- Why having a woman vice-presidential candidate is historic—and painful for young feminists
The morning before kamala harris became the Democratic nominee for vice president, I met Amanda Litman at the Javits Center in New York City, a mammoth building near the Hudson River made almost entirely of glass. Four years ago, Litman spent Election Night here, waiting excitedly in a holding area with other staffers on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The intended metaphor was not subtle: Clinton was to declare her victory as America’s first woman president beneath a literal glass ceiling, shattering the most notorious gender barrier in politics.
When Clinton lost, Litman, who served as Clinton’s email director, felt more than just professional defeat. She believed the election was about proving that a woman similar to herself—often described as too ambitious, too much, or too loud—could succeed in America. “If you had asked me the next morning, ‘Will we ever have a woman president?’ I would have stopped crying hard enough to tell you to fuck off,” Litman told me. “It felt unimaginable.”
These days, the Javits Center—still glass, still not shattered, and what happened to all those Election Night balloons that never dropped?—has become even more of a poisoned metaphor. This spring, as New York City became the global epicenter of the pandemic, the Army Corps of Engineers retrofitted the conference center into a temporary field hospital, where doctors treated more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients. Most entrances to the building have now been sealed shut. Men in military fatigues guard a formidable-looking security area off 34th Street. On the morning I met Litman there, the wide avenues around the building, normally chaotic with honking taxis and daredevil drivers, were apocalyptically empty. The city, and the country, felt resigned to a collective standstill.