with scorn, saying that nobody asked about Mitt Romney's grandchildren, and he had three more during his presidential campaign.

I get the sexism in that question, but I also get the point. I had planned to travel with my husband after the kids were grown, but the only traveling we do is to where my grandsons are. Why would we go where they are not? The tug of affection for grandchildren could be as distracting as it is powerful for the first grandmother president.

But there is another reason why I think either one of these strong, smart, articulate grandmothers would make a great president.

Once a woman, especially a working woman, emerges from the fog of parenting, there can be a clarity of vision and of purpose, a reservoir of grace and acceptance, an abundance of generosity and wisdom, a disdain for the petty and the mean-spirited. Qualities inspired by the proximity to children but suppressed by the daily demands of caring for them. Common qualities in a loving grandmother. Exceptional qualities in a leader.

I think it is possible that a grandmother might make the best president ever.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.


To respond to this commentary, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.
Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.