Hillary Clinton, other pols say female president coming 'very soon'
Hillary Clinton wants to live to see a woman in the Oval Office - and female pols from Congress to City Hall believe her wish can come true.
"We still have a pretty hard glass ceiling that hasn't been broken at the presidential level," Secretary of State Clinton told a town hall in Kolkata, India, yesterday during a trip to the country.
"I really want to see that [happen] in my lifetime," added Clinton, 64, who nearly became the first female major-party presidential nominee during her 2008 campaign.
New York's own women in charge think Clinton's optimism is justified.
"With the 18 million cracks that Hillary put in the glass ceiling," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, "I know that a woman will be leading our country from the Oval Office very soon."
A spokesman for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Clinton's successor in the Senate, said that Gillibrand, 45, "strongly believes" she'll see a female president in her lifetime.
"I look forward to the day when it will no longer be a novelty but a normality, when women can take the helm of high ranking political offices at all levels of government in the United States," said Rep. Yvette Clark (D-N.Y).
Though the first woman, Jeannette Rankin, entered Congress in 1917 (before women even won the right to vote), women are still a conspicuous minority in U.S.
politics, let alone in the highest office. Only 16.8% of the 535 seats in Congress have female incumbents. New York's own state legislature is even less female-friendly than most of the country, ranking 31st in the U.S. with women comprising only 22% of the seats.
Gillibrand launched the Off the Sidelines campaign in 2011, in part to help encourage more women to run for office. Ruth B. Mandel, a founder of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, points out that only 23 women are governors or U.S. senators - positions that are traditional launching pads for the presidency.
Though Clinton has insisted that she will not run for office in 2016, her well-financed and nearly successful run for the presidential nomination four years ago set the stage for a female president.
"There are still some challenging steps along the road," said Mandel. "That said, there is no question that the Oval Office is in women's sight now."
Most people are willing to vote for a female president, but the parties need to champion some viable candidates if any woman is to shatter what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls "the final glass ceiling."
In street interviews, people expressed support for the idea of a womanpresident - but often came up blank when asked about candidates for whom they would vote.
Ameya Pednekar, 19, a Hunter College student from Forest Hills said he had no objection to voting for a woman ("if she has the credentials, why not?") but he couldn't name one he would support.
Hair stylist Aishia Bee, 37, who lives in the Northeast Bronx, refused to surrender the idea of Hillary Clinton, even though the former first lady has said she is eager to return to civilian life. "She's so the person - unless they've got someone hiding in the basement somewhere," said Bee, who volunteered to care for Clinton's hair.
"A lot of moms" would vote for First Lady Michelle Obama, offered Delise Ramirez, 37, a Midwood, Brooklyn clothing shipper and mother of three.
Could she name someone who isn't or hasn't been first lady? Umm, no. But Michelle Obama "is down to earth and more likeable," than professional politicians, argued Ramirez, who appreciates the first lady's concern for children.
James Owens, 50, a Crown Heights substance abuse counselor, had never heard of his own N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but at least he had a female nominee for leader of the free world.
"Oprah!" exclaimed Owens.
Oprah Winfrey's talk show galvanized and unified America, and Winfrey is refreshingly honest, said Owens. Problems at the OWN network aside, Oprah knows how to make money and create jobs, so she might know how to fix the economy, he noted.
Winfrey, a noted philanthropist, has been giving money away for years.
"Wouldn't it be nice if she could get some of that money back?" in campaign contributions, Owens asked.
She's already got influential friends and vetting would be a breeze, Owens predicted: Oprah has been so candid about her own past ("they done been through her closet already!") there is little chance of unsavory revelations destroying a campaign.***
Rutger's Center for American Women in Politics gave amNY the scoop on a few of Washington's women on the rise:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.): As a sophomore congresswoman, Wasserman Schultz has catapulted to leadership roles such as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-N.Y.): If she wins in 2013, Quinn would be the city's first female mayor.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.): Gillibrand entered the national arena when she successfully championed the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.): Martinez denies it, but her name is still floated as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney.
Attorney General Kamala Harris (D-Calif.): Harris has garnered national attention for cracking down on crimes against LGBT kids and pollution.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.): A classic conservative, in 2010 she picked up endorsements from big-shot Republicans like John McCain, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney.