The United States of America has had 42 presidents. All share one distinctive trait – they have all been men.
Progress has been made, of course. We currently have the first black president, well over 200 years after George Washington was elected back in 1789. And now we are awaiting the final frontier to be broken – the election of America’s first female president. Hillary Clinton – Yes She Can!
So, why Hillary?
Because she is the real deal. FACT: Hillary Clinton is one of the most accomplished people ever to run for the presidency with over 40 years in public life. She is a consummate politician. Her actions are rooted in well thought-out strategy, her words are chosen carefully and her policies crafted through experience and a passion for democracy for all.
Because she knows defeat. The American political leader Robert Green Ingersoll said, “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” And Hillary has heart and passion. She also has gained through her experience: she has learned the value of working with rivals and the importance of compromise to achieve your goals. This is vitally important not only in American politics but politics on the world stage.
She has authentic experience. Over the four decades Hillary Clinton has been in public life she has experienced firsthand many historical events – the Northern Ireland Peace Process, 9/11, the hunt and discovery of Osama Bin Laden. She has also been involved in the decision making process leading up to some of these events and, in others, dealing with the aftermath.
She understands foreign policy. Her exemplary political experience gained a broad global view when she served as Secretary of State under the Obama administration. This experience is critical, especially given the fact the next president of the United States will have to work closely with Vladimir Putin and the rapid rise of ISIS and the threat to world peace.
However, let’s understand one thing. Hillary Clinton is neither her husband nor President Obama. She is not running for either of their third terms. She is running for her first term. And I will say it again – Yes She Can.
But why should you care about an American president if you're in Ireland?
You should care because, like it or loath it, America, its economy, its foreign policy and its culture deeply affects us, especially in Ireland.
And while we as a nation, as a people often sneer at America, the worst thing – to paraphrase Hillary – that can happen in any democratic society “is to become cynical about the future and lose hope.”
Hillary Clinton offers hope. She offers hope for women, for the world, for the marginalized. She offers hope for Ireland.
Twenty years ago last week, Hillary Clinton visited Ireland with her husband President Bill Clinton. No president before Bill Clinton ever truly invested energy to resolve the Troubles. However, one of his key advisors in his decision to focus on peace in Northern Ireland was his wife, Hillary, who saw the potential for peace in Ireland.
In the recent release of his oral histories, the late and great Senator Ted Kennedy, a champion of the peace process, gives massive recognition to the role played by Hillary Clinton, who galvanized community groups and women’s groups on both sides.
President Bill Clinton had taken a huge risk regarding his decision to grant Gerry Adams a US visa, even though “nobody in the US government would approve it.” This was a monumental decision and Hillary played a central role in fast-tracking the decision to allow Adams into the US. The British Government, led by John Major, was aghast when that decision was made: Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin leader, would be granted a visa to come to America in late January 1994. But this moved proved pivotal in the peace process.
It is the ability to make such pragmatic and incisive moves that separates Hillary from the other candidates. She has been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. No other candidate can boast that fact.
Her track record has proven that Hillary is for Ireland.
She had been in the "center of the room" during Northern Ireland peace talks. And she has given a commitment to work to resolve the status of the undocumented Irish in America. Her close ties with the Irish American community will also help continue the strong economic ties between our two countries and attract inward investment.
Hillary is also for women. And I quote – "Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights.” During her time in the Obama administration she made gender equality a priority of U.S. foreign policy. She created the ambassador at large for global women’s issues, a post charged with integrating gender throughout the State Department. She is on the record as saying, "It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children's and grandchildren's fates, are decided."
Hillary is also for unity. In her role as Secretary of State she was unrelenting in her quest to bring people together. She traveled to 112 countries, making her the most widely traveled secretary of state in history. She was key in rebuilding America’s leadership and prestige overseas after the Bush years. She was key to the agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. She was key in the normalization of relations with Cuba. As president she will continue this role.
Her campaign is about building a better inclusive democracy for all the people of the USA and beyond.
Her key policy areas include:
1. Immigration reform (let us not and lets not let Hillary forget the Undocumented Irish)
She wants to pass comprehensive immigration reform "once and for all."
She fundamentally believes – "[Comprehensive immigration reform] will strengthen families, strengthen our economy and strengthen our country. That's why we can't wait any longer… for a path to full and equal citizenship."
2. Minimum wage
Hillary Clinton wants a higher minimum wage in the US.
She supports a $15 minimum wage.
She believes, "No man or woman who works hard to feed America's families should have to be on food stamps to feed your own families."
3. Prisons and justice system
Hillary Clinton believes it is time to end the era of mass incarceration. This is because she knows the system is broken.
While black people make up about 13% of the United States’ population, they account for 60% of those imprisoned.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1-in-3 black men can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.
The United States has the largest prison population in the world.
The Vera Institute of Justice reported in 2015 that jails throughofut the United States have become warehouses for the poor, the mentally ill and those suffering from addiction as such individuals lack the financial means or mental capacity to post bail.
Hillary Clinton wants to change this.
4. Voting rights
Hillary Clinton wants to expand voting rights in America and has lambasted Republican efforts to restrict them.
She wants universal, automatic voter registration for every American when they turn 18.
She is on record as saying, "We should be doing everything we can to get our young people more engaged in democracy, not less."
5. Fixing the campaign system
Hillary Clinton want to change the rules on campaign finance. She has stated – "We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccounted money out of it, once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment," said Mrs Clinton at a speech in Iowa in April.
6. Free community college
Hillary Clinton wants free community college, agreeing with President Barack Obama's plan.
She has expressed her opposition to for-profit colleges, which defraud students, and agrees with loan forgiveness in those cases.
Clinton has also been working on student loan reform.
Hillary Clinton is for openness, for democracy and for the people. She wants to be president for the disenfranchised, for women, for black people, white people, for everyone. The world and America needs change. Hillary Clinton will bring change.
The world needs Hillary Clinton. The Irish need Hillary Clinton. So join me in not only saying but fundamentally believing – Yes she can!
Do you know yet how you'll be voting in the 2016 presidential elections? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.
The above article is the second in a two-part series on the Irish American community’s relationship to the major American political parties. To read Part I, on Irish America and the Republican party, click here.