Saturday, June 15, 2024

Is it Claudia? The prospect of Mexico electing a female president

When I was in first grade, we had to go around the class saying what we wanted to be when we grew up. When I said I wanted to be the president, a chorus arose among my classmates: a girl can’t be president!

Now, there are plenty of reasons why I personally cannot be president; is it my tendency to cry about everything? My disinterest in large swaths of policy? My IQ? Come on, what? 

But being a girl is not one of them.

My own life has seen some near misses when it comes to seeing a woman in the highest office. We all remember, of course, Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and her shocking loss that pretty much no one — least of all, Donald Trump — was expecting. 

I still suspect that election night must have been the moment some trickster grabbed the steering wheel and plunged us all off into the bizarre dimension we’ve been stuck in ever since. A clue to my theory: my dog suddenly couldn’t walk that day because of a tumor that had just started pressing on her brain, which is a bad omen if I ever saw one.

Then, during the primaries leading up to the 2020 elections, I was sure that Elizabeth Warren would win the Democratic nomination, and I let myself get excited again. 

But the thing about presidential candidates is that frontrunners don’t just gracefully step aside to give someone else a chance; if they’re there, it means they think they deserve to be president. People like that don’t give up when they’re so close.

Sure, there have been women executive leaders in other countries, but I want to see it in one of my countries. The possibilities are there, but getting close to it, at least in the U.S., has been tricky, like trying to fish a little piece of eggshell from the yolk. It only looks like it will be easy to grasp.

In the U.S., female candidates have received much more scrutiny and criticism than their male counterparts; the same people who had enthusiastically backed male candidates and held the party line were suddenly policy experts engaged in microscopic-level investigation of all the things Hilary Clinton had done since elementary school. 

The same characteristics voters liked in men were seen as unbecoming in women (a man’s assertiveness is a woman’s bitchiness), and many progressives made a big show of saying they were going to “hold their nose and vote for Clinton,” as if she were some cartoon villain. How’s that for enthusiasm?

For all that show of nose-holding, we wound up covered in vomit for the next four years. It’s true, I’m still bitter.

When Elizabeth Warren suddenly disappeared from the list of presidential candidates in 2020, I gave up on seeing a woman in the White House anytime soon. 

But now there’s the real possibility of a woman as this nation’s chief executive. A divorced Jewish woman, at that (both of her parents were the children of Eastern European immigrants to Mexico). 

Before going on, I feel the need to state the obvious, lest readers think I’m simply militant: no, I would not just vote for a candidate with no other criteria just because they’re a woman. If U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene were running for president, I’d campaign hard against her. 

Still, the prospect of a woman president in Mexico excites me. And I think that Claudia Sheinbaum, currently the mayor of Mexico City, could make a formidable candidate — and even a good president. In fact, two women candidates may compete for the presidency in 2024 if aspiring opposition candidate Lilly Téllez is nominated.

Sheinbaum’s popularity has been growing, and she is now widely considered the top pick for the ruling Morena Party’s presidential nominee. And unless those tricksters show up and jerk the steering wheel again, all signs seem to point to the Morena candidate becoming our next president. 

She’s certainly as qualified for the job as anyone else is. The fact that current president López Obrador seems to adore her might be a plus or a minus, depending on how you view the president.

But despite her popularity with the current chief executive, she’s got plenty of accomplishments under her belt in her own right. A physicist with a doctoral degree in environmental engineering (hey, wasn’t Angela Merkel a chemist? Bodes well so far!), Sheinbaum was on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won a Nobel peace prize in 2007 and has been working in government for over two decades now. 

As mayor of Mexico City, she was nominated by the City Mayors Foundation in 2021 for the World Mayor prize and has worked hard to improve and protect the environment, something I think should be a top priority for any world leader these days.

I have some reservations — mainly about how much control the current president will have over her from behind the scenes.

Hopefully, not much. Sheinbaum, while an enthusiastic proponent of the president’s agenda, has not been afraid in the past to contradict him, especially when it comes to women’s rights. I would hope that she also wouldn’t be afraid to contradict him on the environment, and there are lots of questions that I would like to see asked of her over the coming year.

On a lighter note: is there anyone that doesn’t love that no-nonsense let’s-get-to-work ponytail? Sheinbaum is 60 years old with two grown children (and recently became a grandmother), but hey, 60 is the new 40! Her spunky attitude says this lady is ready to rock and roll.

Sheinbaum is not perfect, it’s true. But in a world where “good enough” is often the enemy of “good,” I’d like to pre-request that everyone just freaking calm down a bit. 

Mexico, a country suffering from femicides and rampant sexism and discrimination, may very well soon have a woman president.

I’ve been burned before, both by elections in my own country and by the great contrast between López Obrador the candidate and López Obrador the president.

But hey, a girl can dream, right?

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, sarahedevries.substack.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Mexico News Daily, its owner or its employees.

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