Breaking that highest and hardest glass ceiling — Azrul Mohd Khalib

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NOVEMBER 14 — I was privileged to have been invited by Astro Awani last Wednesday to be on a panel to give live commentary on the big day of the US presidential elections. As the results came in, we gave our thoughts and analysts on the voting patterns, on the reports coming from the US and what we thought would be the eventual outcome. 

Despite the presence of a Hillary doll on the table as a good luck charm, like almost every talking head and pundit that day, we turned out to be dead wrong in our predictions. Trump made idiots of us all. 

As the sun rose the next day, the “highest and hardest glass ceiling” remained whole.

Hillary Clinton’s choice of venue for her victory party was the convention hall at New York’s Jacob K Javits Centre with its vast and expansive glass ceiling.

While commentators remarked that it was a wise decision for Hillary to have delivered her concession speech at a different location the following morning, I believe she should have just done it there in that hall. 

To remind everyone there of the enormity of the task and struggle involved. To illustrate how despite being the most prepared and most qualified person to run for the presidency, as testified by Barack Obama and especially in comparison to Donald Trump, the glass for whatever reason, remained firm. 

She could have pointed to that ceiling, and say that as sure as the sun rises, there will be another day and another opportunity for someone to break through. 

It is sobering to think that women in the US only got the vote slightly less than a hundred years ago. It was only after 18 August 1920 through the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, that women were guaranteed their right to cast a vote. Before that, most states disenfranchised women.

Four years before that, Jeannette Rankin of Montana who ran on the Republican ticket, became the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. 

If Hillary had won, she would have made history as the first female US President. Exactly a hundred years after Jeannette Rankin’s debut. 

Whether due to disillusionment, voters being cynical and sceptical of both candidates, or just plain apathy, a lot of people decided to not exercise their right to vote this time around compared to the two previous election. Arguably, it contributed towards Hillary’s downfall.

The right to vote is something that many of us take for granted. Universal suffrage came with the independence deal for Malaya, and later when the country became Malaysia.  

Article 119 of the Federal Constitution articulates this constitutional guarantee for all citizens. There has been no need to enact in Malaysia something equivalent to the Fifteenth (which gave African Americans the vote) and Nineteenth amendments, or the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (prohibited and outlawed discriminatory voting practices). 

Going back to the recent US elections, it is tempting to think that it is only about vying for the top job. The down-ballot Senate races yielded great progress which bodes well for the future of women in US politics.

Thought the number of women serving in the US Senate will remain at 20, the number who are of colour has now quadrupled, to four. 

American voters elected the first female Latina senator, the first female Thai American senator, and the first Indian American senator. They join the only other woman of colour serving in the Senate, a Japanese American.

This election cycle has been traumatic to say the least. The fact that the main Democratic contender was a woman certainly contributed to misogynistic and sexist attacks, and sexually abusive campaign language which has no real precedence in contemporary US political history. 

The results of the US presidential election and the Brexit referendum are lessons in what happens when people absent themselves from the democratic processes. 

During elections, many feel that there really is no need to vote, believing that nothing will actually change come rain or shine. That the results won’t and don’t affect them one way or another. Some parties, particularly in this country, actually rely on voter apathy, particularly among those who are younger, to remain in power and deny the possibility of political change.

But decisions are made by those who show up. If you don’t show up, someone will make that decision for you and it might be something you wouldn’t like or perhaps oppose. Showing up allows for your voice to be heard and for you to be counted. 

Because of Hillary, there will be more young American girls in school who will write “President of the United States” in the box for “Ambition” or “What you want to be when you grow up?” She has paved the way forward and cause thousands of cracks to emerge in that ceiling. 

Will 2020 see another woman try her luck at the ultimate prize and succeed where Hillary did not?

Will that glass ceiling finally be shattered? We shall see what happens in four years.  

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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