Power Women Breakfast Washington, DC: The Clinton campaign’s communications director didn’t think it would be “a big deal to elect the first woman president” – until they tried it
Democratic political veteran Jennifer Palmieri said Thursday that what she learned trying to elect the first female president as Hillary Clinton’s communications director in 2016 was that our political and social system is “broken.”
“I wanted her to be the first woman president, but she’s going to be the woman who showed us that it’s all broken,” Palmieri said at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in Washington, D.C. “I feel like that was her mission, as heartbreaking and unfair as it is.”
She added: “I did not think it was going to be be hard or a big deal to elect the first woman president … I just did not appreciate how deep some of the perceptions that we have of women are.”
Palmieri, who wrote “Dear Madam President” about the experience of losing the 2016 election and looking forward, appeared on a panel at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast Washington DC titled “Road to Representation” with Missouri-based congressional candidate Cori Bush. Bush was one of four first-time female candidates featured in the documentary “Knock Down the House.” She lost her race in 2018, but is running again for the same St. Louis-area seat.
The event also featured U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Califorina), mega-producer Gale Anne Hurd (“The Walking Dead”), CreativeFuture CEO Ruth Vitale and Gail McKinnon of the Motion Picture Association of America who spoke about protecting content in the age of technology.
And fair election advocate Cynthia Terrell presented data that suggests a “ranked choice” voting system — the voting system used to determine the Oscars — would create a fairer playing field allowing more women and minorities to take office in the U.S.
In addition, crisis PR expert Molly Levinson discussed the status of a class action lawsuit brought by the U.S. women’s soccer team on March 8 against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation.
Bush is a Missouri Democrat who ran for Senate in 2016 before running for a House seat. She said that experts told her that her hips were too big, her skin too dark and her braids too unprofessional to run for office. She used that criticism, she said, for “fuel.”
“I can’t assimilate or I shouldn’t have to transform into somebody else in order to do this because I’m trying to represent people in my district that look like me,” she said. “We have big hips, we have big lips, we wear braids, you know? We speak, like, African-American Vernacular English. That’s how I speak. I get my message across.”
Though she lost once before, Bush hasn’t given up on her mission of “healing [her] community.”
“Because I did not accomplish that, I have to go back again,” she said simply.
Palmieri said that people constantly gave Clinton contradictory advice like – be vulnerable but show strength. the problem wasn’t Clinton, she said, the problem was contradicting people’s learned expectations. “People are uneasy with women’s ambition,” she stated, “even with how far women have gone in the world.”
She added: “If Hillary Clinton ran for office again, I would do an ankle dive at the door and not allow her to do it because I love her too much.”
Palmieri is not currently working on a presidential campaign, but was asked what advice she would give the current female candidates.
“I have talked to a lot of women who are running for president now and I say what I’ve said before: You’ve got to understand at your core who you are and why you’re doing this and really believe in that rationale and then just be willing to go through, like, hellfire and reveal it to everyone,” she said. “When everybody tells you there’s something wrong with your voice or the way you’re dressing, don’t expect to be able to please these people. You’re not going to ever give them the right answer. You’re just still adjusting to what this looks like for a woman to do it.”
She went on: “I want young women, I want all people of color to be able to look at Congress and see somebody that looks like them,” Palmieri said, adding that an unequal government is disconnected from the people it is supposed to represent.
TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast franchise brings together influential women in entertainment, media, technology and finance in key cities to network and connect. Each event brings inspiring speakers to talk about issues that relate to professional women.