When the news broke just last week that Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary, is pregnant, speculation was already rife about the newest addition to the Clinton dynasty. Will the baby be a boy or a girl? When is it due? Will Bill actually add “grandfather-to-be”to his Twitter bio as promised? But the headlines are also awry with what the pregnancy might mean for Chelsea’s political future, and a possible Hillary 2016 campaign.
Suddenly, this news (which is of course nothing but exciting) has thrown up questions about any political future for Chelsea. There was talk of a possible run for Congress, or an entry into New York City or State politics. She herself even commented in the past that a bid for the White House may be on the cards (once her mother has had her shot we assume). Has this now all been thrown away in a sudden desire for motherhood?
Well, quite simply, no, and any news story which tries to suggest (as many do) that the circumstances of Chelsea’s potential career path have changed is simply outdated in its views, and touting for a story that isn’t there. Long gone are the days when having a child prevented you from choosing your career path; many women in the USA and across the world balance work with a family, and there are already some women (although still not nearly enough) who juggle political careers with motherhood; in fact, Hillary supported her husband both as first lady of Arkansas and then of the US whilst Chelsea was still very young. It is not inconceivable that Chelsea could be both a mother and run for political office. Interestingly, although unsurprisingly, no one has yet suggested the possible impact of having a child on Chelsea’s husband’s career as an investment banker. I’d like to hope his gender has nothing to do with it, though I suspect I’m wrong.
The second way that the news pundits found they could spin this one was any possible impact on Hillary’s potential bid for the White House in 2016. Would America want a grandmother as President? Would being a grandmother win her sympathy and therefore votes, or would it prove her frailty and age? Some have already pointed out that Mitt Romney was grandfather to 23 children during his campaign (although look how that went for him). The simple fact again is that the arrival of a new baby Clinton means little for Hillary’s capacity to do the job.
In fact, it would be a great shame (although perhaps an understandable choice) for either of the Clinton women to drop their ambitions to take up family life. Both are very capable figures, and do a lot to lead (not least by example) and encourage women to enter politics through their work with the Clinton Foundation, which was founded by Bill Clinton in 2001. For either to lose sight of their fight for better representation of women in the US and abroad would be a blow to their campaign. As much as they feel they can, whilst having a family role, they should both try to at least maintain their roles in public life. This is an opportunity for the Clinton ladies to prove that women can succeed at all levels of government, and be mothers and grandmothers at the same time.
So this news has revealed two things that we should really speculate on. First, that Chelsea Clinton is pregnant. (Hooray!) But secondly, that the media on both sides of the Atlantic still possess an underlying belief that a woman cannot be both a mother or grandmother and a politician. No one questioned Romney’s capacity to run the country (on the grounds of his grandkids —they may have questioned it on many other things, however). No one asks what will happen to Chelsea Clinton’s husband’s career now he’s going to be a dad. And, sadly, no one seems to be asking what poor old Bill thinks. Is it me, or is it a coincidence that they’re all men….
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