We’ve all heard of “the bounce” – a surge in a candidate’s poll numbers that typically comes after a political convention. Whether Hillary Clinton’s campaign has such a spike remains to be seen.
What’s already apparent, though, is the extra spring in the steps of women buoyed by a woman finally having a real shot at the White House. Chins are a little higher today, and eyes a bit brighter. Some women speak of a giddiness about Clinton’s nomination. Others say the feeling is deeper in the gut, the mix of satisfaction and relief they feel when achieving a dream.
If “the bounce” is a statistical curiosity, “the lift” – as I’ll call it, for lack of a better term – is a state of mind.
“This is just over the top. It’s an almost indescribable oh-wow,” Polly Baca, a 75-year-old Democratic delegate from Colorado, said on her way out of Philadelphia Friday.
“We did it!” reads an email from our former babysitter, Sarah Cobb, who’ll turn 18 just in time to cast a vote for Clinton this fall. She watched the Democratic National Convention on TV week with her mom, grandma, great-aunt and great-great aunt. They’d baked a cake for the occasion.
“And Hillary was better than frosting,” she wrote.
It’s no surprise, of course, that Clinton snagged the nomination. Her victory in the party had been coming for weeks, months, even years, some might say. But how this benchmark feels is striking, even for women who aren’t particularly political.
“I cried,” said Lily Nguyen of Denver who isn’t registered and has no interest in voting. “You see ladies making history. …You feel it.”
“I just can’t believe it’s taken this long,” added Denver defense attorney Maureen Cain.
For those who’ve worked in politics and long bumped up against that particular glass ceiling, Clinton’s moment is especially moving.
“Any woman who has ever been dismissed or ignored because she is not one of the guys can identify,” said Joan FitzGerald, who served as the first woman president of Colorado’s state senate before losing a congressional bid to Jared Polis in 2008.
Gail Schoettler has been inspired by Clinton since Clinton’s famous “women’s rights are human rights” speech in Beijing in 1995. That was the year Schoettler, who had been state treasurer, became lieutenant governor. She lost her bid for governor to Bill Owens in 1999.
“That line was a real aha moment for me, realizing how much power we have to make lives better,” she said from Philadelphia Thursday. More than two decades after that speech, she said Clinton “makes me want to keep at it, even if I’m tired and cranky.”
“To see a woman who represents my values in such an enormous and personal way, to see her become the nominee for president of the United States and, hopefully, president is bigger than I think words can describe,” Schoettler said. “I would be so honored to have her be my president.”
Laura Hoeppner sees Clinton’s nomination through a less rosy lens. The former executive director of the Colorado Legislative Women’s Caucus has made a film called “Strong Sisters” about the history of women in state politics. She says a woman’s success on the national stage calls attention to a relative lack of progress in Colorado, where voters haven’t yet elected a woman governor, U.S. senator or mayor of Denver.
“Colorado has its own glass ceilings that we need to focus on,” she says.
As Hoeppner tells it, Clinton has faced the same Catch-22 that women candidates still face in the Centennial State.
“If you show ambition or any level of confidence or willingness to dream big or ability to raise money, it’s said that you can’t be trusted,” she said. “Those barriers are still very much a challenge in our state.”
Baca, a former longtime state lawmaker, became accustomed such obstacles in 1964, when she entered politics and attended her first Democratic convention. She has attended every one since — either as a party staffer, co-chair, delegate, alternate or guest.
In 1984, Baca stood on stage with Geraldine Ferraro when she won the vice presidential nomination. Baca met the eye of another woman at the podium, the daughter of a suffragette, who started to sob. There was so much promise in that moment, Baca remembers.
But after the Mondale-Ferraro defeat and so many defeats for women in the decades that followed, Baca started wondering if she’d live to see a woman become president. This week in Philly allayed those doubts.
Speaking from her son’s car at the start of a long road trip home Friday, she was, no doubt, feeling the lift.
“Last night, we soared. There were tears, there was hugging, there was incredible beauty to that moment,” Baca said. “I don’t know how else to say it, but – wow – I’m 10 feet off the ground.”
Flickr photo by Richard Leeming.