A good sign for America: female candidates

A strange new wind is blowing through our political landscape these days, one that makes some leap for joy and others cringe with discomfort.

You could say it started back in 2000, when the people of New York elected Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate, or you could say it started in 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro won the Democratic vice presidential nomination. You could even say it started in 1920, when women were officially given the right to vote.

However we look at it, for the first time in history, it seems possible that one or both of the major parties will nominate a woman to run in the 2008 presidential election.

Although the sheer number of public opinion polls this early in the game is almost too staggering to sift through, a good chunk of those polls indicate that many Democrats like Hillary Clinton in 2008 and many Republicans like Condoleezza Rice.

According to an analysis of most major polls on Wikipedia.org, Clinton and Rice appear to be the front-runners for their respective parties’ nominations.

To briefly put this in perspective, neither woman has announced intentions to seek the presidency (although, this early in the election cycle, very few people have).

Furthermore, public opinion and the political climate are bound to change markedly in the next two years, so peering into a crystal ball in 2006 doesn’t do much good.

Regardless, the fact that two women are among the most-mentioned potential candidates for president is a pretty new and exciting thing.

Although I don’t claim to be a feminist, I’m eager for the possibility of watching these two women face off in a national campaign. They’re both exceptionally qualified: Clinton is a U.S. Senator and a graduate of the country’s most prestigious law school, and Rice has held a variety of prominent positions in both academia and the federal government.

Out of these two women, I don’t know who would make the better president, but I hope that if one of them is nominated, the other will be, too. Although America may be ready for a female president, it might not be ready for a man verses woman presidential campaign.

If Clinton takes on a male Republican, or if Rice runs against a male Democrat, the odds are pretty good that the campaign will be reduced to a debate over whether a woman can run the country.

There’s a healthy bloc of voters (many of them the same old, rich, white men who already run the country) who would vote for any man over any woman, just because they don’t think women are up to the job.

In the same vein, one need only visit thewhitehouseproject.org to see how many people want a woman president so badly they would support a female candidate by virtue of her sex alone.

Gender is a bad way to determine who would make the best president, and until we reach a point where no one even considers gender as a qualifier for good leadership, it would probably be best that there’s no man-against-woman campaign.

That’s the best part of Clinton verses Rice in 2008 – both are qualified, capable candidates and one would go on to become the first woman president. And, after the country has gotten over that milestone, the question of whether women are qualified would be a much smaller issue in future campaigns.

So, although neither woman has announced an intention to run yet, I hope both of them do. It would be an interesting, ground-breaking campaign.

Better them than Oprah.