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Opinion: The women of 2016

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The next election, like next Christmas, is always just around the corner. Of course, like Christmas, there are those who say it’s always too early to discuss the approaching season of campaign merriment and hijinks. I have never been one of those people.

While it may be too early to talk of candidates and likelihoods, the one candidate that many people agree upon as a likelihood is former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. After running a campaign that came close to beating Barack Obama to the Democratic nomination in 2008 and serving for four successful years running Obama’s State Department, Clinton is in the best position to take the Democratic nomination and with it the White House (the reasons why the American people will probably not trust the office to a Republican anytime soon are all too clear.)

One, if one is a Democrat, cannot help but admire Hillary Clinton, and even if one is not a Democrat, one must work very hard not to admire Hillary Clinton. This is not to say, however, that there are not significant flaws with the idea of Clinton as a 2016 frontrunner.

Primarily, there is the problem of Clinton’s age. If elected, she would be tied with Ronald Reagan for the title of oldest American president. That title never stopped Reagan, of course, but we have seen recently enough how much age can complicate a presidential campaign. It was a question frequently brought up during John McCain’s 2008 campaign and one which helped to derail what was going to be a cornerstone of his candidacy. One of the things which ultimately led to McCain’s loss was his now-infamous choice as a vice presidential candidate; a position which came under more scrutiny given McCain’s age.

Clinton is younger than McCain and is by all accounts in perfect health, despite being treated for a blood clot in January. Nevertheless, her age will highlight her choice for a running mate in a way that a younger opponent might not have to deal with. If her campaign staff blunders as McCain’s did, the results could be just as devastating.

Putting health concerns aside, age is not on Clinton’s side for other reasons. The Democratic Party is fueled in large part by young voters and that trend is likely to continue. Young voters rejected Clinton in 2008 in favor of the younger Obama and there’s no reason to believe that Millennial suspicion of Baby Boomer candidates will have subsided after eight years. Young voters will be looking for someone who can carry on the legacy of President Obama; will they turn to someone who still represents the Democratic Party of the previous century?

Democrats, rightfully so, are excited by the possibility of a female frontrunner and president in four years. So let us replace, for a moment, the suspected inevitability of one female candidate with the relative unlikelihood of another; Gabby Giffords.

The former Arizona Congresswoman came to prominence in 2011 when she was shot in the head by a would-be assassin in a mass shooting that killed six people. Since then she has been recovering, a process which makes her an unlikely 2016 candidate. After all, if health is an issue for Clinton, it would most definitely be one for Giffords. But let us still imagine such a candidacy for a moment.

Giffords’ only national office has been as a congresswoman, and representatives are rarely elected to the White House. Yet inexperience was a charge leveled at President Obama and one that was ultimately dismissed. Furthermore, in 2016 Giffords will be the same age as Obama was when he was elected, something which will undoubtedly please Millennial voters.

She has been, and will be, understandably vocal on gun control, which will likely be a major issue in the 2016 campaign. It’s an issue that will put her at odds with conservative voters, but then so will the fact that she is a Democrat. For young, liberal Democrat voters, a viscerally anti-NRA candidate will be energizing and refreshing. She comes from Arizona, which could help bring out the voters of the Southwest, including Latinos who will not vote for a Republican.

If elected, Giffords would be the first woman, first Jewish president. Her story of struggle and overcoming very deadly odds will be as galvanizing as Barack Obama’s life story, and her all-American astronaut husband won’t hurt either.

This is, of course, a dream. Gabby Giffords reportedly still has trouble speaking and recovery from what should have been a deadly injury does not adhere to the tides of American politics. But the idea of another young, Democratic fighter who looks like no previous president is too tantalizing to ignore. The scenario is too full with the spirit of ‘08 to dismiss. Perhaps the proper solution is a great compromise between old and new.

Clinton-Giffords in 2016. What if?

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