When Hillary Clinton grabs the Democratic Party mantle Thursday in Philadelphia, she will seal her place in American history as the first female nominated for president by a major party — 96 years after women won the right to vote in 1920.
Clinton’s historic nod was made official at 6:38 p.m. Tuesday as the state of South Dakota, which hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a national presidential election since 1964, put Clinton over the top.
“This is a big deal for me. It’s amazing to me when I look at my kids and I love the fact that they are going to grow up in a world where it is not strange that there is an African-American president followed by a woman president. That literally gives me goosebumps,” said Carrie Arblaster, 36, a Democrat and Tipp City Council member.
It isn’t a done deal yet – Clinton still has to beat Republican Donald Trump before she can throw open the ultimate door to power for women. But Tuesday was a precedent-setting day, as Clinton passed the threshold of the 2,383 delegate votes needed to secure the nomination and her place in history.
Sanders then moved to nominate her by acclamation, a show of unity that didn’t seem possible a few weeks ago.
Clinton supporters at the Democratic National Convention this week are careful to note her gender is not why they are backing the former first lady, U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a super delegate backing Clinton, said Clinton is more qualified than any nominee since George H.W. Bush.
U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus and a Dayton native, acknowledged the accomplishment Clinton made by breaking through the glass ceiling in presidential politics. But that isn’t why she is supporting her, she said.
“I know firsthand in the generation that I grew up in how far we have come and how hard you have to work as a female,” she said. “So supporting Hillary, I’m very honored – and she happens to be a female.”
‘Breaking the glass ceiling’
Frances Strickland, former Ohio first lady, said, “I don’t believe we will ever have equal rights for women until we have a woman as our president. It is about breaking the glass ceiling but if you talk about wanting equal pay for women, women at the tables of power and things like that, they’re going to have to have the top spots in leadership.”
Whaley talked about how important it was to her personally. “It means more to me now that I’m mayor than before, frankly,” she said. “I think it’s because I have just a little taste of what it’s like to be an executive and a woman.”
Republican women aren’t discounting the step Clinton made; they just wish she wasn’t the one who made it.
Raya Mafazy Whalen, founder and president of the Young Republican Women of Dayton, said Clinton’s accomplishment would have been more meaningful if she had won against more candidates.
“I would love the political realm to be more demographically diverse and I applaud her for its historical significance,” Mafazy Whalen said in an email.
“However,” she added, “it would have been more meaningful if she had run against a multitude of qualified women and men in the primary, to have earned this moment by distinguishing herself as the Democrat voters’ choice, not the (Democratic National Committee’s) anointed one.”
Mafazy Whalen, whose family immigrated from Kenya, said she is supporting Donald Trump for president because she believes he will keep Americans safe.
“I don’t vote on persona – I vote on principles and the campaign’s message – and the message of putting America first is appealing to me,” she wrote.
Lori Viars, a Warren County Republican Party board member and vice president of the Warren County Right-to-Life, said a vote for president “should be on merit, not on your gender.”
But, said Viars, who also is supporting Trump, “It would have been nice if the Republicans had beat the Democrats to that.”
Lynda Smith, chair of the Clark County Republican Party Executive Committee, said she’d love to see a woman president — “but not Hillary.
“She’s not the right person,” Smith said before ending the conversation.
Sanders protests continue
Clinton’s nomination wasn’t seen as a cause of celebration for some Sanders supporters who exited the Wells Fargo Center after the roll-call vote, staged a sit-in at one of the media tents and continued protesting outside, attracting a large police presence.
The disruptions continued to mar Democratic efforts to project party unity at a convention that at times seemed less and less like a coronation. The headliner on Tuesday night, former President Bill Clinton, tried to put the focus back on his wife of 40 years, who he met in law school at Yale. It seemed all designed to add a personal touch to a woman who is highly distrusted by a large segment of the American electorate.
“She is a change-maker. That’s what she does,” the former president said in a speech in which he said very little about himself and nothing about Sanders. Instead, he said his wife has spent a lifetime helping the poor, the disabled and children from around the world carve out a better life for themselves.
Referring to what he said was a cartoon image painted of her by Republicans, he said his wife had done more “change-making” by the age of 30 than most public servants do in a lifetime.
That’s why “you nominated her,” he said to huge applause.
Mrs. Clinton, who hasn’t yet arrived at the convention, was shown on camera following her husband’s speech. The nomination, she said, “is the biggest crack in the glass ceiling yet.”
Despite the historic nature of the Clinton nomination, the women who worked for suffrage — Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott — probably would have thought this moment in American politics would have arrived much sooner, University of Dayton History Professor Caroline Merithew said.
“I think it’s incredibly important. It is something that has been envisioned since the early 19th century,” Merithew said. “It is the breaking of a glass ceiling and it’s a phenomenal thing. Again, the expectation because women in the United States got the right to vote in 1920 that this would have come earlier but also because we were ahead of other western nations, democratic countries in giving women the right to vote.”
The first convention to advocate for the civil and political rights of women came in July 1848 — 168 years ago — in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull in 1872 as a candidate for the National Equal Rights Party. Woodhull, a publisher, stockbroker and magnetic healer, was arrested on obscenity charges just before election day in a high-profile libel case involving a prominent minister.
More than a century later, Democrats in 1984 nominated Geraldine Ferraro for vice president on the ticket with Walter Mondale and Republicans in 2008 nominated Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.
Ohio delegate Ruby Gilliam, 93, of Minerva, who joined the U.S. Naval Reserve-Women’s Reserve against the objections of her mother, said she and other women blazed the trail for Clinton.
Her message to the Democratic nominee: “Go for it! We are all going to be right behind you and I’m sure you’ll live up to our expectations. I’ve waited 93 years for this and it’s something we never thought would happen in my lifetime.
“And thank God I made it.”
Staff writer Barrie Barber contributed to this report.
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