Who Will Be Our First Woman President?
Y’all were utterly repulsed by Woodrow Wilson’s love letters—yet I’m not ready to call it! Stay tuned.
In 2016, I happened upon this video of Gerald Ford. It didn’t fit into an episode of “Presidents are People, Too!” and had no contemporary tie-in, yet the video felt too quietly significant to Tweet. I filed it away until, as I write in Town & Country, the historic Biden-Harris presidency:
Three decades later Ford’s prophecy is overdue and, thanks to casting choices by the American electorate, uncomfortably plausible: Kamala Harris, 58, is the first woman to be elected vice president, alongside Biden, 80, the oldest sitting president in American history.
Before you dismiss Harris, consider that she failed to secure the nomination for issues Ford may have thought irrelevant to this morbid “what if”—as long as there were no scandals. As I write in T&C, Ford learned that “political death left a foul stench” in a post-Richard Nixon hellscape, “but mortal death was easily covered by the sweet smell of nostalgia.”
After I discovered Ford’s theory, I noticed Hollywood seemed to favor a similar plot—though a president’s death was rarely due to natural causes.
In The Last Man on Earth (1924), a woman is president because men have been wiped out by disease, and in Mars Attacks!, an extraterrestrial invasion promotes Natalie Portman from first daughter to president. Prison Break, Scandal, House of Cards, and Quantico easily imagine a woman in the highest office—for a limited time only. In Kisses for My President (1963), the leader of the free world resigns because she is pregnant and wants to devote herself to her family. In 24, the president spends her retirement in prison, and on Homeland an exonerated woman president still resigns.
ON A RELATED NOTE
To state the obvious, women who aspire to the presidency can be just as bad as men. The Wall Street Journal summed up Nikki Haley’s announcement well: There is “no clear rationale for her candidacy.” And as I ranted on CNN, she’s awful on American history.
FROM MY ARCHIVES
When I was researching my first book in Memphis, TN, archivist Wayne Dowdy gave me one of the greatest gifts a specialist can bestow on a researcher: A folder I didn’t request. In it, I found a letter Memphis sent Coretta Scott King after MLK was assassinated.
They hoped she would kindly forget the bill they sent her for municipal services related to his murder.
UPCOMING PUBLIC EVENTS
March 23rd: Keynote on George Washington. Raynham Hall Museum. Oyster Bay, New York.
April 19th: In conversation with Alex Mar. Oblong. Rhinebeck, NY.
May 17th: Interviewed by Christy S. Coleman. The Jamestown Settlement, Jamestown Yorktown Foundation. Williamsburg, Virginia.