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Hillary Clinton Campaign Veteran: To Succeed In Politics, Women Need Role Models

From Texas Standard:

As America celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which established women's right to vote, we also celebrate the strides women have made in being elected to political office.

Despite those strides, though, the highest office in the land – the presidency – has remained the exclusive domain of men.

Many political observers thought 2016 would be the year the so-called glass ceiling would be broken. But Republican Donald Trump's defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the electoral college made people like Jennifer Palmieri – who was director of communications for Clinton's campaign – question just how much progress women have made.

Palmieri's latest book, "She Proclaims: Our Declaration of Independence from a Man's World," considers that question. Palmieri, who also served White House director of communications in the Obama administration from 2013 to 2015, told Texas Standard she hadn't believed electing the first woman president would have been all that difficult. 

"We had elected the first Black president, and in America that was harder," she said. "And I just thought Hillary was the best person for the job."

But Palmieri said resistance to the idea of a woman – specifically Clinton – as someone who should be president became clear to her after she joined the 2016 campaign.

"What I came to appreciate was just how important role models are in politics and leadership, and what we think a leader looks like and sounds like."

The persistence of the glass ceiling, both inside and outside politics, isn't the fault of women, but women do have power to change it, Palmieri said. 

"What I want women to know now is, you have nothing left to prove. You're not doing anything wrong. You've been trying to succeed in a world that wasn't built for you, and there are things you can change in your own mind that will put you on a different path," she said.

Role models are important for women who hope to achieve political office, and, ultimately, the highest office, Palmieri said. Because all U.S. presidents have been men, a woman candidate's "voice doesn't sound quite right."

Palmieri addressed the question of why some feel discomfort with women candidates, in a previous book, "Dear Madam President." She said her current book answers the question, "What do women do about it?"

Palmieri said she enjoys the process of a presidential candidate picking a running mate, and what that means for the chosen person. That especially applies to Joe Biden's choice of California Sen. Kamala Harris, because of who she is: the first Black and Asian-American woman on a major party's presidential ticket.

"That's when you take a step back and realize just how much change we are living through right now," Palmieri said. "It's a really mature pick for Biden."

Palmieri said it's clear that Texas is an important state for Biden's 2020 campaign. She cited his choice of Jen O'Malley Dillon as his campaign manager. Dillon ran Beto O'Rourke's 2018 campaign for the U.S. Senate. 

"She is a big believer in Texas; extraordinarily knowledgeable about it," Palmieri said. 

Web story by Shelly Brisbin.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.