I think I became excited about Hillary the first time I realized what the world would be like without someone like her.
In 2008, I was with my father when he voted for Hillary in the North Carolina primary. I noticed him tearing up as we left the polling station. Caught up in the excitement around Obama, I asked my dad why voting for Hillary meant so much to him, especially since Obama’s victory seemed inevitable by that point.
He told me it was because he wasn’t sure if he would have another chance to vote for a female presidential candidate.
I grew up taking women running for office for granted. I’m from Durham, North Carolina, where about 57 percent of the county are registered Democrats and only 13 percent Republicans. I grew up with Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 and other women like Barbara Mikulski, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and Shirley Chisholm. My universe of possibilities is different because women like them pushed limits, broke various glass ceilings and never took no for an answer.
Inspired by these women, I joined debate in high school, in part because I wanted to go into politics and thought I needed to do so as a public speaker. I borrowed my mom’s red skirt suit, looking way too much like a 14-year-old version of Sarah Palin, and marched off to my first tournament.
I was terrible at first. But I was good at picking up on cues, so I learned to copy the traits of the good debaters in the rounds I was in. They were almost always men. I learned to lower the pitch of my voice, to speak from my diaphragm, to appear impassive — because that was what was expected of successful debaters. I was fighting to meet the norm, one set by successful male debaters.
Much has been written on the challenges that women face in how they are perceived, particularly when they seek positions of power, whether in business, government or even the classroom.
Hillary, in particular, has been criticized for a vast range of perceived failings — for failing to connect emotionally with voters, for telling corny jokes, for not being hip enough, for being power-hungry, for speaking too loudly but not aggressively enough, for not smiling enough, for looking too smug, for not being warm enough and for not having the temperament or the stamina to be president.
I don’t think that people who dislike Hillary feel that way because she is a woman. In fact, I don’t agree with all of her policy proposals. But when we listen to her speak about policy as we watch Sunday’s debate, we ought to consider whether our opposition to her platform is substantive in nature. Or is it because we hold her to a higher standard because we are not used to the way a woman in power conveys her ideas? Do we hold her to a standard set by men?
A lot of people tell me that they aren’t excited about Hillary, or that they’re not voting, or that they are voting for a third-party candidate. I feel awkward most of the time, because for me this election isn’t a choice between two bad candidates — I don’t have to vote for Hillary; I want to vote for her. I am not voting against Trump; I am voting for Hillary.
I want to vote for a candidate who would further health care reform, who is uniquely prepared for the position that she is running for and who has fought for children’s rights, women’s rights, civil rights and voting rights throughout her 40-year career in public service.
I want to vote for a candidate who is humble enough to admit her mistakes, whether on Iraq, the email server, or “the basket of deplorables” remark, and who has learned how to respond to failure with hard work. I want to vote for a candidate who will nominate Supreme Court appointees who will protect the rights that so many have sacrificed for; a candidate who will move this country forward rather than taking it backwards.
Hillary Clinton takes the presidency seriously. Because we should not take a world with a prepared, accomplished female leader for granted, and because a world in which Donald Trump is president is terrifying, I am committed to doing everything I can to get Hillary elected in November. I am excited to vote for Hillary.
Delaney Herndon is a senior in Branford College and co-president of Yale Students for Hillary. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Illustration by Julia Shi.