News Release: Politics

Jun. 4,  2008

Clinton Not the Nominee, But Not Out of Power

Hillary Clinton's historic presidential campaign appears to be over, but she still holds a tremendous amount of power, says Emory political scientist Andra Gillespie.

"Despite the sexist invective that has been levied against her, Clinton's performance in this primary season shatters any idea that a woman cannot be viewed as a viable presidential candidate," says Gillespie. "At this point, Clinton supporters should recognize that she retains an enormous amount of influence in the Democratic Party, even in defeat."

Historically, candidates in her position hold tremendous bargaining power, she says. They can leverage their pledged delegates to change party platforms or to elevate members of their inner circle to positions of power within the party infrastructure.

In 1988, when Jesse Jackson won a quarter of the pledged delegates, he lobbied the Democratic Party to take a hard line stance against South African apartheid and to support D.C. statehood and affirmative action. Additionally, many people credit Jackson's candidacy with the eventual ascension of Ron Brown as the Democratic Party's first black chairman.

Advocate for universal health care

It appears Clinton will continue to advocate for universal healthcare, and "as a candidate with nearly half of the pledged delegates, she is in a strong position to influence the party platform on this issue. Moreover, she has the power to shatter glass ceilings for other women who are just starting their careers in either elective office or partisan service by demanding greater gender diversity in candidate identification and leadership opportunities," Gillespie says.

Paving the path for others

"Few could dispute the fact that Barack Obama's path was paved by the efforts of people like Jesse Jackson and Shirley Chisholm, who ran before him. Similarly, Hillary Clinton's candidacy in 2008 sets the stage for her or another woman to become president in the near future, probably less than 20 years from now. So, while Clinton's most ardent supporters may not want to hear it, the reality is that some woman will take the oath of office on some January 20, in a year as yet to be determined, because of what Hillary Clinton did in 2008."

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