Why aren't we more excited about Clinton?

Hillary Clinton at Compton, California on 6 June Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The story of Hillary Clinton's candidacy has been going on for more than nine years

It has taken a long 227 years to get even this far.

George Washington was elected president of a newly independent America in 1789. Forty-two men later (41 of them white), Hillary Clinton is set to make history by being the first female nominee of a major party for the White House.

So why don't I feel more excited?

Let's put politics aside for a moment. Whatever your political leanings, this is by any measure a momentous day for women. Mrs Clinton could become Madame President. We've never had a woman hold the most powerful job in the world before.

If you believe that we are all better off when more women take up senior positions, in politics as much as business or journalism or law or medicine or the military, then it's significant that we've never had a woman run America.

Whether you love her or hate her, whether she were Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, she is a she and that's a big deal in and of itself. It is of course not reason enough to vote for her in November. But it is reason enough to pause to reflect on this moment.

The lack of exuberance may come from the fact that this has all been going on for so long.

We've really been reworking a version of the "first viable female candidate for the presidency" story since 20 January 2007, the first time Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy for the White House.

We're exhausted. We've run out of superlatives. We've overused every anecdote from the former first lady, former senator, former secretary's well-covered life. A woman president would be new, Hillary Clinton is not.

Which may be why so many voters aren't excited either. I've spent the last couple of weeks talking to women here and it's remarkable how younger women in particular often seem to greet the Clinton candidacy with a collective shrug.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Isn't it about time the Oval Office desk, donated by Queen Victoria, was used by a woman?

"She's old news", "she's just old", "she's stiff", "she's just a regular politician", "she's been around too long", "she doesn't connect with us."

This isn't the language used by all women by any means, and Hillary Clinton outperforms Donald Trump in opinion polls among women. But it is really striking to hear quite so many younger women express so little enthusiasm at the prospect of getting a woman behind that famous Oval Office desk.

After all, it was Queen Victoria who gave the desk to the US in 1880, isn't it time it was used by a woman leader too?

The feminist's silver lining could be that women in their twenties today are fully confident that they will see a woman president in their life times in a way that women of my generation never have been.

They just aren't sure they want or need it to be Hillary. They can wait. Women over the age of 50 have an urgency about the issue that younger women just don't.

But, even among some women who will definitely vote for Hillary, even among some women who will definitely give money to her campaign, I'm hearing almost a sense of regret that they don't feel more thrilled right now.


There was excitement for the first female candidacy back in 2008. I've been surprised by how many women who voted for Mrs Clinton in their state's primary contest and will vote for her again in November have said to me, almost with a sigh: "I just wish I felt more excited."

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Media captionHow it all started for Hillary Clinton

And then there are women who just don't like her, or her policies or anything she stands for. She certainly evokes strong negative feelings among Republicans of both sexes.

For the moment, though, there is a disconnect between the level of belief that Hillary Clinton will be a solid, competent, reliable president - which is high among her supporters - and the level of lethargy about her candidacy - which is high.

That may well change now that she is the presumptive nominee and Mr Trump is her opponent. In a head-to-head match up, we may still see excitement grow for the Mrs Clinton. But the opposite is possible too.

One day soon, I hope, we won't be writing about the day a woman became the nominee for president.

We will be so used to there being female nominees, and even female presidents, Democrat and Republican, that it won't be news at all. Now that would be progress. One day before too long, I hope.