UPDATED–Her husband is a former governor and president who presided over an economic boom. She is a popular center-left senator–a tough, disciplined and savvy politician who has led voters to think that they will be getting two leaders for the price of one. No, not Hillary Clinton. She is Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina.
To critics who say Kirchner is simply riding the coattails of her husband, “she likes to point out that she has been a senator since 1995 and so was a national political figure when her husband was a mere provincial governor.
Senator Clinton, of course, is also confronted with the same charge — one that unfairly makes short shrift of her own achievements and talent. But while her campaign is focused on her being “the most experienced and qualified” candidate for the job, while also providing the opportunity to “make history” with her election, it might be more accurate to say that — in the context of world history — Hillary’s more of a transitional figure than a groundbreaking one. As historian Linda Colley recently wrote in the London Review of Books , “… If Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes president of the United States in 2008, this will – in terms of women’s place in American politics – be a significant political milestone. In global terms, and in historical terms, however, her elevation would be less innovatory. Of the women who have been elected heads of state since the Second World War, a substantial proportion have been closely related to men who have themselves previously held high political office…. Looked at in this comparative context, a Hillary Clinton presidency would be an expression of old-style dynastic politics, and its persistence in the US, not simply a victory for postwar female liberation. If Hillary wins in 2008, and is granted a second term, people whose surname is Bush or Clinton will have presided over the Oval Office for 28 consecutive years.”
In fact, Colley points out that from a global perspective, the state of affairs for women in politics in the United States is in some ways lagging. Only 16 percent of our members of Congress are women, compared to 45 percent in Sweden and 49 percent in Rwanda. 58 women have served as an elected prime minister or president, with only one coming from the Northern Hemisphere (Kim Campbell, prime minister of Canada for less than six months.)
So a win for Hillary in the US – like a win for Cristina in machismo Argentina – would represent a leap forward for women in both countries. But for the world as a whole it is a more measured achievement – no matter what Hillary’s campaign would have you believe.