The women who would be president of America
Four Democratic women, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Tulsi Gabbard, have so far made it clear they will stand for America’s highest office. And there may be more…
“The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values,” Kamala Harris declared on Monday as she addressed American voters. “That’s why I’m running for president of the United States.”
The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, the senator’s election would be truly historic. She would become the first woman, the first person of Asian background and the first African-American woman to be president.
Already she is being called the “new Obama”.
And history is something Harris is acutely aware of. Her announcement deliberately coincided with Martin Luther King Day — a national holiday to celebrate the famous civil rights leader.
“The thing about Dr King that always inspires me is that he was aspirational,” she said. “I’m honoured to be able to make my announcement on the day we commemorate him.”
In another symbolic parallel, this week also marks 47 years since Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman to run for president as part of a major party.
But before Harris can take her own shot, she must win the Democratic primary. This is the vote that determines which candidate will be selected to battle President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election. (Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders in the closely fought 2016 contest).
Already, this year’s race is breaking records. So far, four women are expected to run — the first time in history that more than one woman has competed for the Democratic nomination.
Among them is senator and former Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren. “It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government,” she has declared. “That includes a woman at the top.”
Another candidate, Kirsten Gillibrand, has pledged to place women’s rights at the centre of her campaign.
Last year’s midterm elections saw 116 women elected to Congress, the greatest number in history. However, that still only corresponds to 24% of members. And across the world, only 23 countries currently have female heads of state.
Is America ready for a female leader of its own?
There is a “game that’s being played to keep women in their place,” said Hillary Clinton after her election loss to Trump. In its 242 year history, the United States has never elected a female president. Could this really change in 2020? Why have other countries achieved this where America has not?
Much depends on how voters respond to Trump’s campaign. Nobody expected him to win in 2016, but he proved all the doubters wrong. Do you think he could be elected again? Why do you think he appeals to voters? How do these Democratic candidates differ? And will this be enough to bring them victory?
- Would you vote for Kamala Harris?
- Is society sexist?
- Imagine you were running for president of the United States. What three promises would you make during your election campaign? Write down your ideas and share them with the class.
- Using the link in Become An Expert to start you off, do some research into Shirley Chisholm. How was her life special? What example did she set for others? Why is she not more widely known? Write a paragraph in response to each question.
Some People Say...
“My mother used to tell me, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things. Make sure you are not the last.’”Kamala Harris
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Harris’s main election policies are likely to include action on civil rights and tax cuts for the middle classes. She has also played down her racial background and the importance of identity politics. “Nobody is living their life through the lens of one issue,” she has said. “Let’s not put people in a box.”
- What do we not know?
- If Harris will end up running against Trump — there are several other contenders for the Democratic nomination. We do not even know if the Democratic nominee will be a woman. Male politicians like Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden are also strong candidates. Ultimately, we do not know if any of these individuals would defeat Trump in a general election, although falling approval ratings suggest he is in for a fight.
- Her mother immigrated from India to become a doctor specialising in breast cancer, while her Jamaican father became an economics professor at Stanford University.
- Martin Luther King
- The most famous leader in the civil rights movement. He was assassinated in 1968.
- Shirley Chisholm
- In 1968, she became the first black woman to be elected to Congress, before launching her presidential bid in 1972. She lost to Senator George McGovern, who was subsequently defeated in the general election by Richard Nixon.
- It is a very open field at the moment. Currently, eight people are definitely running, with a further six expected to join them.
- Bernie Sanders
- “If it turns out that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump, then I will probably run,” he has said.
- 23 countries
- They are: Germany, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Switzerland, Norway, Malta, Croatia, Namibia, Nepal, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Estonia, Serbia, Singapore, New Zealand, Iceland, Romania, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Ethiopia and Georgia.