Despite Loss, Clinton's Success a Stride for Women

Commentator Judy Muller didn't vote for Hillary Clinton. But she still sees Clinton's presidential campaign as a huge step forward for American women. Muller also says it brings back memories of an earlier landmark campaign, when Geraldine Ferraro was the Democratic nominee for vice president.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Hillary Clinton's campaign didn't do as well as her many supporters had hoped. One thing the candidate did do was make history. Here's commentator Judy Muller.

Ms. JUDY MULLER (Teaches Journalism, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communications): The fact that Hillary Clinton will not be this country's first woman president, at least this time around, does not for a moment take away from the impact of her candidacy. Oh sure, it got snarky and nasty right there towards the end, but even those of us who supported another candidate had to admire the way she got up every single day to hit the seemingly endless campaign trail, managing to somehow look fresh and energized and at the top of her game. How does she do that, I often wondered.

I realize that this was more than grudging admiration. Every time she held her own in the debates, for example, she put the lie to those old sexist charges that women just aren't logical or smart enough to run the show. Every time she won another primary, despite the increasing odds against her, she demonstrated she wouldn't cave under pressure.

And one part of my brain - the part that knows what it's like to be the first woman in the room - be it the newsroom or the boardroom - kept whispering, you go girl.

Some of my women friends have argued that it was our duty to support Hillary simply because she would be the first woman in the White House. But that has always struck me as reverse sexism. Isn't the whole point to reach a place where we're judged on our merits not on our gender, or race for that matter?

But while I would never choose to vote for someone simply because she's a woman, neither do I discount the very powerful impact of seeing a woman conquer new territory. Years ago when I was reporting for CBS News, I was on the floor of the Democratic convention when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for vice president, an historic first.

I had no particular fondness for Ferraro, but at that moment I realized I had tears in my eyes. Embarrassed at my sudden display of emotion, I turned to the network camerawoman standing next to me and she too was crying. The moment transcended politics. I imagined I would feel the same way watching Hillary Clinton take the oath of office.

I certainly I'll be around to see some woman do it, and no doubt, tear up when I do.

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MONTAGNE: Commentator Julie Muller teaches journalism at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications.

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MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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