A guest post by Bettina Duval of the California List
Senator Hillary Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire was the first time in our history that a woman won a presidential primary*. Her win was a momentous achievement that the early suffragettes could only dream of. It was a triumph for all women – a giant step forward in the drive for equality.
The nation’s political attention has wrongly focused on why Senator Clinton won New Hampshire. The most important fact, that she is the first woman ever to win a primary, has been lost. Does it matter that Hillary Clinton won the primary – YES. Senator Clinton’s victory cannot be brushed aside with political positioning or media downplay. Make no mistake, it was an historic moment.
As the founder of the CALIFORNIA LIST, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to California state government, I have dedicated my life to building the pipe-line of future leaders and helping support Democratic women running for office. When a woman becomes a candidate she brings a different voice to the conversation and valuable diversity to the political process. She will inevitably face challenges because of her gender. After all, it took more than 40 years for California women to gain the right to vote. In 1911 when suffrage finally passed in California, it did so by fewer than 3,600 votes – an average of one vote per precinct!!! Women’s rights have been born out of struggle not privilege.
In 1994, the year of the woman, the number of elected female Democratic officials in California was at an all time high. Twenty per cent, or 24 out of 120 elected officials, were women. Today we have only 16 elected Democratic women, over 30% less than ten years ago. In California we lose 2 or three elected women per election. It’s the slow drip process. Elected women and candidates are in decline – a frightening trend that must be reversed.
The full impact of Hillary Clinton’s win in New Hampshire on her run for President is as yet undefined, but I hope it will at the very least encourage more women to run for office. Seeing a Democratic woman governor in California is a dream. When Hillary Clinton won the primary she moved us closer to that goal.
Women need to run and win on every level of the political pipeline, from the local school board to the presidency. Their voice is critical to the balance of decision-making and the future of our state, our country and our world. Reversing the decline in the number of women candidates and office-holders, not only in California but across the country, is essential to the health of our political process.
I see it as our moral opportunity as well as our moral obligation to continue the fight for individual liberty. It is my belief in Democracy – a Democracy that is made stronger by diversity – that motivates me to encourage you to applaud Hillary Clinton for her achievement.
* – It has been pointed out at DailyKos that Shirley Chisholm win the 1972 New Jersey.