The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, began the roll call at the Democratic National Convention earlier today by saying, “Are we ready to make history?” Rawlings-Blake was referring to the official nomination of Hillary Clinton, the first woman to become the presidential candidate of a major party.
Clinton’s name was put into nomination by Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, itself a significant moment. Mikulski was the first woman elected to the Senate in her own right (meaning that she didn’t follow a husband or father) and the moment certainly emphasized the very recent history of women in national politics. The theme of history making continued throughout the roll call: during Minnesota’s roll call, Senator Amy Klobuchar referenced Geraldine Ferraro has she cast 42 of the state’s votes for Clinton and Montana’s delegates reminded the convention about Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to hold federal office. That point was hammered home when 102-year-old Arizona delegate Jerry Emmett cast the state’s votes for Clinton.
An Oklahoma delegate, who said she was born in 1929 said, “I never thought I’d live to see this day,” as she cast the state’s votes for Clinton. Reporters tweeted photographs of Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer watching with their daughters and granddaughters.
The DNC opened to controversy: chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was fired after emails leaks revealed that she had unduly exercised her influence. And though Bernie Sanders (who cried when his brother cast five votes for Sanders from Democrats abroad), heartily endorsed Clinton, many supporters booed and vowed not to support Clinton. Though Clinton’s road to the nomination has, at times, been a rocky one, this is no doubt a historic moment.
And for those who have argued that the symbolism of a woman nomination was empty symbolism, I would argue that is simply not true. Clinton is by no means a perfect candidate—the perfect candidate simply doesn’t exist—but her nomination is an intervention into a centuries-old narrative about who gets to be a leader and what leadership looks like. Whether or not you’re with her or kinda with her, Clinton’s nomination was a historic moment. Let’s hope that there are more interventions in the narrative and more historic moments in the future.